Entering Picantillo Restaurant at 4590 Mountain Road in Pasadena, I was immediately pleased with the pleasant Tex-Mex décor — brightly colored, with vibrant oranges and yellows, with equally colorful artwork. High-back booths offered comfort and privacy. Country music played softly in the background.
On a Monday evening, the bar area was already active with locals chatting and enjoying the evening with apparent comradery.
We were seated immediately and Kevin, our friendly waiter, appeared quickly to take our drink and appetizer orders. Asked about customer favorites, he suggested the nacho supreme and the “drunken mussels,” so we ordered both.
Kevin brought us a small bowl of homemade salsa and chips. The salsa was fresh, with just a touch of heat. We finished it quickly.
The wait staff soon served our appetizers with generous portions and great presentation, but we had mixed reviews on the taste.
Tender and flavorful, saluted with garlic, tomatoes and onions, cilantro and tequila butter sauce, the mussels were a hit, and the crisp bread on top was perfect for sopping the delicious savory broth. Though officially spring, it was cold and wet outside, and this was excellent comfort food. Hands down, we liked this appetizer.
The nachos were covered with beef, refried beans, melted cheese, jalapenos, sour cream, fresh guacamole, and pico de gallo — but just not enough of those wonderful toppings to be satisfying. It needed a lot more cheese, pico de gallo and meat to transform it into the preferred appetizer that you love to feel guilty about eating.
The entrees more than compensated for the lacking nacho toppings. My dining companions chose a burrito and chicken fajitas. Once again relying on Kevin as my guide, I decided on the Picantillo salmon.
The burrito was huge! It was smothered with queso fundido, and was filled with tender steak, chicken, rice, beans, pico de gallo and shredded cheese, served on a bed of lettuce. The combined flavors, especially the queso, gave the burrito a burst of flavor. Delectable and supremely satisfying, this was a hit.
My other dining friend decided to eat before he met us, but said he’d try just a little. Monday was quesadilla night – shrimp, chicken or steak for $6. He chose the Tex-Mex quesadilla with chicken, grilled peppers and onions, served with lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and pico de gallo. He cleaned his plate. The dish was warm and flavorful, the chicken and vegetables were tender, and the sauces added a kick.
The Picantillo salmon, like the other entrees, was outstanding. Grilled salmon topped with a homemade crab cake was served with a creamy dill cream sauce along with rice and mixed vegetables. The savory sauce perfectly complemented the tender, flavorful crab and salmon. The rice was tender though lacking much flavor, and the vegetables were bland, but mixing the sauce helped.
Though the restaurant has several dessert choices, Kevin said the two made in-house are the bread pudding and fried ice cream. We voted on the ice cream since it’s such a classic Tex-Mex dish. I was pleased to know we could pick chocolate or caramel sauce. Indecisive as I at times can be, we got a little of both. I’m not a huge fan of this dessert, but Picantillo’s version was above average, with the vanilla ice cream, wrapped in a semi-hard shell topped with caramel and chocolate. The crunchiness of some cornflakes and a touch of cinnamon added a nice finishing touch.
The cost for two appetizers, soft drinks, three entrees and one dessert was about $70, a good price for the amount of food we received.
The menu is extensive, and it has something for everyone, including gluten-free and vegetarian options. Choose from all the classic Mexican favorites, along with seafood and burgers.
Picantillo also has nightly specials and an all-you-can-eat brunch on Sundays.
I look forward to returning soon to check out the many other options and enjoy the comfortable ambiance.