Bistro 45 – Pasadena, CA
New American/French-Style Cuisine – Last Visit: August 2020
Situated in a charming, retro Art Deco building in Pasadena, Bistro 45 has provided us with many a memorable meal over the past 25 – 30 years and has consistently served delicious dinners. Over the years, in addition to special-occasion meals, we have attended many of their winemaker dinners, almost always resulting in an infusion for our wine cellar.
During the pandemic, Bistro 45 has also pivoted to curb-side pick-up, Rosti (family) dinners, Butcher Shoppe and recently, patio-only dining. We have purchased Cryovac-sealed Nieman Ranch pork chops from the Butcher Shoppe, and they are among the best pork chops we’ve eaten.
Digression: Back in the 1980s, when Old Town Pasadena was nothing like the bustling area it is today, Alvin Simon and his son Robert (proprietor of Bistro 45 … along with wife Deborah) started a restaurant named Café Jacoulet. It was, at the time, my favorite restaurant. It, and other establishments, started the Renaissance and revitalization of Pasadena. Fine memories indeed!
We returned recently to this 30-year old Pasadena favorite with friends, Jeff and Cecilia, to dine on Bistro 45’s outdoor patio. The menu was smaller than usual, but the dishes continue to excel. The tables where adequately spaced, and the staff all wore masks. On a very hot night (it seems we only dine when the temperature approaches 100), the covered patio was a godsend.
We all wore our train robber attire, as well.
Jeff and I started with Vieux Carre cocktails, which we first tasted at Disneyland’s Club 33. I call a Vieux Carre the New Orleans Martini, because it brings in booze with French, Caribbean, and Southern flavors.
While sipping our cocktails, warm bread, fresh out of the oven, was delivered table-side. It didn’t last long. I believe there should be a law that all bread served at restaurants should be served warm. The blue hue in some of these photos are due to the aforementioned patio covering. Fortunately, none of us were feeling blue, especially after eating our delectable dinner.
Jeff and Cecilia shared a starter of Braised Spanish Octopus, organic lemon and olive oil, pickled onions and fennel, and wild arugula ($19.45). They couldn’t keep their tentacles off of it. I had a similar dish at one of our winemaker dinner (below photo)
Tracy ordered the special chilled cucumber soup with avocado sorbet ($11.45). Cool and creamy with a dollop of avocado sorbet, this was definitely a “Wow” starter. I don’t usually care for cucumbers, but I had to admit this soup was splendid. It was so good Tracy wants the recipe. Robert? I’ll buy extra wine at the next winemaker dinner.
I started with the Burrata alla Panna & Parma Prosciutto, organic tomatoes, and roasted local figs with a balsamic drizzle ($18.45). Another “Wow” starter.
For their main course, Jeff and Cecilia shared the special 12-ounce ribeye with shallot demi-glace sauce, buttered yellow creamers and roasted cauliflower ($49.45). They declared it the best ribeye they had ever eaten. They have not tasted the off-menu ribeye steak at Hippo, so it will be quite the contest for them. I took a bite, too, and the steak was expertly cooked medium-rare. I declare it a draw.
Tracy ordered the Rocky/Petaluma Half Chicken from what the menu says “Our 800 Degree Oven,” crispy chicken served on a bed of buttered yellow creamers, sautéed spinach with shiitake mushroom Madeira Demi-Glace sauce ($28.45). This dish could easily have been shared, and half of the dish went home with us and made for a scrumptious lunch the following day.
I opted for the special Angel Hair Pasta with ribeye in a mushroom Demi-Glace sauce ($26.45). It was very good.
We were so stuffed, we felt there was no room for dessert. That thought ended as soon as we perused the dessert menu.
Despite my ever-increasing girth, I talked the table into sharing three desserts ($12.45 each): Meyer Lemon Trio; chilled sliced lemon soufflé, lemon curd, warm lemon pudding cake with raspberry sauce; Chocolate Blackberry Terrine with salted caramel ice cream; and the Apple Tart Tartin with crème fraiche ice cream and caramel sauce.
As you can imagine, all of our plates were clean after devouring this trio of delectability.
The corkage fee at Bistro 45 is $30, and they also have an extensive regular and reserve wine list.
As stated at the beginning, Bistro 45 also hosts terrific winemaker dinners. They charge less than many restaurants for these special experiences (usually $75 or $85 apiece, which includes flights of wine with their four or five-course meals).
Of course, after I purchase a few hundred bucks worth of vino after dinner, it’s not quite as inexpensive, but, hey, unless you’re Shirley MacLaine, you only live once. Simon (who has also been a wine judge in his career) is always at the forefront during these winemaker dinners dispensing fun and interesting wine and dining information along with introducing the vintners whose wines now occupy a decent percentage of our cellar.
In 2018, we really enjoyed the Châteauneuf-du-Pape winemaker dinner. The Chilled Turnip Vichyssoise with caramelized leeks, chives, and sautéed wild cod earned a “Wow” from both Tracy and me (turnips, who knew?), as did the Terrine of foie gras with port wine aspic and roasted Heirloom beets.
Other dishes at this dinner were very good, too.
Whoever has to wash all of these wine glasses afterward deserves a bonus.
I don’t ever recall having a disappointing meal or good time dining here. Besides the food, the service has always been impeccable … friendly, attentive, and professional.
When inside dining finally makes its return, the interior dining areas of the restaurant, with its soft lighting, make for a very romantic place to dine. Until then, when in the area, put Bistro 45 high up on your list of restaurants to visit for patio dining, and get on their mailing list for upcoming winemaker dinners and seasonal menu changes. You might see us there. Bon appétit!
45 South Mentor Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91106
Tuesday – Thursday 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Friday/Saturday 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday 5 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Parking: Nearby Street Parking on Green (free) or Valet