photo by Anne Fishbein
Ración, the exquisite Spanish restaurant owned, operated and dreamt into being by chef Teresa Montaño and general manager Loretta Peng, is an unlikely place. It’s hidden a block south of Pasadena’s main drag, with the nearby Cheesecake Factory and Buca di Beppo acting as a kind of siphon along the way for many Old Town shoppers. There is no paella on the menu, and the tapas are on a wholly different level from what you’ll find on all those gastropub small-plates menus around town. Ración offers a cuisine that exists somewhere between San Sebastián and the chefs’ idea of it, glorious plates of beer-braised octopus with Asturian white beans; lamb meatballs with Basque cider; an exquisite John Dory with sunchoke purée; an ode to local vegetables that looks like a painting; a pile of bafflingly tender salt-cod fritters with lemon cream. Actually, the Buca di Beppo down the street is a very good thing: More jamón ibérico for us.
-- Amy Scattergood