Nonya, Peranakan Food Comes To Downtown Pasadena

61 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103

Nonya Restaurant Pasadena When London restaurateur Simon Tong does things with a new restaurant he does it in style-and Nonya restaurant in downtown Pasadena is no exception. Simon moved to California from Woodford in Essex in 2001, brought over chef Tony Pat from London via Hong Kong, and opened Nonya in fashionable downtown Pasadena in October of last year. Many of you will remember Simon for his small chain of HoHo restaurants in London that garnished quite a formidable reputation with their gourmet version of Asian food. Rather than retiring, Simon is setting the standards again in excellent fashion. In an area with many new and exciting Asian fusion style restaurants, Nonya has an outstanding chance of adding to his achievements, and making a lot of money after the initial investment has been recouped.

Nonya Restaurant Pasadena Formerly a failed Australian Outback restaurant, the décor at the 120 seat Nonya is stunning with restaurant designer Dodd Mitchell creating an eclectic atmosphere with an emphasis on water, hardwood and metals. A pond greets you as you arrive with giant Koi fish swimming peacefully, and with plenty of bamboo plants, antiques and palm trees confirm the peaceful atmosphere. It reminds me slightly of a much quieter version of the Blue Elephant restaurant in Fulham. The bar area is also an architectural delight, strips of dark wood accented with warm yellow strips, and features cocktail size portions of tapas-style Nonya dishes, special cocktails and beers from Singapore, Thailand, Japan and China.

Nonya food is a combination of Malaysian, Chinese and Indonesian cuisine, usually quite spicy and hot, but subtly different to Vietnamese or Thai cuisine. It derived from the inter-marriage of Chinese settlers and Malay women over 600 years ago and is commonly found in Singapore and time is the essence in the preparation of these dishes. Tamarind is the key ingredient along with sambal, described in the menu as a satisfying sweet and sour sauce with chilli brown sugar and salt. In fact the use of salt in most of the dishes might be a little too much for health conscious Americans, but it does make the taste. Other spices used include lime, garlic, galangal and onions. The presentation is also a strong point at Nonya, none more so than with the appetizer plate of chicken satay, marinated with spices and a hint of lemongrass and served with a light, fresh peanut sauce. Even better was the udang poplah, marinated spring rolls served with a sweet, spicy chilli-lime sauce.

Worth going to Nonya for if you are into salads is the mangga ikkan, an outrageously fresh mango and halibut salad in coriander and soy sauce, and with a lemongrass-lime vinaigrette. Very fresh tasting and with the mango cut in julienne strips, this dish was a real winner. If that was not enough, then the detam duan kari lada hitam which is a whole Dungeness crab sautéed with curry leaves and black pepper is a superbly exotic dish that deserves centerstage. Preparation is detailed, presentation is exquisite and at $28 an absolute steal. And certainly not to be outdone and another dish to go for is the charbroiled lamb, another outstanding dish that is marinated in garlic, lemongrass, soy sauce and chilli and served with spicy pickled cabbage and roasted vegetables.

Portions tend to be on the generous side and some of the other items on the menu include Prawns in Tamarind Sambal, Stir-fried Beef with Galangal & Basil and Quick-fried Long Beans & Asparagus with dried Shrimp and more. Nonya could be a great place to celebrate a birthday or a special event, have a romantic engagement or even host a business meeting. Pasadena is the first to benefit, and if it does well then surely Beverly Hills or Santa Monica could follow in due course.

Tel: 626 583 8398
Fax: 626 583 8617

Dress: Casual but smart
Reservations recommended
Price: Dinner for two with wine, $120

Parking: Both On Street and Valet

Restaurant Hours:
Lunch7 days 11:00 a.m. - 2.00 p.m.
DinnerSunday - Thursday 5:00 p.m. - 10.00 p.m.
Friday - Saturday 5:00 p.m. - 11.00 p.m.
Mike Hepworth, May 2002

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