Dining review: Pasadena's StillRoom Seafood

The StillRoom gets its name from the so-called area in grand homes of yore where liquors, medicines, oils and the like were distilled, infused and brewed. It is a fitting name for this charming new addition to the Pasadena fine dining scene not only because it serves cocktails bordering on alchemy and foods that honor nature, but because it's a peaceful spot to be still and escape the world outside.

Tucked in the corner of a mini-mall at Glenarm and Marengo, the StillRoom beckons diners with a stylish shingle and surprises those that enter with a warm, romantic ambience. Vintage lamps, furniture and objets d'art create a living room feel. A red leather couch sits smack dab in the middle of bustling tables so that those waiting to be seated feel like their dining experience has already begun, especially with a drink in hand from their impressive wood and marble bar. They offer twists on the classics at the bar. The Stilltini ($14) is a vodka martini with Lillet and Chase Elderflower liqueur added. Kick it up a notch and try it “hot & dirty” style with fresh jalapeños and olive juice. The L.A. Thymes ($14) is a refreshing take on a Manhattan with cucumber, ginger syrup and fresh thyme.

The food at the StillRoom is fish-forward but with a few meat and vegetarian options. Highly recommended are their raw seafood selections. We were presented with a dazzling display of raw and chilled clams, oysters, mussels, crab legs and crayfish. The house-made horseradish added a nose-cleansing punch to the super fresh shellfish. This was a special item offered on their Valentine's Day prix-fixe menu, but normally they offer Little Neck and Cherry Stone Clams as well as a daily selection of oysters. The trio of baked oysters my sweetheart chose off the Valentine's prix-fixe menu warmed the cockles of our hearts.

The salads were unique and full of natural flavor, one with edible flowers and grilled asparagus, the other with arugula, grilled artichoke and hearts of palm. Normally they serve an arugula and raw fennel salad with local honey vinaigrette ($9), which I'm guessing is equally divine.

My husband's “coeur du filet” or heart of filet mignon was sublimely tender. It came wrapped in leeks, mushrooms and prosciutto. After such a parade of wonderful flavors and textures, I was shocked when a fork would not pierce the tuna loin on my overly hot plate. It was woefully overcooked but our fantastic waitress registered my disappointment immediately and asked to rectify the situation. She soon presented a quickly seared heart of tuna which was better, though still not transcendent. I expected a bit more for our $200 meal.

Admittedly, it's unfair to judge a restaurant on a busy Valentine's night, especially a restaurant that's recently opened. But this is a place one goes for a special romantic dinner. We plan to go back on a quieter night for the grilled striped bass with Pernod butter and the rockfish prepared “in the swim” ($24 each).

The desserts brought me back around. The fruit tart had a beautiful crust, perfect custard, and berries with flavors that took me back to my childhood. The chocolate mousse was light and fluffy. But the top reason to come to the StillRoom is the unfailingly friendly and accommodating wait staff. They made for a truly pleasurable dining experience.

LISA DUPUY has written about food, travel and entertainment for over 25 years. She can be reached at LDupuy@aol.com.

StillRoom Seafood Restaurant and Lounge

Where: 181 E. Glenarm St., Pasadena

When: Wednesday and Thursday, 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 5 p.m. to midnight; Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Sunday dinner, 4:30 p.m. to10 p.m.

Prices: Starters $9 to $15; Entrees $16 to $25; Brunch $8 to $16

Contact: (626) 799-0700; reservations recommended.

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