Pasadena’s Saso Bistro Offers Northeast L.A.’s Best Happy Hour Oysters on a Dreamy Outdoor Patio

It’s nearly the first day of Spring and many of you have been able to secure your vaccination so may be considering dining out again. After all, for many of us, it’s been a year and some change since we have enjoyed reserving a table, sitting down, and enjoying an al fresco evening with dinner we haven’t made ourselves or picked up. If you are wondering where to venture out for your next restaurant visit, consider Saso Bistro in Pasadena. Saso is an exciting new seafood restaurant located in the historic Pasadena Playhouse’s courtyard that the restauranteurs have transformed into an absolutely dreamy and romantic outdoor setting with six feet plus room to spare between tables. “Saso” is a play on the Basque word itsaso for ocean. The restaurant itself, from L&E Oyster Bar alum, Chef Dominique Crisp, is a wonderful combination of “the Basque heritage, love for the sea, and the bounty of three coastal landscapes” – all under one roof*.

*The roof being the blue skies of Pasadena or Southern California’s blanket of stars, at least for the time being.

Photo Courtesy of Saso.

Saso blends a passion for coastal cuisine and Chef Dominique’s deep appreciation and understanding of local and green farming practices. Born on his family’s vineyard in Wren, Oregon – raising livestock, fishing, and harvesting has always been an essential part of his life. An important factor for Chef Dom is supporting those who are sustainably harvesting the bounty is an integral ethos that flows through Saso.

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Saso’s dining room, lounge area, and courtyard were designed by  master bar builder Nicholas Musso. His design adds a contemporary and chic touch to the building’s historic architecture, including a large-scale mural from LA-renowned artist Tim Biskup.

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Now, onto the main event: the food. One dish that doesn’t translate quite so well at home? Oysters on the half shell, of course. Luckily, Saso offers a competitively priced 1/2 dozen oysters during happy hour for just $12. The oysters arrive freshly shucked raw, with horseradish, and seasonal mignonette or grilled, with a gluten free miso butter. I’m told Chef Dom has an extensive knowledge and profound love of the oyster. And you can tell by not only divine taste and precision of the accoutrements they are served with but also by the creative and unique presentation.

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Other great happy hour plates include a robust Goi Solomoa – wagyu steak bites, fresh horseradish, and chimichurri for the more carnivorous among us. Plus, you can’t go wrong with the Txangurro Tortas – dungeness crab cakes with queso navarra, hot peppers, and avocado crema or the satiating Jamon Iberico Grilled Cheese with tillamook cheddar on housemade white bread. Sides include typical happy hour fare including a Coastal Farm Salad, Hand Cut Truffle Fries, Smashed Potatoes, and Baby Artichokes all done in an atypical way. Everything, besides the half dozen oysters, is $10 or less.

For brunch and happy hour cocktails, you will want to start with the Spanish Coffee – 151 rum, mezcal, coffee liqueur, coffee, toasted marshmallow – or Vito’s Coldbrew – bourbon, licor 43, espresso, orange cream, churro dust – before moving onto the vino. Saso has a finely curated and pleasantly short list of wines, plus a full bar.

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Saso also provides an excellent dinner service that will surely have even west siders trekking out to Pasadena for a taste. To start, you’ll especially like the La Española made with basque cheese, dona’s chorizo, serrano, lomo, pickles, jam, chestnut honey, on Dolly’s sourdough. But why not get Alaskan Mussels for the table as well? The Mussels are served from the josper with fennel, charred leek, and chistorra. Saso also offers a wonderful Crudo Bar with oysters, Santa Barbara Crab Claws at $7 each. Their Txuletta Tartarra is a wagyu tartare, caviar, celery, anchovy aioli, and a sourdough chip. I was taken by the Izokin Carpaccio, which is an ora king salmon, oil cured olives, shallot, lemon zest, radish, and capers. Both dishes are under $15.

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Main Platos as they are referred to here include the Seared Ora King Salmon with fennel, citrus, scallion, micro greens, charred avocado which is, yes, gluten free. And the Pasta Saso with carefully handmade duck egg-yolk pasta, shellfish, fin fish, prawn, and ginger. Saso also offers a vegan option for this dish. Both are under $30. But if you and your company are going all out on your first night out, try the Bone-In Wagyu Steak made navarra-style. It will run you a cool $120. Or the Whole Fish Basquaise which includes local catch from the josper, garlic crisp, chili, premium olive oil at market price.

Postrea, or dessert, will be hard to skip when they’re priced so tantalizingly. I loved the Torrija, a brûléed french toast with house churned ice cream. But the Basque Cheese Cake or Dolly’s Cookies (to go, even) are a nice option as well. Chef Dom first met the pastry chef Dolly in Silver Lake when she supplied his restaurant with micro greens. Later during quarantine, Chef Dolly began cooking desserts for Chef Dom’s frontline charity meal project. They bonded and her talents are showcased at Saso through pastries and homemade bread.

Follow Saso Bistro on Instagram here.

Reservations can be made here.

Saso’s current hours of operation are:
Wed – Thurs 12pm — 10pm
Fri – Sat 12pm — 11pm
Sun 12pm — 10pm

37 S El Molino Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91011

Contact info@sasobistro.com for more information.


Jacqueline Tager | CalBre#: 1476997
jacqueline.tager@sothebyshomes.com | (323) 697-3040
Sotheby’s International Realty – Los Feliz Brokerage
1801 N Hillhurst Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90027

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