Mothers save the day ... again
Local restaurants break out the fine linen for one of the year’s busiest occasions
By Dan O'Heron 05/07/2009
For all the “there, theres” from our Moms when we were hurting a little, and those sacrifices made in hard times, like when my Mom gave me the orange while she ate the peel; and those life-changing rescues — like when she convinced my junior high vice-principal not to send me to the Boys’ Industrial Home — there’ll be another chance Sunday for Mom to save the day.
In a slumping economy, Mother’s Day offers a helping hand to distressed restaurants: It is always counted on for hosting the biggest turnout of the year. What follows are my purely personal preferences.
For big family gatherings to contribute to the bail-out, you may wish to double Mom’s pleasure with both fine food and great theater. I’m not referring to any of those the hash-slinging comedy/mystery joints that might make Mom’s flesh crawl out of the theater before dessert or denouement. Instead, I’m taking Mom to Shogun (470 N. Halstead St., Pasadena, 626/351-8945) for fine food and a knife-wielding demonstration that develops a reverence for valor — as the name Shogun implies.
Sitting around a perspiring griddle inlayed in a huge semi-circular table, you’ll hear nothing but oohs and aahs over a talented chef’s nimble-fingered rat-a-tat cuttings of fin, feather, flank and flora. And, for more entertainment, there are sound effects ranging from belching foghorns — when he’s cutting fish — to screaming roman candles when it’s filet mignon, all done with an impish shtick behind a sly smile. For lunch, a filet mignon, with all etceteras, is $22; for dinner, $41.50.
The greeting is not just “ma’am,” it’s more like “madam” at Scarlet Tea Room (18 W. Green St., Old Pasadena, 626/577-0051) where mother is queen for a day or, with a Prince Romanoff Asian vodka martini in hand, a tsarina before the revolution.
Entering, perhaps wearing a floppy hat or boa, mother will at once be taken by a large crystal Swarovski chandelier, valanced gold and scarlet drapery, walls bracketed with golden lamp sconces and tables set with fine Czechoslovakian porcelain. It’s a picture of a room in Camelot, framed and glazed.
From an à la carte tea menu, a scone, vested in nectarous preserves and a house cream that is lighter than dandelion fluff, is $6, as are two brandy vanilla cupcakes — said to be the reason that “cupcake” is a term of endearment.
Special three-course brunches and lunches (from $35 to $55) include a choice of special entrees, a pot of tea, dessert and a glass of almond mimosa. Whether she’s extending a pinkie or digging into to a hanger steak and spinach salad, Mom’s not going to want to trade places with anybody.
While brunches all over Pasadena may sparkle like wedding cakes, the pick of the glitter may well be at Villa Sorriso (168 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, 626/793-2233), western gateway to Old Pasadena, where a bevy of buffet stations are scattered about its spacious patio and meandering rooms — each jubilant with flowers and fine linens.
Touring the stations, you’ll gain ground on every gastronomic impulse. For salads, there’s a garden of Caesars and such; for seafood, there’s shucked oysters and steamed Black Tiger prawns; for carving, there’s roasted rib-eye and honey-baked ham; for breakfast, crab-and-spinach eggs Benedict; for spearing, beef, chicken, shrimp and short-rib skewers; for the main course, grilled salmon filet, smothered in lemon-caper sauce; and for dessert, Sorriso tiramisu.
The restaurant’s tree, umbrella and overhead cabana-shaded patio, Spanish tiled roof and wrought iron balconies — added to the lavish food display — will make Mom feel like she’s dining on a Mediterranean country estate.
With reservations pouring in — especially for groups of five or more — to Green Street Restaurant (146 Shoppers Lane, Pasadena, 626/577-7170), it looks like hungry mouths will be moving like treadles on grandma’s sewing machine. If you haven’t made reservations, and must wait outside for a chance at a full-brunch menu, complimentary coffee and muffins will keep the spirits blithe. The menu features full-meal salads so fresh that you’ll turn over a new leaf with every bite, and specials like eggs Benedict with salmon on chipotle Benedict with southwestern sausage. Special speed-up provisions for take-home orders of salads and breads can be made if you call ahead.
If Mother likes to have a hand in everything, try the do-it-yourself, smokeless gourmet barbecue at Gyu-Kaku (70 W. Green St., Old Pasadena, 626/405-4842). A new lick on an old flame, each table is centered with an open-mouth circular roaster, ringed by a suction coil which inhales the smoke before it rises. Meats like filet mignon, Kobe beef, ahi tuna and beef tongue — each prepared with deeply felt kitchen marinades and table sauces — will provide an afternoon (5 p.m., last call) seasoned, garnished and toasted with indulgences you won’t find at any other barbecue house.
Casting your eyes over the waters for a big catch for Mom, McCormick & Schmick’s (111 N. Los Robles Ave., Pasadena, 626/405-0064) is THAR! Ahoy!
Sunday brunch specialties, featuring dishes like lobster omelet for $21.95, include champagne, Danish, breads, fruit platters and desserts. Lunch specials include beer-battered rock fish and chips, Atlantic salmon stuffed with crab, shrimp and Brie and coated with chive butter, plus cashew-crusted Costa Rican tilapia.