Bistro 39 delivers artistically garnished plates worthy of being tacked to the wall, if only your body's aesthetic urge to interior decorate outweighed its evolutionary desire to gobble up delicious things. Starters such as escargot Bourgogne ($8), Dungeness crab cakes ($8), and classic lobster bisque ($9) provide an opportunity to inform your first selection from Bistro 39's extensive beer and wine list. Main plates hail from salty seas and diverse terrains with options including sautéed lemon-garlic tiger shrimp on a bed of angel-hair pasta ($17) or seared duck with Grand Marnier reduction ($24). The Statue of Liberty's torch is surprisingly small, but the bistro's crème brûlée ($6) leaves American mouths agape with awe.
Within CrêpeStudio's elegantly aged brick building in Old Town Pasadena, bakers follow an old family recipe when whipping up batter daily and shaping it into crêpes. Plates land on tables loaded with 24 varieties of sweet, savory, or breakfast crepes, which wrap around an array of grilled meats, cheeses, and vegetables or fresh berries and ice cream. Salads and paninis made to order house greater portions of ingredients without forcing vegetables to protect themselves against the elements by piling inside a sliced-open tomato. The studio surrounds its guests with modern décor, such as sleek wood paneling, exposed-brick walls, and colorful illuminated signs.
Culture 22 stocks its carnivore-pleasing menu with porterhouses, bacon-topped burgers, and seafood. Peppercorn-crusted 12-ounce new york steak au poivre bathes in a cognac sauce, and a dozen oysters paired with inventive dipping sauces from the raw bar set taste buds out to sea. The signature New Mexican–style green-chile burger imbues a half-pound of beef with piquant Southwestern flavors, accompanied by french fries that, like wooden boards in a martial-arts studio, are hand-cut. As diners divvy up jumbo cocktail shrimp, servers ferry cocktails and beer to ebony four-top tables set aglow by chandelier and candle lighting.
The griddle gurus at Crème de la Crepe craft sweet and savory, buckwheat-based crêpes as well as French cuisine for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Crêpe craftsmen fold delicate dough around customer-chosen toppings such as brie, smoked salmon, Nutella, and béchamel sauce, which is one of the defining sauces of French cuisine, along with the thin, inky juice extracted from dictionaries. Additional menu items include baguette sandwiches, an assortment of quiches, and fresh pastas tossed in house-made bolognaise, pesto broth, and white-wine-based sauces.
One sunny afternoon, Ginnie Lu and her friends sat in a café sipping hot drinks and chatting about how much they would love to run their own tea and coffee house. When the group realized that they had the means to carve their dream into reality, they spent the next two years saving and planning. Finally, in 2010, they opened Four Leaf Tea Room, a cozy enclave where guests can sip specialty brews amidst the aromas of sweet and savory crepes. Mugs of oolong and chrysanthemum keep fingers warm during the year's cooler temperatures, and when the summer returns, they cool down with iced teas and mango freezes on an outdoor patio.
Despite Four Leaf’s name, its upscale, innovate crepes force its teas to share the limelight. A chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu dreams up the lavish fillings, pairing smoked salmon and caper-herb cream or soy-marinated chicken with crushed peanuts for savory meals. Sweet versions make use of exotic ingredients such as red-wine-poached pears, candied pecans, taro paste, and gelato. As guests fork into these creations, they can admire walls decorated with spring-green leaves and shelves filled with loose-leaf blends and prehistoric fossils of steam from early teas.