What's the one thing you need most after sitting for ages on the 110 waiting for a huge tree to be cleared off the freeway like I did last night? It's gotta be a raspberry lambic float with vanilla ice cream, which you may now obtain at Cham Korean Bistro in Pasadena, courtesy of the casual modern Asian cafe's newly-minted beer and wine license. At a press preview dinner last night, we tried just about everything from Cham's new Korean tapas menu as well as their regular menu, along with selections from the small but very well-edited craft beer and wine list.
tofu pockets with spicy tuna, blue crab, seaweed, and mizuna
A jumbo bottle of Lost Abbey Devotion helped my forget about the tree traffic, while HC tried the Maredsous, an unusual but delicious pairing with Korean food. Cham is one of the new-style Pasadena restaurants -- that is, ones that don't suck. I had lunch there earlier this year, but this was a great chance to try more of their menu of healthy casual Korean food. The tapas menu is priced well for nibbling with beer and includes bacon-wrapped Korean rice cakes, fried calamari tacos with kimchi, tempura green beans and ahi tuna with chimichurri sauce.
Cham's watermelon salad is an amazing deal at $5, with cool, crunchy watermelon paired with feta, figs and arugula.
For a main course, it's hard to choose between japchae (yam) noodles with vegetables and egg or bibimbap ($10), which comes with either beef, chicken, pork, ahi or tofu. If you need something even heartier, there's also bbq meat platters and Korean shortrib stew. For dessert, the afore-mentioned beer float is a must, or try rotating specials like pumpkin angel cake or creme fraiche cheesecake.
Located in an office building near the corner of Cordova and Lake, Cham is a handy place for local students and anyone looking to get away from the generalized mediocrity of Old Town.
Cham Korean Bistro
851 Cordova St., Pasadena