Undebatable dining

Undebatable dining

Some of Pasadena’s best restaurants deliver!

By Erica Wayne 10/11/2012

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If you’re among the nearly 70 million people who tuned into the presidential debate on Oct. 3, you’re either gloating or despairing. But, whatever your mood, it’s likely that you’re planning to watch the Ryan/Biden vice presidential match this evening, as well as the final two presidential head-to-heads on Oct. 16 and 22. And, since you want to concentrate on the back and forths, you definitely don’t want to be in the kitchen at 6 p.m. when the games begin. What to do?
 
Well, you could call Domino’s or stop by KFC for a bucket of chicken. But, honestly, you can do a lot better. Take a look at the cover of the paper you’re holding. Note that it’s our Best of Pasadena edition. Turn the pages until the Best Dining section is in front of you and check it out. While the majority don’t provide delivery service (their food and ambiance are probably best savored on-site), several winners do. And among them, three sound perfect for debate-night dinners, which will be (as Stevie Wonder’s Obama campaign song in 2008 asserted) “signed, sealed and delivered” to you.
 
First among these is Mamma’s Brick Oven Pizza and Pasta (BEST PIZZA) with two locations, one in South Pasadena and the other on the east side of town, both of which deliver free within 3 ½ miles. The pies are among the best I’ve tasted locally, with tender dough, almost thin enough to see through, and generous toppings. The variants are almost endless, with garnishes that include special favorites of mine: fresh garlic, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, basil, eggplant and anchovies. All the traditional meats are available, and sizes range from a mere 14-inch round ($11.50) to a mega 28-inch table-topper ($27.99).
 
But Mamma’s doesn’t focus solely on pizza. Pasta dishes (around 25 of them) range from the expected spaghetti and meatballs, baked ziti, manicotti and lasagna to more exotic penne carbonara and arabbiata, penne topped with chicken piccata, eggplant rollatini or eggplant parmigiana. There’s also linguini with clams, shrimp scampi, chicken marsala, cacciatore or parmigiana. Huge portions range between $8.49 and $10.99 and are way better than average.
 
Another good bet for debate delivery is Panda Inn (BEST CHINESE FOOD) if you’re lucky enough to live within five miles of its east Pasadena location. The crispy calamari appetizer (with red jalapenos, green onions, ginger and garlic - $7.50) is one of my favorites, although I’m not sure if the crunch can survive transportation. Potstickers ($5.75) or steamed dumplings with scallion/cilantro sauce ($5.50) might be better bets. 
 
Most of Panda’s entreés are marvelous. We prefer the hotter ones: crispy beef with fresh ginger and garlic and a sweet and spicy peppercorn sauce ($14.95); kon pao chicken with fresh ginger, green onions, red jalapenos, roasted peanuts and a spicy soy-based sauce ($8.95); and shrimp with veggies in a spicy garlic sauce ($10.95). We temper these with braised green beans sautéed with garlic and sesame oil in a shaoxing wine sauce ($6.95) and lo-mein noodles with napa cabbage, mushrooms, bean sprouts and spinach ($8.50).
 
Delivery Chinese food and pizza (even of this high caliber) is relatively commonplace. For something a little different, order a meal from All India Café (BEST INDIAN FOOD). Not only is the food incredibly good, but the menu is extensive and goes way beyond the usual curries and tandoori dishes that populate the lists of most Indian restaurants in Southern California. There’s a $25 minimum and, if you live more than two miles from the restaurant, the delivery fee is $5.
 
Appetizers are a good example of All India Café’s range. Sev bel and dahi puri, shrimp chat, aloo tikki and uttapam ($5.50 - $8.95) are the wares of street vendors in India, rarely found alongside more common samosas and pakoras. Thirteen vegetarian and 15 non-vegetarian curries, seven tandoori dishes, four biriynis and nine café specialties fill out the entreés. Among the latter are Bombay favorites lamb, chicken and gobi frankies (meat or vegetable masalas wrapped in “tortillas” — $9.95-$11.95) and masala dosa (a Southern Indian crepe filled with vegetables and served with sambal and coconut chutney ($8.95).
 
My personal favorites are gobi aloo (potato-cauliflower curry sautéed with ginger, tomatoes, cumin and coriander — $8.50), baingan bharta (tandoori eggplant puree sautéed with onion, ginger, tomatoes and green chili), lamb vindaloo (with potatoes, in a tomato, onion, ginger, garlic and lime sauce — $13.95), nirvana chicken (tandoori chicken in a masala sauce flavored with coconut milk — $11.95) and mango chicken (curried with chunks of mango, onions, ginger, garlic and herbs — $11.95). Don’t forget to order rice ($2.50) and naan or paratha ($2.25-$4.95) to sop up the gravy.
Meals from Mamma’s, Panda Inn and All India Café should get you through all the remaining debates, providing ample food for thought as you go through the deliberative process. And if, after that, you’re encouraged enough (or need moral support to face the evening), you might want to invite folks over for election night. 
 
In that case, three other winners: Robin’s Woodfire BBQ & Grill (BEST BBQ), Green Street Restaurant (BEST CALIFORNIA CUISINE) and Mijares Mexican Restaurant (BEST MEXICAN FOOD) can help you host a feast for your friends. Their minimum orders range from $75 (Green Street) to 10 entreés (Green Street) to $200 (Robin’s), require pre-ordering and charge a small delivery fee. But mountains of ribs, heaps of Dianne Salad or towers of tamales should make any outcome better. 
 
Green Street 
Restaurant
146 Shoppers Lane, 
(626) 577-7170, 
greenstreetrestaurant.com. 

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