In mid December, Quadrupel owner Omar Tedmori told me that another interesting Pasadena transformation was taking place next door, in the former Brenart space. Dave Johnson is opening Dish Bistro & Bar, a California-influenced Mediterranean small plates concept that is tracking toward a February 1 debut.
Executive Chef Job Carder previously worked for the Patina Group, Café Bizou in Santa Monica and Mix in West Hollywood, to name three stretches. Carder was most recently executive chef of Manzanita in Healdsburg, where he worked with Johnson’s nephew Matt Bergstrom. “Every time [Johnson] came up to Sonoma, he’d eat at the restaurant,” says Carder. “He was already planning to open a bar, but he enjoyed the food so much that we decided to do a restaurant in Pasadena.” Carder grew up in Pasadena and attended South Pasadena High School, so he didn’t need much prodding to return home. As for the name, they wanted something that was “simple, straight to the point” and “easy to remember.”
At Manzanita, Carder gained an increased appreciation for “organic and natural products” and cultivated relationships with local purveyors. “I have a lot of people who own natural lamb, pork and duck in Sonoma,” says Carder. Those animals will be shipped direct, including Sonoma Direct lamb and Liberty Duck, plus cheeses and wines that aren’t readily available in Los Angeles. Carder was classically trained in French and northern Italian cuisines, so that will be his focus at Dish, with an emphasis on California ingredients. Bites will start at $5 and top out at $25.
The menu will change seasonally and will be “completely dependent upon the freshness of produce and proteins,” says Carder. “Just because we’re in L.A. and can get things year round doesn’t mean we should use them year round.”
Carder anticipates signature dishes like lamb ragu with the meat braised for 3-4 hours, “cooked down slowly in braising liquid,” served with homemade pappardelle and English peas. You’ll also find pan-seared Petrale Sole served over sautéed salsify in brown butter and gold balsamic sauce. Dish will also serve house-made focaccia, pastries and charcuterie. Think lamb prosciutto, lamb bacon and veal pancetta. No matter the dish, Carder promises it will be “local, organic and fresh.”
Dish is shipping direct from a number of Sonoma wineries, including Lambert Bridge, Zuchichi, Raffanelli and Giadomella, which Carder describes as “amazing wines from the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Area that you won’t be able to find anywhere else in Los Angeles.” If wine isn’t for you, Dish is carrying 13 different bottles of California craft beer.
Bar manager Matt Bergstrom worked with Chef Carder at Manzanita and before that, at San Francisco restaurants like Foreign Cinema, Chez Spencer and a French-Indian spot called Tolula. “My philosophy is always fresh produce,” he says. “There’s no reason to use a sour when you have fresh lemons and fresh sugar. It’s going to be all fresh seasonal products and a lot of classics with a little twist.”
The menu will feature 10-15 seasonal cocktails, some of which will remain on the menu year-round. For example, Bergstrom will make his Spicy Mojito by infusing Bacardi Limon with Serrano chilies, cilantro, coconut and mint for 48 hours. He’ll strain it through a cheese cloth and muddle the rum with fresh lime and mint. He’ll add agave syrup to balance the cocktail and top the drink with Champagne instead of soda water.
Update: Dish Bistro & Bar is now CLOSED.