Walking along the smaller side streets of the Old Town of Pasadena, there's a relaxed, hush ambience similar to a quaint neighborhood in small town America; the Hopper-esque tree lined streets-mature, hefty trunks fanning dynamic branches with vast, luscious canopies that swallow up the heat, rising from the concrete pavement.
While strolling in the late afternoon dusk, you may (or may not) notice an adorable, one story house; Mediterranean inspired facade, with its window and door frames in Peacock Blue, and above the door- the tiniest of signs faintly indicating the treasure trove of amazing concoctions inside its stucco walls...
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Ambience filled, cosy and intimate, the list goes on.....Passing the storefront on a regular night, you see a jam packed Bar area in front filled with elegant diners passing small plates, clinking wine glasses and overall bubbling merriment- it's like looking through a Charles Dicken's novel....and you're the pauper...(maybe more like Alison Porter in 'Curly Sue' as she's standing outside the restaurant with Jim Belushi).. but I digress...
The ambience is, needless to say, magical...and from the front entrance, you would be led to believe that it is the tiniest of spaces. But as you're walking in, the space is actually abundant if not elongated in volume...
The interior has a mini museum like-quality, reminding me of the restaurants in the late eighties; elegant bare white walls with dollops of framed artwork, the flat ceiling riddled with cut outs for skylights with a sprinkles of recessed cans and track lighting...it's a comfortable space for it's size and lack of soft fixtures to muffle the sound levels...
The restaurant is terribly elegant, starting off with an Amouse Bouse of Watermelon wrapped Prosciutto with a house made Bread and Sangria..
a bevy of small sharing plates accompanied by Sangria can be incredibly festive and light.
Our own tradition is to always get the Olives; here we have the Spanish Olives with Orange- which were delicious with a sweet fragrance of Citrus.
The salty, pungent crisp flesh just opens up the palate for the rest of the evening's dishes.
Highly recommended, we ordered the Abondigas - a Lamb and Pork Meatball in a light Tomato Glaze. Succulent and Juicy, it was the right portion of Lamb for the start of the evening, (anything more would have weighed us down).
As an introduction to the proteins, it delivered in flavor and quantity.
I'm always a sucker for fried food, another Spanish tapas classic is the Croquetta de Pollo - Chicken Croquettes with Membrillo and Goat Cheese. Membrillo is a Quince Paste, giving the dish a sweet, fruity flavor. Lightly fried, the Croquettes were super delicious with the dollop of Goat cheese, we were in heaven! This was going to be a super evening of yummy goodness!
A dish that seemed to grab our attention was the Lengua: Braised Beef Tongue with Pickled Spring Onion and a Honey Aoili. Served on a house made Bread, I loved this appetizer, it has all the components of a rustic dish from the soft Tongue to the Green Onion, it was a savory experience. And what can go wrong with Bread?!?!
And we now come to the reason for coming to Racion: the Fideua Negra- Black Squid Ink Pasta With Mussels and Quail Egg. The saltiness of the Squid Ink Pasta is cooked in a Al Dente that is an explosion of flavor and texture in your mouth. Add the Mussels and the Quail Egg and you get a buttery thick coating over the dish that warms the palate with a rich sensation. This is the 'Get' dish of the restaurant, hands down!
As the Special for the evening, we ordered the Brasied Short Rib dish, which was not the best that Racion had to offer. Not that it was particularly bad, but it wasn't memorable in any way. It was on the dry side, which was a shame, but not every dish can be a winner.
However, the last Tapas of the night left us on a high note: the Calamares Relenos- Duck Sausage Stuffed Squid with Brava Sauce. A lovely combination of tender squid, chewy texture to the bite, combined with a savory rich Duck Sausage tufted inside; an unusual but highly sophisticated flavor profile that I have never had before. Add to that a Black Squid Ink Sauce, it just sent us over the top!!
We were pretty full by the time the waitress brought the dessert menus, but we had to have something to cleanse our palate. For the Dessert, we ordered the Crema Catalana, a yummy creamy dessert with Sweet Cherries and Pistachio Crumble. We loved everything about the dish, except the Pistachio Crumble, it would have been better if the crumble had been finely crushed, as it was it felt too gritty.
An Absolute gem, Racion is one of our favorite Restaurants in Pasadena-and it won't be long till our next visit!
Ratings (Out of Five Stars)
And when we finished the evening and walk out the front door, this is what awaited us: