POP Champagne and Dessert Bar
One of the toughest aspects to writing a review blog of any kind is remaining unbiased and impersonal when reviewing a place filled with people you know and love. POP Champagne and Dessert Bar is such a place; an integral part of Pasadena and as such is difficult to write about without drawing attention to the fact that I am biased out of my love for the POP team. I have the same issue with Kings Row Gastropub and Dog Haus, two Pasadena based eateries which I’ve become emotionally compromised about out of my desire to see the owners succeed. Thankfully, when I initially wrote about those two places, I didn’t know anyone and remained 100% objective. I don’t entirely know what the point of bringing this up is; I just felt it was time to be a touch META about the crux of food blogging.
OK, I’m over it. Let’s party on, Wayne.
I’ve been to POP Champagne and Dessert Bar for the Pasadena Happy Hour Week and was pretty impressed. However much I meant to make a quick turnaround to try out their dinner (especially during the last hurrah of foie gras), it just never came to pass. Finally, my mother invited me out one evening to share in her Groupon/Living Social/Bloomspot whatever deal. Score!
Like ripping off a band-aid, I’m gonna get the first of two quibbles out of the way. So, I was going with my mother’s coupon, which required reservations. Well. I don’t know about you guys, but this be the most passive aggressive reservations page I done ever come across in all my years trolling the internet. I appreciate how tough it is to keep a restaurant afloat, and that there are a lot of yahoos in the world who want to take advantage of a business, and you gotta turn a profit so all your paychecks can be signed without fear of debt collectors coming to break knee caps in the middle of the night, but that reservations page really needs to be simplified. I swear to Stephen Fry, it can be done.
Maybe it’s just me, but this kind of wording doesn’t entice me to patronize a business:
“Due to growing popularity of POP, RESERVATIONS ARE HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AT ALL TIMES…Your reservation date and time is NOT guaranteed until a POP staff member contacts you and confirms via telephone.”
The fun part about the above statement is that I actually had to chase down POP and call them to confirm (the night before my reservation no less) not the other way around. Once I got a human being on the phone, it was a smooth and very friendly process.
I will say that I am aware there has been a shift in management and that perhaps the reservations page will be revamped some time in the near future.
Blackened Salmon Salad $17
Mom decided to go healthy tonight and ordered the blackened salmon salad, which she praised to the high heavens. Fresh, light but filling, with just the right amount of dressing drizzled on for that much needed creamy fat to round out the flavors and textures. The salmon – wow – neither of us have seen such a remarkably well seasoned, non black blackened salmon. She was content and said she would order this again in a heartbeat.
Champagne Marinated Chicken $24
bacon & leek mash potatoes ~ sautéd spinach ~ exotic mushrooms ~ cherry
tomato ~ Champagne butter sauce
I missed out on this dish when it included the foie gras components, which I am a touch remiss about, but that’s life. Truthfully, though, this dish doesn’t need the extra richness as it is well layered in flavors. I mean, just look at that perfectly crispy skin on the chicken – which was moist and and tender as chicken can get – sitting atop a pile of mashed potatoes, piped to actually make look mashed potatoes look beautiful. Come on, you can’t tell me that mash doesn’t look attractive like a frilly petticoat. Aw, yeah. The veg was excellent, too, and the champagne butter sauce rich and delightful.
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Crème Brûlée $12
What sorcery is this is this heavenly concoction? Peanut Butter? Check. Chocolate? Check. Crème Brûlée? Check. Berries? Check. Cream? Check. The only negative thing I can even say about this dish was that I had to share it. Seriously. There is a reason why POP Champagne and Dessert Bar is known for their desserts, and this right here is it. No other words to describe it other than you just have to taste it for yourself.
OK, time for the second quibble and it’s to do with the dessert menu. I take offense to the “Irish Car Bomb” dessert, and broached the subject with our server. He was honest and informed me that I am not the first to complain about this. I feel it is erroneously insensitive to make light of such a tumultuous, violent time in Ireland. Wounds are still fresh for many, and there is strife to this day. People were murdered with car bombs. It is nothing to make light of and it makes my skin crawl every time I spy “ICB” on a menu – be it at a bar or a restaurant – thinking nothing of the lives those weapons destroyed. Methinks it’s time for a name change! Irish Orgasm, anyone?
Thankfully, I am not alone in my revulsion for the “Irish Car Bomb”.
Quibbles aside, I do want to wish to see POP Champagne and Dessert Bar thrive, I really do. I’ve grown to love the welcoming and congenial staff, the vintage aesthetics, and above all else, the knock ‘em out of the park food. These elements are the foundation for many more business booming years to come for POP, and I can’t wait to see what their future holds.
POP Champagne and Dessert Bar
33 East Union Street
Pasadena, CA 91103