By Brianna Chu
Last year, May and I were invited to a PR mixer at the Bone Kettle, a Southeast Asian restaurant and bar in Old Pasadena, and the food was, as hoped for, simply amazing. I loved it so much that I revisited the restaurant last week with my family for lunch to try their full menu on for size. Sure, the food at the mixer was good, but they knew they were throwing an event for the Press. How good was their food normally? And what hadn’t I tried yet?
At their opening time of 11:30 am, there were available tables everywhere in the young, modern space, and we easily got a great booth in the main dining area. Over the next hour, though, tables began to fill up rather quickly for a random weekday. Service was fast, too – our main courses were served almost immediately after we finished devouring our appetizer, and their staff were friendly and helpful.
An important note to future diners: the lunch and dinner menus vary slightly. The succulent oxtail dumplings that I was looking forward to were reserved as an appetizer for the dinner menu. Luckily, however, the amazingly juicy and yet perfectly crunchy fried chicken wings with Thai chilis, sweet sauce, and lime did appear on the lunch menu – and tasted just as wonderful as they had previously. I spotted some familiar appetizers like the fluffy kroket, spicy papaya salad, and fried oxtail tips, which we sadly did not sample again since we all wanted to save enough room for the main dishes.
May opted for a rice plate with their fatty beef brisket – it was reportedly excellent, and presented beautifully. Vibrant vegetables and delicious meat haloed a rice plateau that featured a soft poached egg nestled at its center. It was a balanced, delicious plate for about $19-20, though prices vary on your protein choice, from tempeh to varying meats.
My fiancé and I both immediately gravitated towards their broth options, though. The restaurant is called the Bone Kettle, after all! We both knew that we had to try their 24 hour, slow-cooked, St Helen’s braised oxtail, served with five ounces of fresh ramen, basil, cilantro, and sliced heirloom carrots, with the addition of a cheeky poached egg (for an extra $2, but I love eggs in my soup). At $24 for the large oxtail, noodles, and broth, I felt the meal was worth the price, especially given that the oxtail was the most expensive protein option for the broth.
As ever, the Bone Kettle’s presentation was impeccable. The oxtail was served on its own plate with crispy fried shallots and edible flowers, and the flavorful, succulent meat could be readily pulled off the bone with our chopsticks. May immediately tried some of my oxtail, and after her first bite, reached for another with the excited declaration that: “This is SO good!”
The bowls of noodles initially arrived broth-less, and a server came swiftly out with a pitcher of broth. Our soft poached eggs came still in their shells on a soy sauce dish for us to break open and serve into our broth when we pleased. I can happily confirm that I was as captivated by their broth this time around as I was the first! I left comfortably full, and even took home some leftover oxtail.
I wanted to check out the restaurant on my own time (and dime) to see whether I would enjoy the food and atmosphere just as much, and the Bone Kettle did not disappoint. I highly recommend the restaurant to everyone, as there are options for meat-eaters and vegans alike.
Brianna Chu, a guest opinion writer for Beacon Media, was born and raised in Pasadena. She loves to cook and to eat, is a lifelong viewer of Food Network, and enthusiastically introduced the tradition of Thanksgiving dinners to her British and European friends while earning her degree at the University of St Andrews.