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Lunchtime Is Romantic at Stoney Point

February 11, 1988|BARBARA HANSEN | Times Staff Writer

Stoney Point in Pasadena is a romantic little hideaway. That's what I thought, at least, after lunching there. And I anticipated an intimate dinner by candlelight in one of the quiet, dark booths. The reality is, lunch is better. Part of the charm is the approach up winding, tree-lined Avenue 64, which creates the illusion that you are off to the mountains for a woodsy vacation. The name of the restaurant adds to the illusion and so does the sunny bar, which looks out on the verdant scene. Beyond this is the small dining room, which is dark even at midday.

At night, the sun and greenery vanish, and you could be anywhere. Instead of the hoped-for intimate peace, I ran into cross talk from two tables that got sort of embarrassing. There was, however, a bona fide romantic in the room--a handsome, brooding waiter with a mysterious accent--and a "terrorist buster" pin in his lapel. So much for atmosphere. Now for the food.

The best reason to go to Stoney Point at night is the rack of lamb, which is the restaurant's signature dish. It's New Zealand lamb, roasted first with garlic and rosemary, then dashed with soy sauce and returned to the oven and, finally, presented with a Dijon mustard-cream sauce.

Wonderful With Eggplant

Also on the plate were lusciously rich mashed potatoes, blended with Cheddar cheese, butter, cream and garlic. The restaurant does something wonderful with eggplant. It's cut into chunks and sauteed with tomato, onions, garlic and a bouquet of herbs including rosemary, thyme and basil. That came with the lamb too. And so did red cabbage, seasoned with onions, raspberry vinegar and brown sugar. The plate held still more--an assortment of plainly cooked vegetables--broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots and zucchini. That's quite a dinner for $20. Soup or salad is also part of it, but I chose to start with pasta--a memorable blend of pale green, spinach-parsley noodles with a cream sauce and chewy, salty slivers of Virginia ham.

Dessert finished this off in the style to which I was happily becoming accustomed. It was a pear, poached in Burgundy with cinnamon and brown sugar, stuffed with white chocolate and surrounded by caramel sauce delicately striped with chocolate. Superb. The range and variety of the menu here suggest a battery of chefs. However, everything, from the homemade pasta to chicken fajitas, veal with blueberry sauce, the rack of lamb and some fabulous mousse cakes (Kahlua, white chocolate-Grand Marnier) is the work of one man. He is Jose Serrano, from Atolinga in the Mexican state of Zacatecas.

Serrano's place of origin is responsible for the appearance of an occasional Mexican dish. I was impressed by his pork medallions with spicy tomatillo sauce--a beauty of a dish. Fideo (vermicelli) soup was not the vibrant bowlful I expected, and the fajitas were just OK. I'd like to try Serrano's enchiladas but haven't been there when they were on the menu.

Returning to the Continental side of the menu, the profiteroles with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce seem designed for failure. On each try, they were burned or tough. So stick to the other desserts, which have been fine. Flaws here are minor in comparison to the good points.

Stoney Point, which celebrated its fifth anniversary in January, takes pride in its wine list and changes it from time to time. There are some interesting labels, but high-priced for the most part. On my last visit the list was riddled with black dots that indicated certain bottles were no longer available, which made the choice rather limited.

Stoney Point Restaurant, 1460 West Colorado Blvd., Pasadena (restaurant parking lot also opens onto Avenue 64); call (818) 792-6115 for reservations. Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. Dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday, to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday. All major credit cards accepted.

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