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SCENE SETTER: Noir Food & Wine

Relaxation, by the glassful

That classic bistro look, a huge wine list and a creative small plates menu are the draws at this new Pasadena bar.

September 28, 2009|S. IRENE VIRBILA | RESTAURANT CRITIC

When I peered in the window of the Ice House Comedy Club in Pasadena, the performer stopped midsentence to beckon me in.

Audience a little sketchy that night, I guessed. Tempting though that might have been (who couldn't use a laugh or two?), I had another destination in mind: the new wine bar Noir next door.

Wine bars come and go in Pasadena, it seems, but this one is notable not only for the quality of the wines on offer but also because Claud Beltran, late of Madeleines Restaurant on Green Street, is cooking.

The small, cozy storefront has a nice vibe. Chocolate walls are hung with a series of posters from Willi's Wine Bar in Paris. Simple tables and dark bentwood chairs complete the classic wine bar look, with a mahogany bar at the back. Diners can now also enjoy their meals on a patio.

Mike Farwell, a graphic artist who has been involved in several local wine bars, has put together the wine list.

Right now, he's pouring more than 50 wines by the glass. The ever-growing bottle list is up to 600 labels and includes older wines. The good news is that, given the times, they're trying to price the wines closer to retail than typical restaurant prices.

No surprise that the menu is small plates, a format that works perfectly for wine bars. But it's not just Mediterranean.

Beltran spins Piedmontese and Provencal recipes, but he's cooking up New Orleans-influenced dishes too. I can't tell you how happy I was to get a bowl of his heat-seeking shrimp and sausage gumbo or some of his white Gulf shrimp remoulade. A salad of brown turkey figs with julienned fried coppa, arugula and a thread of elderberry syrup is just delicious. So are the well-edited charcuterie plates and cheese boards.

But you can also get something more substantial: wild boar chili verde, seared foie gras or a prime hanger steak, for example. Not to mention the Farwell Burger garnished with remoulade and pecorino Sardo cheese.

Dessert? You'll want the bananas Foster with vanilla ice cream.

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virbila@latimes.com

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Noir Food & Wine

Where: 40 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena.

When: Open from 5 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Wine and beer. Lot and street parking.

Price: Cheese and charcuterie, $9 to $16; soups and salads, $8 to $15; pizzas, $9.75 to $14; main courses, $13 to $19; sides, $4 to $11; desserts, $8.

Contact: (626) 795-7199; www.noirfoodandwine.com.

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