The P.F. Chang’s of Japanese food…in Old Town Pasadena.
Okay, you may not want to call Kabuki the P.F. Chang’s of Japanese food, but I’d totally understand it if you did.
They seem everywhere in Southern California, not quite as bad as Starbucks, but close.
All that being said, Kabuki is a pretty good chain. Yes, you could probably do better someplace else, but…oh you could do so much worse.
Kabuki’s aim is really to give you a good time. In that regard, it seems to see its major competition as places like Gyu-Kaku, where the Sake and the Beer flow freely. It wants to introduce a lot of the standard ideas behind an Izakaya to mainstream American Diners. For the most part, in that regard, it succeeds.
They even try to push some actual Japanese food onto their menus, and are even successful in getting non-Japanese Americans to try to some things just a little out of their comfort zone. Again, “A” for effort.
Still, there’s just something plain about the place. Something blunted in their appeal. It’s like you know they’re trying but at the same time, you know that the food’s been dumbed down just a little bit for crazy Gaijin like me.
Then again, maybe not. I see more and more Asian-Americans in this place every time I go. That’s always a good thing. Every time I go in, the menu gets a touch more daring. (Not daring enough for me to skip it over a full-on Japanese place, but still…kudos). It’s still kinda fun to go into. There is still a party going down in this place.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: As I’ve said, the Menu has improved a lot over the years. You can find some decently adventuresome items to choose form. I mean, I like me the Sauteed Asparagus and the Fried Tofu. Their Lobster Dynamites have been popular, but I can’t roll that way. Their Tuna Tartare is okay as well. Also, they do Spicy Tuna on Crispy rice, although Gyu-Kaku does it better.
You have to pour through to the back of the menu to get what I usually go after, which are the Spicy Miso Ramen, or the Soba Noodles. Soba is probably the item they sell the least, but because the price point is so low, my bet is it’s staying on the menu. I’m also fond of their Tonkatsu, which is Pork Loin breaded and fried up and covered with pungent tasty sauce. It’s really good. Can you get any of these better at another Japanese place? Yeah, but they’re not bad.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: It all depends on where you go, but various places get more crowded than others. Burbank is no exception. Other than that, there’s nothing really to worry about.
PARKING: Well, first thing you should check is ye olde Old Town Pasadena Valet and Parking Map, but the best choice is really the Parking Structure on Delancey. That’ll put you around the corder from the Restaurant. Failing that, try the Schoolhouse, though that’s a couple of blocks away.
Kabuki (Old Town Pasadena)
88 W Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91105
Tel: (626) 568-9310
Monday-Thursday 11 am – 10:30 pm
Friday-Saturday 11 am – 11 pm
Sunday 11 am – 10 pm