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Seafood Stunner Saso Arrives in High Pasadena Style

Open-air seating, cocktails, and crudo abounds at the new Basque Spanish restaurant attached to the century-old Pasadena Playhouse

Stone crab claws over ice on a wooden table.
Santa Barbara crab claws
Wonho Frank Lee

It’s been a wild, and often scary, winter around Los Angeles, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic surged to new highs, with public officials asking restaurant owners, workers, and diners to mostly stay home as lockdowns once again took effect. Now outdoor dining is back for many across Southern California, owing to improved case numbers and increased intensive care unit bed capacity at hospitals — and that means Pasadena’s newest restaurant, Saso, is ready to anyone who’s comfortable sitting down.

The Basque-leaning, seafood-heavy Saso was originally slated to open at the end of November, before a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases put those plans on the back burner. Holidays stay-at-home orders stifled any formal opening plans for months, but now chef/owner Dominique Crisp — formerly of L&E Oyster Bar — and his charcoal-fired Josper oven are ready to roll, targeting Thursday, February 18 for the first night of service.

So what to expect from the first big new Pasadena restaurant of 2021? Seafood, of course, seasoned with plenty of Spanish and California influence. Dinner might move from pintxos snacks like jamon iberico or Dungeness crab cakes or grilled prawns to seared salmon, housemade pasta, and a hearty bone-in wagyu tomahawk steak for those more inclined to stay on land. Daily happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. includes house wine for $7 and smashed and fried potatoes; lunch weaves from bowls and salads to a crudo bar. The opening menus are below.

Distanced tables on a large stone patio in front of a restaurant.

As for the COVID-19-appropriate space, expect lots of social distancing under the stars (and the string lights) from the ample front courtyard shared with the 100-year-old Pasadena Playhouse. Inside, the former Trejo’s Cantina has been brightened up with light cream tones, lots of tile, and blonde wood. There’s a winding copper bar and splashes of color surrounding the booths in the back of the long restaurant, though for now it’s all about takeaway and outdoor dining, of course.

Saso open February 18 at 37 S. El Molino Avenue, keeping hours from noon to 9 p.m., with an extension to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday, and offers a daily happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Reservations can be made on Resy.

A tray of oysters in a dark brown tray on ice.
Grilled shrimp on a long plate with wooden table in back.
Ganbak, grilled prawns
A bone-in wagyu tomahawk with a knife through it.
A medium-rare cut steak shown from above.
A metal pan of roasted and salted potatoes.
Roasted potatoes
A light green matcha Basque style cheesecake.
Matcha basque cheesecake
A coffee liqueur cocktail with cinnamon fire shown above.
Spanish Coffee
A tin, tall cocktail with light lime green shades.
Agua Verde
A martini with dark ice at the edge of a table.
New Moon cocktail with black ice
A well lit bar area next to tall windows.
The front dining and bar area
A copper-wrapped bar inside of a new well-lit restaurant.
Wooden booths and a colorful back wall with a new restaurant.
Open sky dining at Saso with directors style chairs during the pandemic.

Saso

37 South El Molino Avenue, , CA 91101 (626) 808-4976 Visit Website
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