Experience the Upside of Getting Lost At Sea
I’ve wanted to get Lost At Sea in Old Pasadena for quite some time now. The brainchild of executive chef Tim Carey and wine director Santos Uy, this seafood restaurant uses the spoils of local California ingredients and applies French techniques to cooking them. Though I don’t spend much time in Pasadena, I know it has a long list of phenomenal restaurants to choose from and Lost At Sea is highly ranked amongst the best of them.
As a reminder, TBOT evaluates restaurants on a scale of 1 to 10. A) Atmosphere, B) Appetizer, C) Cocktails/Beverage, D) Dessert/Coffee, E) Entrée and F) Service. We add up the scores from each category and divide by 6 to get the average.
Lost At Sea’s décor is hip and shabby-chic. Rustic wooden dining chairs slid up to wooden bistro tables with iron pedestal bases. Next to those are longer whitewashed tables in a classic distressed French-country style. The floors are polished concrete, the countertops are white marble and industrial metal shelves holding wine and various supplies line the back walls. There are fresh wild flowers everywhere and over by the coffee/wait-staff station there’s an artful reclaimed wood façade flanked by green subway tile. In the upper left corner is the kitchen window where one can see the chefs busily preparing food.
Dozens of clear wine bottles with rolled up messages inside decorate the marble counter. Above, copper bell-shaped industrial light fixtures hang from the ceiling. Given the amount of natural light that pours into the eatery’s glass front, I imagine it’s very late in the evening when those lights need to be turned on. A deep turquoise and baby yellow cover the walls along with nautical art. The restaurant feels very homey with an understated elegance. For creating an atmosphere that felt stylish without being pretentious, I gave the décor a solid TBOT 9.
Serving small batches of authentic beer and wine from France or California my good friend and I enjoyed the Fabien Jouves Malbec Rose and the Deovlet Chardonnay by the glass. Both were crisp and dry and paired well with our meal. I’m not much of a chardonnay drinker, but from what my good friend allowed me to initially taste, I ended up ordering my own glass. Both wines were crisp and dry and paired well with our meal. For wine director Uy’s superlative selections, I gave the beverages a TBOT 9.4—especially for having a chardonnay on the menu that won me over.
We began our meal with the prawn ceviche. Cured in a limey bath of tomatillo augachile with paper-thin slices of long cucumber and tomatoes, this ceviche finished with a subtle fire in the mouth that lingered at the end. Light and bright—exactly what you’d expect from a proper ceviche but with a chile twist. Once we finished the prawns we dipped our French-country bread into the remaining liquid—a move I highly recommend.
In the interest of being adventurous and trying the chef’s signature dishes, we ordered the octopus. For those who appreciate the unexpected, this dish was made for you. This wasn’t your standard grilled or fried calamari. This was two long tentacles curled up on a bed of mole sauce with a dollop of a strawberry puree and a sesame seed crispy wafer. Though it was cooked to perfection and I found the flavors individually appealing, the dish wasn’t as successful as I might have liked it to be. To be fair, I’ve never been one to order anything with a mole sauce—the bitter chocolate notes are just lost on my palate. I realize I’m in the minority when it comes to chocolate, so for all you coco-heads out there, this dish is magic. What I did appreciate was the utter originality of the dish. Couple that with the prawn ceviche home run, and the appetizers earned a TBOT 8.9.
For our mid-course we decided on the gnocchi. Fluffy oval pillows of potato tossed in a buttery Spanner crab sauce finished with fresh squash blossoms and zucchini. It was heavenly and not too heavy. Aside from the sweetness of the crab, what made the dish outstanding was the fresh basil that made its presence know in each bite.
Never one to turn my nose up to butter poached lobster, we devoured this entree in a matter of minutes. The lobster meat was soft and tender and ideally salted by the olive vinaigrette drizzled on top. Ripe cubes of honeydew and cantaloupe balanced the dish with a little sweetness, while the almonds gave it a much-needed crunch for texture. Surprisingly tasty for a succulent and also rich in omega 3’s, the purslane was an added bonus.
Our second main course was the Barramundi—so fresh I swear it was swimming in its tarragon fumet (stock). The flaky white fish with its seared crispy skin waded in the broth along side floating wax and shelling beans, kale and duck prosciutto. I always applaud restaurants that prepare fish well. Finished with a bit of sea salt, again, our bread came in handy for soaking up the rest of the satiating stock. I gave our entrees a TBOT 9.5.
One thing that makes dining at Lost At Sea so special is the high chance of running into chef Carey. He jovially walks around the restaurant greeting his guests and genuinely inquires about their dinning experience. You can tell that he absolutely loves what he does and that love shows up in every bite of his deliciously prepared food. After chatting with my good friend and I, chef Carey sent over two desserts on the house for us to enjoy.
My eyes lit up when I saw the pot de crème and the yoghurt panna cotta. Everyone has his or her go-to desserts and mine happens to be butterscotch pudding. I’ve mentioned it was my favorite in a previous post when I reviewed Handle in Park City. Similar to a dulce de leche, this pot de crème made from caramelized goat’s milk topped with a dollop of fresh cream and crispy flakes was a delightful wow!
Because of my affinity for irresistible pudding, you’d think the yoghurt panna cotta didn’t stand a chance against my bias. However this equally impressive dessert wasn’t your typical panna cotta. It had pieces of seasonal nectarine, chopped pistachios, chile and fresh basil. The herb just took the entire dish to another level. Refreshingly surprising, both desserts were multi-layered and representative of the all-encompassing theme of our entire meal—light and not too heavy. I gave the desserts a TBOT 9.7
A friendly, knowledgeable wait staff has the power to push any great meal over the edge. Our server was no exception. He helped us select wines based on what would go well with our food, coursed our meal, and even attentively folded our napkins once we got up to go to the bathroom. We received new silverware and plates for each course—a thing that seems to be going out of style in dining (which I don’t like), and nothing beats getting to talk about the food you just ate with the chef that prepared it. The quality of the service left me no choice but to give it a TBOT 9.9!
I bet if I were to take a poll amongst Pasadena foodies they’d say Lost At Sea is one of their best-kept secrets. Earning an overall TBOT 9.4, I think everyone should head over to Old Pasadena and experience the upside of getting lost at sea!
Location: 57 E. Holly St. Pasadena, CA 91103
Phone Number: 626-385-7644
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 5:30-10pm