Pas the Pintxos
There are plenty of food-related reasons for driving to Pasadena.
The traditionally bite-size pintxos, Basque Country's answer to tapas, are more akin to crostini here, served on considerable slices of bread. The white-bean-smeared pintxo, topped with sautéed mushrooms, was a textural muddle, but the caramelized squid with melted onions and lemon aioli ($7) was one of our favorite dishes.
If those bready starters are rooted in traditional Spanish cooking, dishes that arrive further along in the meal tip their hat at the country's more recent culinary legacy, that of Juan Mari Arzak and Ferran Adrià. Paella ($18) is deconstructed, raw lamb loin ($8) is presented in artfully arranged slices exactingly scattered with poached blueberries, and "pasta" (pictured; $7) is but a tangle of shaved white asparagus and fennel coated in chorizo vinaigrette.
Eating dishes like these alongside a bottle of the cider-like 2006 Abeurador ($60 for 750 ml)--a geeky, skin-fermented white from Terra Alta's Laureano Serres--while songs no one had heard before SXSW are played--makes Ración more than atypical of Old Town Pasadena. And we're hungry for more.
Ración, 119 W. Green St., Pasadena; 626-396-3090 or racionrestaurant.com