One of my favorite times of year is back. Restaurant Week!
Eating is one of my favorite hobbies. dineLA Restaurant Week satisfies my cravings in a big way. For fourteen days, 300 restaurants across LA County offer up special pre fixe menus at discounted prices. It’s the perfect excuse to try out that new cozy bistro you’ve been eyeing. Never been to a Vegan cafe? Dreaming about splurging on a classic steakhouse dinner?
Now is the time to get out there and try it all.
Although it may not ease your waistline, you can ease your mind knowing that all this eating is for a great cause. This season dineLA is partnering with Open Table to donate $1 of every seated reservation that’s booked through their website to The Midnight Mission, a vital nonprofit organization that provides food, shelter and essential aid to those experiencing homelessness throughout our city.
This time around I was determined to try out new places for restaurant week. Sure it’s fun to revisit an old haunt and get your favorite meal on the cheap. But, I want to discover fun new places hiding in my own town that I didn’t even know existed.
First up is Central Park Restaurant in Pasadena. Score two delicious lunch items (an appetizer and entree) for only $15 a person! The meal also includes a decadent slice of their famous carrot cake. I started with a Baby Kale Salad topped with candied walnuts, brandied cherries, fresh mozzarella and a citrus mint dressing. Everything tasted really fresh. At first you think the brandied cherries (which I almost mistook for cranberries) and candied walnuts will be too sweet. But when you combine them with the slightly bitter baby kale and tangy citrus dressing, it all balances out in a perfect bite. The Central Park Caesar was also very popular. Now, Caesar salad can be rather run of the mill but this one was elevated by the house made dressing. It was loaded with spice and my lunch mate was nice enough to share a bite of this peppery goodness with me.
The main dining area of the restaurant pays homage to it’s namesake with a feature wall of the New York skyline painted in muted grays. On the other walls are old school black and white photographs of celebrities.
The Kennedy’s and Cassius Clay kept me company during lunch. There is also a cute enclosed patio off to one side that gets gorgeous light during the afternoon.
While waiting for my food to arrive I love looking around the restaurant to see what everyone else is ordering. Maybe it’s a case of foodie FOMO, but I’m always curious what dishes are the most popular. I saw a lot of Central Park burgers flying out of the open kitchen. The sirloin patty was topped with Gorgonzola cheese and crispy onion strings on a squishy brioche bun. So, I get the appeal. The Crab Tower with papaya and avocado salad was bright, colorful and most likely as tasty as it looked. I may have to go back for that.
But I had my mouth set on the Ahi Tuna Sandwich on home made Foccacia. The Ahi was cooked (or should I say, not cooked) to perfection. I like it dark pink in the middle and just seared on the outside. The jalapeno tartar sauce was the perfect complimentary condiment. They even served it with alfalfa sprouts. I adore alfalfa sprouts and since they weren’t listed on the menu they were a nice surprising touch of texture. When I think fish, I never think of cheese. I love fish and I love cheese but combing the two always seems like an odd paring. Not this time. The melty Swiss married perfectly with the firm Ahi and buttery Foccacia. On the side was a broccoli salad with red grapes and golden raisins tossed in a light creamy dressing.
I definitely recommend heading out to the Central Park Restaurant in Pasadena. They also offer a dinner menu for $29 per person that includes an appetizer, entree and choice of dessert. Chocolate cake with Amaretto glaze or Key Lime Pie! I say go with a friend who likes to share. PRO TIP: Wine lover? Go on a Wednesday when the restaurant offers 50% off any bottle of wine. I had a delicious Zinfandel from Peachy Canyon in Paso Robles. You get an entire bottle of wine for the cost of two glasses. It’s a sweet deal!
Restaurant week runs from Jan 18th through January 31st. Check back with me over the next ten days to see where and what I’m eating next. I already have reservations this Friday at Maison Akira. A fine dining experience combining both French and Japanese influences. Plus they offer a wine pairing (at a well worth it, extra cost) with their dinner.
Check out the FULL LIST of participating restaurants here. I like to narrow my search by neighborhood to see what gems are hiding in my backyard. Have a recommendation? Tried any of these tasty establishments yourself? Leave a comment and let me know what you’re eating this week.