There are plenty of reasons to invest $4 a gallon for the drive to Andrew Cherng’s palatial Panda Inn located at 3488 Foothill Blvd. on the east edge of Pasadena, where particular palates savor classic Chinese cuisine. Elegant surroundings and superb service enhance a creative menu at this landmark dining place.
After a smart $6.50 cocktail, start your feast with lightly battered fried Calamari with bits of green onion, ginger and jalapeno.
Main courses are made for sharing at the PI. Discover an ample platter of crispy Panda Beef with ginger, garlic and steamed rice, $14.50; and the singular Singapore Noodles, marinated with chicken, shrimp and veggies in a white wine curry sauce, $8.95. The weekday lunch menu starts at $7.95 and attracts eager appetites to the adjoining self-parking.
In Studio City, there’s Kiwami, the first cousin of the eloquent Katsu-Ya group where scallops, crab and shrimp get a Tempura treatment with Satsuma-yam and Shiitake mushrooms. There’s an irresistible Tempura platter with a choice of upscale items from the specialty board. The setting at 11920 Ventura Blvd. is serene but use the paid parking as street space is dicey.
When you happen to be hungry in South Pasadena, I suggest Ai Japanese Restaurant, a neat, inviting storefront place with a predominantly Asian clientele.