AKA - An American Bistro
By lushcake on July 12, 2012
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, the LushCake team descended on Old Town Pasadena in California. Some of the team members have been there before, and some have just heard about this beautiful town; I was the latter.
Our mission…meet the owner of AKA Bistro, Robert Simon. We were there to sample the food, meet Walter his chef, talk to the customers, and see how the staff interacted with their “bread & butter.”
The AKA Bistro is back in an alleyway (not the kind you’re thinking of) behind the hustle and bustle of the street and the store traffic. I would call it a “hidden treasure.” The courtyard has a beautiful brick walkway and you can feel the California sun welcoming you as you approach the entrance of the restaurant.
I love the big wooden doors and the large windows, and as you grab the handle anticipating a great experience, you just know you are going to be satisfied with your decision. If you decide to dine outside there is a spacious patio area overlooking the courtyard. The patio was designed so you could relax in the beautiful surroundings and feel the warmth of the sun while indulging in satisfying cuisine.
As you enter the restaurant through the magnificent doors, you can’t help but notice the enormous “king chairs” on the left calling your name and the eclectic bar right in front of you; either decision would be a good one.
Our particular party was escorted to what I would call a private family dining room with huge windows overlooking the patio and courtyard. I imagined my family settling in there for a wonderful meal and could easily see a girlfriend lunch, or “man cave” for some good eats! The interior of the restaurant screams warmth, clean, classic design. The wine is enclosed in glass (which is very cool), and the ceiling reminds me of a warehouse that has been painted with contemporary lights hanging from them! I found myself getting lost in the ambience and knew Robert was onto something.
As I settled in anxiously waiting to satisfy my cravings, a lovely server named Mariah (not Carey) greeted us. She was prepared for my team and was very helpful and knowledgeable of the menu items. We ordered Crispy Portobello Fries, Fresh Herbed Goat Cheese Salad, Pan Roasted Mary’s Chicken and the Pan Seared Scottish Salmon. I ordered a glass of Riesling and sat back with a huge smile…
The first item to hit the table was the Portobello Fries. I had heard about them, and after the first bite, I did not want to share! They were beyond delish! They literally melt in your mouth, and the taste of the succulent shrooms sent me to heaven (round trip I was coming back for more)! That will always be a staple for me, and I recommend (if you visit this restaurant—which you should), not leaving without ordering them! Forget Prozac, this heals all!
The next item I tasted was the Goat Cheese Salad. I love salad with apples, cranberries, and walnuts (it reminds me of Vermont). The salad was light, crisp, delicious, and the goat cheese was encased in a crisp, lip smacking ball (which when cut open it mixed in the salad like a lost, but well liked friend), welcome home!
The next contestant was: Mary’s Roasted Chicken (not sure who Mary is, I have to ask Walter, but I think she made him very happy)! I have to admit, I bullied my team and became aggressive with the brussel sprouts (the first time in my life I ever enjoyed brussels—sorry, Mom). The chicken was stuffed with: brie, shallots, spinach, and sat upon a soft creamy sea of mashed potatoes with the sprouts on the side. This particular dish has me dreaming of my next visit! It was like, “Mom, I’m home, what’s for dinner?” I’m shaking my head just thinking of how good it tasted, unreal! Sometimes, simple = superb!
The Scottish Salmon got the best of me. It was lightly dusted with arousing spices and sat upon a jam and pearl pasta. I loved the softness of the pasta and the moist salmon with the jam marrying both of them! It was a Frank Sinatra marriage, and I couldn’t be any happier!
As my team gobbled up the amazing food, I sat back and replayed my time in the kitchen with Walter. He’s a “Philly Boy”, which I affectionately named him. He welcomed me in his home and was a sweetheart while preparing his works of art. We reminisced of the East Coast (not missing the weather) and laughed at our accents (which I pray never leave us)! He’s a great guy with a simple and poetic approach to satisfying his customers. He’s a guy that really cares about and comprehends the quality of that and I felt blessed to have met him! I’m going to shake him down for the brussel sprout recipe!
As I waited for my cappuccino, I wandered around the restaurant and observed the customers enjoying and indulging, very happy in the moment. It made me happy to know that once again food brings people together and makes another memory for our bank. I asked several customers how they liked their selections and I was not surprised to hear nothing but great comments. They loved the menu items, the taste of the food, the warmth of the interior and smiled when they spoke of the staff. Hmmm…..I thought, homerun!
I returned for my cappuccino and enjoyed my last moments there. I was a happy, satisfied customer and this New Yorker pulled no punches. If you want the truth, be prepared—I was not and will never be an “easy sell.”
**All photography by the original, CrazyDave**