Chef Claud Beltran and wine expert Mike Farwell have been kicking around the local food scene for years; Beltran cooked at Dickinson West and Halie, for instance, and Farwell helped created the Red Carpet Wine Bar and Vertical Wine Bistro. Now the two have joined forces, and the early evidence is that they’ll be staying put for a long, long time.
Their new venture, Noir, is deliberately reminiscent of Farwell’s favorite place on earth, Willi’s Wine Bar in Paris. Located between the Boston Court Theatre and the Ice House, it’s a cozy, chocolate box of a room with a four-seat wine bar, a handful of tables and vintage posters on the wall. More tables are found on the fetching, candlelit hidden patio outside, and in these early days, there seems to always be a few people waiting for a table by the front door.
Besides the charm of the setting, Noir’s considerable appeal stems from a few things: its great wine list, with lots of worthy choices for $7 to $9 a glass; its well-conceived and fairly priced small-plates menu; and the gregarious charm of chef Beltran, who spends a lot of time checking on diners. In these early days it has some issues, including overloaded service during busy times and the propensity to run out of dishes. But these are problems that should be solved as it eases into full-steam operation.
As for what’s to eat: The menu is seasonal and market based, so some of it will change. But you can reliably expect to find the very good cheese platter; the delicious haricots verts with garlic, shallots and mint; the fat burger with tarragon, caramelized onions and melted pecorino; and the seared Hudson Valley foie gras. Oh, and the crisp and salty fries. Beltran and his kitchen crew seem particularly adept at seafood; my table of five the other night practically fought over bites of a halibut special. Most of the dishes are in the $7 to $15 range, and two are enough for most eaters (okay, add a chocolate terrine and make it three dishes).
This is a proper wine bistro, so if you just want a glass of wine and some cheese, that’s fine, and if you want to order a fancy bottle and lots of dishes, that’s fine, too. It’s not so loud that Caltech professors can’t have an intelligent conversation, and it’s the sort of place where you’ll probably run into your across-the-street neighbor (I did). In short, just the sort of place Pasadena needed.
40 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena, 626.795.7199, noirfoodandwine.com. D Mon.-Sat.; lunch coming in Nov. Modern American/French. Beer & wine. AE, MC, V. $$ – $$$