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CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK

Thoroughly modern milieu

January 06, 2005|S. Irene Virbila | Times Staff Writer

Remember the House, the homey little restaurant on Melrose Avenue just west of the Larchmont district? Scooter Kanfer, who made a name for herself when she opened it in an old Craftsman cottage there, is back behind the stoves again. Her new restaurant is Naya in Old Town Pasadena.

The House and Kanfer's earlier home, the Hollywood Coffee Shop, were both charmingly eccentric places, low-key and funky. But there's nothing funky about Naya. It's sleek and, well, "Moderne," as the menu calls it, understated and contemporary, a touch of class as unexpected as seeing Audrey Hepburn strolling down Colorado Boulevard. The walls above the banquettes are hung with mysterious black rectangles. At the back is an open kitchen with the wood-burning oven where Kanfer presides.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday January 07, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 40 words Type of Material: Correction
Naya restaurant -- The Critic's Notebook in Thursday's Calendar Weekend section about Naya restaurant in Pasadena said it is open Mondays. It is closed Mondays. Also, a graphic said the restaurant serves wine and beer. It has a full bar.

The food at Naya seems more polished than I remember from the House.

The menu lists dishes by main ingredient. Sweetbread, for example, is a salad of Bibb lettuce and frisee tossed in a pugnacious mustard dressing and topped with a soft poached egg and crisply fried sweetbreads, a delightful variation on salade lyonnaise. Kanfer's black pepper and lemon risotto is focused and delicious. And her seared foie gras perched on a tiny braised green grape tart in a reduction of verjus (tart grape juice) really makes sense.

Main courses include black cod paired with a fricassee of Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes with apple wood-smoked bacon; wild striped bass mingling with spicy merguez sausage, cockles and a gutsy romesco sauce; and a meaty prime rib of pork accompanied by savoy cabbage and beans flavored with bacon and caraway.

Kanfer knows how to write an enticing description, all right. I'm saving for next time the beef dish called Cowboys & Angels and described as "Coleman cote-de-boeuf served with pommes soufflees and emperor butter." That "emperor" is intriguing.

Maitre d' and manager Thierry Prez, who worked at Daniel in New York, has put together a terrific little wine list for such a young restaurant. With such a list, it's nice to see Naya offers a cheese course as well.

Kanfer was the pastry chef at Vida in its early days, and her desserts, as you'd expect, are unusually inventive. Though her notorious Elvis dessert -- "hunka hunka burnin' love": a chocolate cake roll stuffed with banana mousse and peanut butter -- didn't make Naya's menu, she's got a miniature banana split with peanut butter and jelly swirl ice cream that could easily pass muster with the Pelvis.

Soon every Wednesday night will have a family-style menu, and the last Wednesday of every month will be a guest chef night. The first will be Jan. 26 with Hugo Molina.

*

Naya

Where: 49 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena

When: Dinner 5:30 to 10 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Fridays-Sundays. Wine and beer. Valet parking.

Cost: Appetizers, $8 to $15; main courses, $20 to $36; cheese course, $7 to $10; desserts, $8; chef's five-course tasting menu, $55; chef's seven-course tasting menu, $65.

Info: (626) 793-4712

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