Firefly Bistro: Thursday Night Tapas via South Pasadena Market [CLOSED]

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Restaurant South Pasadena

Firefly Bistro has a symbiotic relationship with the adjacent South Pasadena Farmers Market.

Every Thursday evening, South Pasadena holds a farmers market on Meridian Avenue, near the Gold Line train station. The bounty of fresh produce includes wonderful baked goods, cheeses, fruits and vegetables.

Numerous vendors hawk prepared foods: Greek meze, grilled-while-you-wait BBQ, fresh corn-on-the-cob, and oozing pupusas, to name a few. Some of the food’s pretty good, but an even better bet is to walk around the corner to Firefly Bistro, which prepares a weekly menu of delicious tapas from 5-8 pm using produce from the market.

Chefs/owners/spouses Monique King and Paul Rosenbluh, who previously worked together at Chicago’s Soul Kitchen, opened Firefly Bistro on July 18, 2002, one street down from Mission, South Pasadena’s main drag, and the aforementioned farmers market. The couple has managed to stave off competition from hotshot neighborhood upstarts like Bistro de la Gare and Bistro K by combining stellar cooking and solid value.

Restaurant South Pasadena

A playful tent-covered dining room features plentiful plant-life and bulbous orange paper lanterns.

On the night in question, Firefly Bistro listed 8 tapas on the menu, and with just me, I had to narrow things down. I eliminated the “assorted petit fours” first, since I can get an approximation at several other restaurants. Next went the “smoked bacon and brie panini with marinated peppers” second, since paninis are so prevalent. It was a tough call, but I eliminated the “sautéed jerk chicken with coconut and tomato,” since I wasn’t in the mood for anything really saucy. On to what I did order.

Tapas South Pasadena

Skewered, deep-fried Kalamata olives dipped in roasted red pepper remoulade were salty and sensational.

Tapas South Pasadena

Crispy spinach-ricotta dumplings came browned and slathered with goat cheese-shallot cream sauce.

Tapas South Pasadena

Marsala duck with curried lentils and saag paneer was the star dish, featuring succulent breast meat slices with black lentils and an excellent version of the Indian blend of creamy spinach and savory cheese chunks.

Tapas South Pasadena

Korean steak skewers with sesame-soaked bok choy were delicious, juices locked in with nice outer char.

Tapas South Pasadena

Garlic-parsley marinated cauliflower with chive hollandaise featured olive oil soaked cauliflower doused in a creamy chive sauce. The dish was probably a little too creamy, but it was incredibly tender.

Considering Firefly Bistro’s emphasis on seasonal produce, it’s virtually guaranteed my next visit to Thursday Night Tapas will be entirely different. The tapas were so good the first time, that’s an exciting proposition. Now if I can just get my boss to let me out early enough to make it across town in time.


Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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