Sep 2010

Top Restaurant – Pasadena

Top Restaurant - Pasadena

The Astronomer and I moved into new digs a month ago, and since then we’ve been slowly exploring and tasting our ‘hood. The apartment is only a mile away from the old place,  but the vibe here is totally different. For starters, the lawns aren’t manicured to perfection, and the streets have a grittier feel. And instead of bumping into school children and Caltech sidewalk cyclists on my morning walk to work, it’s angsty PCC students and a few random bums. Call me crazy, but I like this part of Pasadena much more.

Top Restaurant - Pasadena

I spied Top Restaurant on my inaugural walk to work and chuckled a little at how pathetic it looked. The signage boasting Thai and Indonesian food was missing a few letters, while the interior was a mess.

As soon as I arrived at my desk, I looked up the restaurant on Yelp and was surprised to find that it was somewhat well-liked and not universally panned. However, I was warned by fellow Pasadenian Jonathan Gold that their fare was super-basic, like something your kid brother cooked in college.  Still, I was hopeful.

Top Restaurant - Pasadena

I gathered up two brave pals, Kung Food Panda and Roaming Belly, to test out Top Restaurant with me on a random weekday afternoon. I was the first to arrive and was seated promptly. Not counting the two ladies running the joint, there wasn’t a single other soul in the house.

Top Restaurant - Pasadena

When Danny and Amy finally arrived, we started off with tall glasses of Thai iced tea. There was a teeny tiny bug in mine, but other than that, it was all good.

Top Restaurant - Pasadena

We ordered three dishes to share family style. The first to arrive was the nasi goreng mawut ($7.50). In Indonesian and Malay, nasi means cooked rice and goreng means fried. It arrived with a fried egg on top.

The two qualities that stuck out most about this fried rice were the inclusion of short egg noodles and a strong essence of shrimp paste. For me, both elements made for an all-around more interesting and tasty fried rice. Amy, on the other hand, found the flavor slightly too strong and had to combine it with plain white rice to mellow it out.

Top Restaurant - Pasadena

The next dish to arrive was the babat gongso ($7), which consisted of strips of beef tripe and firm tofu sauteed in a spicy chili sauce. The flavor of shrimp paste stood front and center once again. The tripe and tofu soaked up the bold flavors like a sponge.

Top Restaurant - Pasadena

The final dish was ayam goreng istimewa ($7.50), described as “Top’s special crispy fried chicken” on the menu. Whereas the two earlier dishes were aggressively seasoned, this one was relatively mild. I probably would’ve found it bland had my body not been assaulted with sodium and shrimpy fermentation moments before. Seasoning aside, the meat was juicy and the outer fry was crisp enough. It wasn’t the greatest fried chicken in the world, but it was definitely far from the worst.

I was expecting Top Restaurant to be a horrific dump, but was pleasantly surprised by how palatable the food turned out to be. Expectations are a funny thing when it comes to food, especially in Pasadena.

Top Restaurant
1842 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA 91107
Phone: 626-792-1412

Top on Urbanspoon

Top Restaurant in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

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11 thoughts on “Top Restaurant – Pasadena

  1. I’ve mentioned to this hole in The Wall to people. Maybe to you too last year. And, you can pay a whole brunch more at other places, as you know, for not much better food.

  2. Hee. We live on the other side of town, which means we’re practically Eagle Rock, and although I love Pasadena and all its manicured lawns, I do derive some comfort from having the Filipino market at Eagle Rock Plaza be my local.

  3. don’t forget it “smells like porn.” lovely pics as usual and it was a pleasure to eat with you and danny…and to figure out my dang camera!

  4. Thanks for the reminder, Amy. Yes, on one occasion when I stopped by Top Restaurant to pick up a menu, the place totally smelled like a porn shop. However, the day we ate there the fumes were mostly pleasant. Mmm, shrimp paste.

  5. The food looks good, but I just have to say that what really gets me excited is the first shot of the strip mall signage with the palm tree in the background. Yikes, it makes me miss LA. -X

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