Delicious Discovery at Seco New American

Seco offers comforts and challenges

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 | 2:10 am

(Pasadena Now is highlighting some of the many restaurants participating in Pasadena’s Fourth Annual Restaurant Week this week. Here, we visit Seco New American, on Lake Avenue.)

While the name might not immediately strike you, you know the location. This used to be the Crocodile Cafe, and most recently, it was Cafe 140, before Seco—part of Pasadena’s Smith Group of restaurants—took over the location in December of last year.

The restaurant offers the same indoor and outdoor seating arrangement as before, but with a darker wood interior. The outer dining area also featured a striking glass-paneled outdoor table top fireplace, which provided the proper combination of warmth and attention from fellow diners.

Like many of the Smith’s restaurants, it’s an American theme, “new American” in this case, but that allows for plenty of diversity, as is the American way. Our waiter, Dodd, described some of the items as “high end bar food.” That sounds about right.

We opened the evening with Shishito Peppers, batter-coated and toasted, and stuffed with chorizo, goat, shaved manchego, and a remoulade. They were crunchy, spicy and sweet all at once, and certainly memorable.

My dining partner opted for the Kale salad, a small hilltop of chopped kale, mixed with a hint of both mint and jalapeno. Again, the result was a very filling leafy mix of cool spice and a little spark of heat.

Speaking of diversity,  our dinner choices reflected the same. I opted for the grilled salmon with urfa pepper marinade which sat comfortably atop a mixture of pickled cucumber with coriander yogurt, and Israeli couscous. The salmon was flaky and mellow, hot on the outside and perfectly pink inside. It disappeared quickly. My companion’s grilled octopus, always a slippery slope, so to speak, was perfectly prepared. (I’ll admit I was slightly nervous.) The sliced and grilled octopus was served with marinated Peruvian beans with bacon, red onions and salsa verde, and was a home run for one delighted diner.

The carrot cake dessert was topped with a thick and decadent cream cheese frosting that had no chance of leaving a crumb on its plate. Sweet and filling, with a fruit compote of dried apricots, cranberries and currants, cinnamon and orange juice, it went perfectly with the coffee.

But, hey, its restaurant week, and Seco is offering its own Prix Fixe lunch and dinners through this Friday, so let’s pick it up, shall we?

The $35 dinner opens with a choice of roasted tomato and rye bread soup with olive oil, the same shishito peppers we enjoyed,  or the Kale Salad. The entree choices are chicken paillard on spinach and arugula with lemon-parsley butter, steak frites, or a seared trout crusted with cornmeal, lemon and garlic wilted spinach. Available desserts are warm bittersweet chocolate tart with vanilla bean ice cream, a ricotta cheese tart with fruit compote, and ice cream or sorbet.

The $20 lunch Prix Fixe menu is a choice of the Kale Salad, the shishito peppers and the roasted tomato soup. The three entree choices are a margherita pizza with vine-ripened tomatoes, basil and mozzarella, a penne arbiatta with Italian sausage, or a Kobe burger with Gruyere, caramelized onions and tomato.

Whatever the choice, Seco offers a friendly and comfortable dining experience with just enough tradition to make you feel at home, and just enough of an array to remind that you’re somewhere special.

Seco New American is at 140 S. Lake Ave, Pasadena. (626) 626.449.9900.


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