Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vol. 94 in Pasadena

The other night I was lucky enough to get invited to the soft opening of a new restaurant in Pasadena called Vol. 94!  I actually used to live up in Pasadena and it is still one of my favorite towns in Los Angeles, if the drive to work hadn’t worn me out, I still would be living there today.  Vol. 94 just opened up in a space across the street from Paseo near Old Town Pasadena.  It’s a wine bistro with seasonal New American small plates with an asian twist.

My friends and I were lucky enough to participate in the Chefs tasting menu which was amazing!!  Executive Chef Phil Lee and his team sent out dish after dish of amazing and well composed plates and the owner Joon came by and offered us various wine pairings and encouraged us to sample the excellent selections of wines they had. 


We started with the Charcuterie platter and duck fat fried nuts.  I loved the pates and fig compote and my friends could not get enough of the duck fat nuts!


Next up were the McSweetbreads (which tasted like super high end chicken McNuggets) which came with sweet and sour and mustard dipping sauces.  And the Mushroom Flan, which reminded me of a refined chawan mushi. 


The next starter was one of my favorites, it was the Kanpachi sashimi which was served with an avocado cream, puffed black rice and these awesome cubes of ginger gelee.  The flavor and texture combinations were like happiness in my mouth! 


Ok wait, this was one of my favorites too.  I actually totally want to try to re-create this for you all at home!  They called this PBJ, Polenta Bacon and Tomato Jam!  Creamy beds of polenta are lightly seared and topped with a sweet tomato jam and pieces of crispy salty bacon. 


Oh but we were just getting started with the feast.  Our next dish was a seared tako (octopus) plate with some spicy arugula, siracha and a saffron aioli.  The next dish I think was off menu and was a smoked trout crostini which was topped with a nice lemony salad mix. 

V94_4            V94_7

Before we started the heavier dishes we had a couple more starters, included the roasted asparagus with a poached egg and some forbidden rice with a Korean spicy crab mixture on top, that seemed like a little bite of bibimbap in your mouth!


This is a must order!  I may be a little bit partial since mussels are one of my all time favorites especially when paired with a glass of wine.  These are swimming in a slightly spicy green curry sauce.  I soaked up all of the coconut curry that I could with my mussels and toasts points that came with it.  Soooooo good! 


The kitchen kept cranking out amazing dishes for us, next up was the melt in your mouth pork belly with a papaya slaw and a perfectly tender hangar steak served up with an aji and chimichurri sauce.  At this point the friendly owner Joon came over and recommended an excellent Malbec to pair with our steak.  The combination brought me back to the parilla’s in Argentina… Which reminds me I need to book my next South American vacation!!   


These two dishes were so playful and delish!  On the left we have a fun take on clams and spaghetti (the clams are stuffed with spaghetti squash).  And on the right we have a faux-sagna where the pasta sheets were made with turnips and rutabega, and covered in tomato sauce, cheese and truffles.

V94_11 This is Korean BBQ the Vol. 94 way!  Korean marinated pork cheeks are served with a gochujang sauce, garlic confit, an asian slaw and grilled duk (mochi) pieces.  I seriously could have eaten this whole plate by myself, it was so good.  I forget what that green powder was in the front of the plate (something like a korean shiso) but it totally complimented the dish.  This will probably become one of Chef Phil’s signature dishes!!   

V94_12           V94_13

Somehow we managed it, but we made room in our stretchy pants for a couple of desserts.  A yummy blueberry cheesecake with an amazing graham cracker crumble on top.  (One of my friends like this so much she practically licked the bowl)  The other was a classic crème brulee with lemon sugar shortbread cookies! 

I can’t wait to go back and take some of my friends who live in the area and to try some of the other dishes we missed like the Short Ribs!  Thanks again to Chef Phil and the amazing staff at Vol. 94!  They also told me as a part of their prep for their Grand Opening, they are offering deals through Facebook and Yelp when you check in.  Score! 

Disclaimer:  I was invited to Vol. 94 and received my meal gratis.  However the opinions expressed are my own and I am not receiving any other compensation.