Perhaps it was the Old Fashioned. Maybe it was the Oysters Rockefeller. It might have been the artful elegance of the decor. Whatever the reason, at more than one point in the evening I expected to look over and see Don Draper and Roger Sterling from "Mad Men" chatting at the next table. Such is the sophisticated feeling at South Pasadena's Crossings restaurant.
Crossings is the brainchild of proprietor Patrick Kirchen with the significant help of Executive Chef Lalo Sanchez and local interior-design firm House of Honey. Whimsical, antique touches like old door-knocker collections and vintage camera displays are a warm counterpoint to the modern, neutral colorscape. All is skillfully lit by geodesic orbs. The elegant food, classic American fare, suits the ambience to a tee.
Chef Sanchez, with 16 years of experience at the beloved Parkway Grill under his belt, is a stickler for technique. Prime lamb chops, from the ranches of Colorado, are perfectly seared on the outside, pink but not chewy in the middle ($39). They melt in your mouth especially dipped in the scrumptious au jus and quince-mint preserve. The sauteed Tuscan kale alongside is simply prepared but so delicious. Fluffy whipped potatoes with a hint of pistachio come in a potato skin slipper that, in my case, was eaten to the last morsel. What I loved, besides the classic steakhouse flavors, was the way every item on the plate arrived piping hot, even at the tail end of a busy night.
We started off the evening with Oysters Rockefeller ($16 for 6), those classic parcels of decadence made famous by Antoine's restaurant in New Orleans. Legend has it the real thing contains no spinach. Chef Sanchez's contain spinach but the combination of warm creamy topping over cool raw oysters is unmistakably divine. Our dining neighbors let us sample some other appetizers — oxtail sliders, shrimp and scallop ceviche and quinoa salad, all unique and tasty.
My husband's swordfish, a house favorite, was thoroughly delightful ($30). The warmth of the juicy seafood steak coalesced sweetly with the pop of fresh roasted corn salsa containing bits of grilled shrimp. Summer is the perfect time for this one. Charred sweet onion risotto on the side delivers the creamy mouth feel element.
If you're still not full ask for more bread, slices of nice chewy rosemary or kalamata olive from a local bakery. These are doled out upon request following the gluten-averse trend of the day. The dessert menu gets points for having humble names (chocolate cake, ice cream sundae at $10 each) but sophisticated ingredients (chocolate mousse and toasted meringue, salted caramel ice cream and browned butter).
The cocktails at Crossings are good but not outstanding ($11 to $13). The wine list is mind-boggling. Wines are stored in a stylish loft situated halfway up the stairs to the second level. Incidentally, the best seats are on the second level, near the big, vintage windows of this, the old Edwards and Faw building. The back room is good for groups. There's a lovely outdoor patio under a hundred-year old oak and an energetic street-level room in front of an open kitchen.
Open about a year, Crossings is a wise choice when you're looking for a special-occasion restaurant, a date night, or an evening of conversation with old friends. White tablecloths, upholstered chairs, flattering lighting and old-school table service set the mood. Classic American food prepared well seals the deal.
Where: 1010 Mission Street, South Pasadena
Hours: Opens at 5:30 nightly. Last seating 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Prices: Starters, $8 to $32; entrees, $14 to $40
Contact: (626) 799-7001; crossings-restaurant.com; Reservations recommended.