238 S. Lake Ave., Pasadena. 626-796-1613
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day.
The Food: This French-Asian fusion eatery sits in the midst of the Lake Avenue shopping district, a three-meal-a-day destination for those hungry for a menu that runs the gamut from Vietnamese pho and banh mi sandwiches, to a Gallic pork belly with cabbage, with the requisite hamburger with shoestrings as well; served in a space with red walls, shelves of old books, and a long communal table that dominates this long narrow storefront.
About $20 per person. MC, V.
Rating: 3 stars
By Merrill Shindler
Abricott sits on the same Lake Avenue block as branches of Rubio’s, Panda Express, Chipotle and one of the few remaining Hamburger Hamlets. It’s an island of unique cuisine in a sea of chains.
But even were it not surrounded by chains, it would be a stand-out; this French-Asian fusion destination may offer the quirkiest cooking that Pasadena has seen since the great days of Café Jacoulet — and that was a long, long time ago.
And it’s not just the cuisine that’s quirky. The place is a garage sale that’s been turned into an eatery, with old books lining the shelves and odd framed photos and prints on the walls, with a private dining room hidden away in the back. And when I say “garage sale,” I don’t mean in anything that might be called a messy fashion. This is actually a strikingly elegant space — though that elegance is shabby chic. It’s very comfortable to be in, with a staff that hasn’t lost the ability to smile. Abricott is a very happy restaurant.
There’s an outdoor patio on Lake Avenue, which is a pleasure during the day, as the ladies who shop are busy meandering from store to store. As you enter, there’s a polished counter, and a glass-fronted display, along with a line of two-person café tables under the bookshelves along the wall.
The restaurant proper is a bit further on, giving a sense that you’ve left the worries of Pasadena behind, and gone into a sort of culinary wonderland. You shouldn’t be surprised if a white rabbit dashes through, pursued by Alice.
Show up for breakfast (which is served till 3 p.m.) and you’ll have your first taste of how the kitchen melds dishes from variant cuisines. There’s nothing especially unexpected about the waffles (with or without eggs), the eggs with ham or bacon, the eggs Benedict, the oatmeal. But how about the “Sizzling Eggs with Toast,” a Vietnamese-inspired dish of two eggs flavored with scallions and soy, served in a sizzling platter with a toasted baguette on the side — sort of an open-face bahn mi sandwich. It comes with curried potatoes. So does the “soft omelette” made with grilled shiitake mushrooms: a touch of Tokyo. And for breakfast, there’s both a Croque Monsieur sandwich, and a Croque Madame sandwich: a taste of France to go with the ham ‘n eggs.
Things get considerably more multinational come lunchtime. There’s a house burger on the menu, a fine creation topped with tomato, onions, lettuce and mayo, served on a French brioche. But hey, want to make it kind of … different? Just add some marinated Korean pork belly for a buck extra, and there you are.
The spicy pork belly reappears in a sandwich, and on a platter — served with jasmine rice, kimchi and pickled vegetables — a truly great lunch dish. There’s a Vietnamese grilled shrimp salad on the menu, a lovely creation, heavy with mint and an intensely vinegary dressing. There’s a grilled trout and green papaya salad, and a sesame marinated flank steak salad — not dishes you’d expect to find at a restaurant that also offers a tuna Nicoise, and a French ham and gruyere sandwich.
Come dinner time, there are deep-fried marinated chicken wings, served with a pair of salty-spicy-sweet dipping sauces. The salads are all back for dinner, as is the yellow curry with chicken, the pho and the house burger. There is mussels Provencal, braised pork served with warm red cabbage, sesame marinated steak (on a plate, not in a salad) and trout amandine.
To wash it down, there’s a choice of many teas, along with LaMill coffee, and soft drinks. And dessert is French and American: waffles with vanilla ice cream, four flavors of crème brulee, petits fours, carrot cake and chocolate mousse cake. A very civilized end to a very civilized meal in a very civilized restaurant. One of the last vestiges on chain happy Lake Avenue.
Contact Merrill Shindler by email at firstname.lastname@example.org