Ración | 99 Essential Restaurants 2015

Ración

photo by Anne Fishbein

Loretta Peng and Teresa Montaño’s ode to the Basque is as personal as a restaurant gets: It’s a passion project, radiating the warmth that only comes from a business powered by heart and soul. Ración’s modest but elegant dining room, tucked into a leafy block in Pasadena, is as unassuming as it is comfortable, but it’s the cooking that truly sets this place apart. Brilliant orange, citrus-cured salmon might lay draped across your plate nestled against a creamy, thick sauce based on ajo blanco, the white Spanish soup made with crushed almonds and garlic. House-made squid-ink pasta, served with mussels and piquillo peppers and giving off the soft perfume of saffron, is impossibly light — a trick made all the more magical when it’s done with black pasta. This is food more touched by the best of international fine dining than it is by the jumble of small plates seen everywhere these days. Unlike so many of the kale salads and bowls of blackened Brussels sprouts, which taste good but could be made by any of a thousand cooks, the food at Ración could only be here, in this place, from these people. —Besha Rodell