119 W. Green St.
Pasadena, CA 91105
Raci&oacuten +

Anne Fishbein Milk-poached asparagus


  • Dinner: Mon.-Thu., 6-10 p.m.; Fri., 6-11 p.m.; Sat., 5:30-11 p.m.; Sun., 5:30-10 p.m.; lunch: Tue.-Sat., 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m.
Ración is the Spanish word for a larger dish, which purposefully distinguishes the restaurant from the vast proliferation of tapas spots, but this charming Pasadena eatery doesn’t offer any simple boquerones, nor will you be able to get a platter of paella. Instead, brilliant orange, citrus-cured salmon might lay draped across your plate, nestled against a creamy, thick sauce based on ajo blanco, the white Spanish soup made with crushed almonds and garlic. Loretta Peng and Teresa Montaño’s ode to the Basque is as personal as a restaurant gets: It’s a passion project, radiating the warmth that comes only from a business powered by heart and soul. Ración’s modest but elegant dining room is as unassuming as it is comfortable, but it’s the cooking that truly sets this place apart. Milk-poached asparagus comes smothered in a coating of black garlic goop, looking both beautiful and menacing (but tasting only beautiful). This is food more touched by the best of international fine dining than it is by the jumble of small plates seen everywhere these days. Unlike so many of the kale salads and bowls of blackened Brussels sprouts, which taste good but could be made by any of a thousand cooks, the food at Ración could only be here, in this place, from these people. —Besha Rodell
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