Everyone loves a good comeback story, and chef Douglas Rankin is in the midst of one. The Trois Mec alum opened Silver Lake’s Bar Restaurant in late 2019 and secured a glowing write-up from the Los Angeles Times saying the eatery had “eccentricity and charisma” in February 2020. The timing was everything and Rankin — like other LA chefs and restaurants — struggled throughout the pandemic, only to close in June 2022.
Rankin’s return comes full circle tonight with the opening of Bar Chelou. He partnered with Whole Cluster Hospitality and took over the former Saso space next door to the Pasadena Playhouse, where his love of Spanish, French, and Asian flavors is on full display. While Rankin pulls from his classic French training, it doesn’t limit his approach to the menu, developing everything from a $13 clam toast up to a $98 dry-aged, bone-in rib-eye.
Bar Chelou’s menu is organized from light to heavier fare and from smaller to larger plates. “Chelou” translates to “strange” or “unexpected” in French, and the small plates include marinated olives, a sprouting cauliflower au poivre with Sichuan peppers, and carrots râpées with coconut dressing, lime leaf, and pommes allumettes. The heartier dishes might be the aforementioned ribeye along with an Iberico pork chop with cabbage, fennel pollen, and furikake. In the coming weeks, Rankin’s team will also offer two tasting menus featuring six and nine-course meals.
For Bar Chelou, Rankin brought over most of his kitchen team from Bar Restaurant, including chef de cuisine, Emilio Perez, his pastry chef Raymond Morales and sous chef Peton Johnson. Managing partner Taylor Parsons assembled 40 wine selections, draft and bottled beers, aperitifs, and cocktails.
About that interior, those who dined at Saso will easily notice the changes from local designers Lovers Unite. It took them less than two months to drape the interior in muslin, remove the banquettes, and install a room-length chandelier in the main dining area. There’s a bigger rework of the space coming as well.
To be clear, Rankin says this isn’t Bar Restaurant 2.0. He’s eager to bring new flavors to the Pasadena crowds. “My hope is for people to have two different experiences,” says Rankin. “You can come in and experience the food and have more intricate or interesting snacks than you normally have in the French world. Also, it’s really important that we have a place accessible [where] people don’t feel like every time they come in they have to spend 300 bucks.”
Bar Chelou is open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday at 37 South El Molino Avenue in Pasadena. Secure a table via Resy.