Dining review: A refreshing twist on Lemonade
Sampling leads to various surprises at South Lake Avenue crossover restaurant.
Customers dine at Lemonade in Pasadena. (Cheryl A. Guerrero/Staff Photographer / November 15, 2012)
Bright and sunny as a lemon cake, local workers fill the dining room of Lemonade for their modern take on crossover dining. Not fast food but not full-service either. Prepared foods that take more than five minutes to make but can be served in five seconds. Salads like beluga lentil-persimmon and kale-kumquat prove that this is “new school” food meets “old school” cafeteria dining.
The food is all on display like trays of colorful gelato but filled instead with nourishing savory fare separated into four categories: Marketplace for vegetable and protein salads, Land & Sea for warm meat and fish entrees, Braises for ethnic and American broth-based meals, and Soups/Sides including macaroni & cheese and chili. The serving and pricing plans take a minute to comprehend, but the courteous young servers behind the counter help you every step of the way. They're more than willing to offer samples of anything that catches your eye and readily tell you their favorite items.
I thought this would be the perfect place to get food-to-go for a family card night in. It actually wasn't. Ordering numerous half-servings frustrated us all because each person got only a couple spoonfuls of many different tastes. However, I went back for a proper plateful (one portion for $4.25, two for $8.50) and was satisfied. I can tell you what went fastest on card night. Topping the list was the jalapeño bacon mac ‘n' cheese — need I say more? The char siu chicken with pineapple and Swiss chard caused quite a stir. And the Piedmont skirt steak salad with radicchio, mizuna and feta was a winner. I would have gotten the fabulous watermelon radish and ahi tuna salad, but there was only enough left for a sample. The broccoli with ricotta and curry cauliflower with nuts impressed but did not bowl over. The rest (sweet potatoes, lemon quinoa and Israeli couscous) went unfinished.
From the Braises section, we loved the super spicy Jamaican jerk chicken ($10 for full portion with basmati rice) but thought the coconut curry chicken was inferior to curry from a proper Thai restaurant.
The pre-sliced desserts looked fine but didn't tempt us. What drew us in and will draw us back is their namesake — lemonade. Three dollars will get you a large, refreshing, icy lemonade with no cloying sugary taste. They have classic, old-fashioned flavor, but we opted for the outstanding blueberry mint and the surprising apple jalapeño. The fresh chili tickles your throat in a pleasant way and the lemon-apple soothes it. There's also blood orange, watermelon rosemary and others.
Eating at Lemonade is best for local pedestrians, such as Black Friday shoppers on South Lake. Parking is a bit of a hassle. Those not lucky enough to snag a spot on Lake can park in the lot behind for a dollar (no validation) or a block away on Mentor Avenue for free. Catering is also available and might be an option for Thanksgiving.
LISA DUPUY welcomes comments at LDupuy@aol.com.
Where: 146 South Lake Ave., Pasadena
Hours: Monday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9:05 p.m.
More info: (626) 304-7700.