y4pcT1JaIwGptQJPO6l_mZmgv34 tiffin unboxed: Racion, Basque tapas with a California Twist

Racion, Basque tapas with a California Twist

Racion Apr12_sangriaFor a long time I've been wanting to write about Racion, a charming French/Spanish Basque region with California twist restaurant in Pasadena. As of the last couple of years Pasadena has really come into its own food scene.

It used to be a given that I'd have to go out of area to enjoy interesting food. Although a fair share of chain and corporate style restaurants remain, there are definitely more choices for the foodie.

While not everyone has been raving about Racion, in my two meals there, I've had no complaints. Mind you, I am no expert in Spanish food, but have been to Spain more than once and tried the real thing.

For starters, their sangria boasts a beautiful burgundy color and depth of flavor - fruity without being too sweet.

Racion Apr12_amuse bouche trout

On my first visit with a larger group, they brought out these amuse bouches of fresh trout on thin toasty crisps.

Racion Apr12_menu manos pintxos palillo tenedor

Racion Apr12_menu cuchillo

The menu is divided into Pintxos (small snacks served on house made bread), Manos (bar snacks), Tenedor (tapas to share) and Cuchillo (raciones to share).

Racion Apr12_setas white bean puree wild mushrooms sweet sherry

The setas consist of white bean puree spread on toast, topped with wild mushrooms cooked in sweet sherry and fresh herbs.

Racion Jun13 calamar a la plancha on toast

Calamar a la plancha, or grilled calamari on toast, also sits atop a bed of caramelized onions, which the menu describes as "melted", and lemon aioli.

Racion Apr12_soldaditos de pavla salt cod fritters lemon dust

On the same vein, the manos of salt cod fritters with lemon cream and herbs could go terribly wrong. But they came out crispy, light and fluffy on the inside and the lemon cream balanced the saltiness well.

Racion Apr12_clamares rellenos duck sausage stuffed squid brava sauce 1

One of the very enticing and popular dishes is the duck sausage-stuffed squid, brava sauce, squid ink sauce. It packs a lot of flavor and color.

Racion Apr12_clamares rellenos duck sausage stuffed squid brava sauce 2

Racion Apr12_coliflor ahumado smoked cauliflower steak ajo blanco amonds

While it's on the light side of the cuchillo menu, the coliflor ahumodo, or smoked cauliflower steak, ajo blanco, almonds, showed a satisfying way to enjoy vegetables as an entree.

Racion Apr12_fideua negra spanish pasta squid ink poached quail egg mussels baby squid

The fideua negra did not impress some of my dining partners, but for a classic dish with a California twist, I enjoyed it. They do not claim perfect authenticity.

The buttery fideua was composed of Spanish pasta, mussels, poached quail egg and baby squid. Everything blended in so you could not see everything, but could certainly taste it.

Racion Apr12_paella deconstruida crispy prawns lobster rice bouillabaisse

Finally, another one of my favorites, the paella deconstruita of crispy prawns, lobster rice, bouillabaise really allowed tasting and enjoying all components separately. On the current menu, I believe it's called arroz con gambas.

I personally prefer risotto and biriyani over paella as far as rice dishes go. This light version with plenty of caramelized, griddled rice brought out lovely brininess, crunch and broth. It streamlines the dish in a clever way.

These dishes illustrate the style and some highlights from Chef Teresa MontaƱo's menu of several months to possibly a year ago. The menu does change often and may not include all these dishes, but there are some mainstays. The lunch menu pares things down to tapas mainly and the dinner menu also offers cheese, charcuterie, desserts and other items not covered here.

Overall, Racion, at the spot of the former Tre Venezie Trattoria, a very popular Italian restaurant, stands as a solid meal choice in Old Town Pasadena.

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