Bluezz in the Night

Bluezz in the Night

The shuttered jazz club–cum–fine dining establishment redwhite+bluezz returns under new ownership, this time next door to the Pasadena Playhouse.

By Irene Lacher 07/01/2013

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The restaurant space next door to the Pasadena Playhouse has posed a mystery for some time now. How can one of the city’s loveliest historical venues be the scene of one restaurant failure after another? The most recent tenant, Elements Kitchen, survived the theater’s temporary closure in 2010, which eliminated quite a bit of foot traffic, but even a rave review from the Los Angeles Times during that period couldn’t rescue the restaurant from the fate of its predecessors.

But the current occupant, redwhite+bluezz, which opened in March, has an ace in the hole: its well-established identity as a destination jazz club and wine bar that incorporates fine dining. The restaurant dwelled on Raymond Avenue for seven years , under the baton of then-owner André Vener, a jazz aficionado and producer. But his other job, as president and CEO of the California Philharmonic under his maestro-father Victor Vener, has claimed more of his time, so he sold the restaurant to a group headed by real estate investor Art Silveri and Dave Morgan, who brings the party vibe to the new venue, according to new manager Phil Thyen (although Internet buzz has Vener concentrating on his modernist Dog Haus eatery).

Regardless, rw+b fans will be pleased to see quite a bit of continuity at the new location. Many of Vener’s top jazz acts have followed the restaurant to El Molino Avenue, and the new executive chef, Alfonso “Fonzy” Galan, a graduate of Pasadena’s Cordon Bleu school whose CV includes the admired kitchens of Church + State and Madeleine Bistro, was a sous chef on Raymond. But that doesn’t mean the ambitious and affable Galan hasn’t used the opportunity to spread his wings. Indeed, he promises an almost entirely new California menu of locally sourced dishes each season. (But fear not, lovers of braised short ribs — they aren’t going anywhere.) And aficionados of the restaurant’s extensive, award-
winning wine list will also be tempted by its carefully curated selection of 21 cheeses (made from cow’s, sheep’s or goat’s milk) and four charcuterie dishes, such as La Quercia’s buttery prosciutto and Fonzy’s house-made truffled duck galantine. Tasting flights of cheeses and/or meats can be coupled with wine flights.

During a recent visit, we started with an excellent charcuterie and cheese plate, which included a creamy Humboldt Fog, and then moved on to the Beauty and the Beets salad, a colorful mélange of golden and candy-striped beets, smoked almonds, watercress and a horseradish crème fraîche that added a welcome kick of tanginess. While the entrées largely favored carnivores, with several pork, beef and lamb dishes, vegetarians can easily join their meat-eating friends here. The menu also offered an interesting take on the standard risotto, using farro —  an ancient grain experiencing a culinary comeback — instead of rice. Fonzy coupled it with peas, wild mushrooms and a rich blend of mascarpone and Tomme de Savoie cheeses. Also notable was the tender pan-seared salmon from Scotland’s Loch Duart farm. Inspired by the recent influx of sweet cherries, Fonzy created a bed of wild rice and cherries for the  moist and flaky fish, which he bathed in a slightly sweet apricot-ginger glaze. For dessert, we navigated past the tempting dishes of Fosselman’s ice cream or sorbet and ordered the Chunky Monkey, a medallion of banana bread served with intriguing splashes of saffron-honey gastrique and banana liqueur Chantilly (a.k.a. whipped) cream.

We had opted for a midweek evening, so when the Robert Kyle Duo took the small stage behind the bar, the musicians walked the tightrope of serving up a tasty live performance that didn’t drown out conversation. But when the weekend comes, redwhite+bluezz pulls out the stops, so you can savor a variety of pleasures — fine food, drink and revelry — without having to hunt for another parking space.

Curious about local restaurants, but reluctant to take the plunge? Lucky you: DineLA Restaurant Week returns from July 15 to 26, and with it prix-fixe menus (lunch goes for $15, $20 or $25 and dinner, $25, $35 or $45) that give you considerable bang for your buck. It’s a great opportunity to check out some of these popular Arroyoland eateries and see what all the fuss is about: Arroyo Chop House, Celestino Ristorante and Bar, Granville, Green Street Tavern, Gyu-Kaku, Katsuya, La Grande Orange, Maison Akira, Parkway Grill, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Smitty’s Grill, The Raymond Restaurant, Vertical Wine Bistro, Vol. 94 and more.

For the most up-to-date information, visit discoverlosangeles.com/dinela-los-angeles-restaurant-week.

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