Photos courtesy Sushi Roku

Old Town Pasadena has an assortment of high-quality restaurants tucked away within some cool pedestrian-only alleys, which brings to mind the atmosphere of an old European village. One such locale is the Sushi Roku situated within Miller Alley, just a block from E. Union St. 

Described as upscale Japanese in a chic setting, the portrayal certainly fits, as the décor features elements of gray/slate-toned walls and ceiling, Stonehenge-like stone pillars in the dining room, wood beam ceiling, lantern hanging lights, live bamboo shoots and bonsai plants, driftwood panels lining one wall and an outside patio. All work together to lend an elegant yet relaxed vibe. 

Speaking of a relaxed ambiance, your meal begins with a warm wet towel. I suggest after refreshing yourself you begin with avocado “hanabi” with soy truffle, crispy rice, and parmesan reggiano, mixed vegetable tempura with daikon and ginger, or melt-in-your-mouth miso eggplant dengaku with sweet miso. And, you can’t go wrong with the sushi-matsu: an 8-piece assortment selected by the sushi chef that includes an incredible selection of bluefin tuna with wasabi soy truffle sauce, sea bream with yuzu jelly, yellowtail adorned with ponzu and jalapeno, albacore with red chili oil and garlic aioli, Japanese uni topped with black truffle, king crab with champagne butter, sockeye salmon with shallot and tomato and tuna tora topped with osetra caviar. 

One might wrongly assume from the restaurant’s name that it’s all about sushi and while there is a wide range of sushi and rolls such as the signature senshi roll with yellowtail, cucumber, avocado and spicy aioli, the menu encompasses much more. Entrees, cooked over Japanese bincho charcoal, include ji-dori free-range chicken: white meat glazed with teriyaki served with grilled asparagus; and filet mignon with an incredible sauce of ginger teriyaki served with equally delectable sautéed garlic beans.

As might be expected, there is a large sake list, with the likes of Fukuju Eternal Happiness Junmai Ginjo. To help you experience more variety you can indulge in sake flights, such as the Premium Sampler offering Dassai 23 Junmai Daiginjo, Ken Daiginjo and Kubota hekiju Junmai Daiginjo. Lovers of malted spirits will appreciate the Japanese whisky selection that includes Nika Coffe, Yamazaki 12 and Hibiki 18.

Some Asian restaurants get a bad rap for not offering much of a range in desserts or only those typically found in Asian settings, but such is certainly not the case here. On the dessert menu you’ll find banana bread pudding with pecans, vanilla gelato and vanilla sauce; zen s’mores with green tea, chocolate truffles, marshmallow cream and crushed graham crackers; and chocolate volcano: a lava cake served with vanilla gelato.

Service is equal to the superior quality of the cuisine, especially in the case of the extremely pleasant and friendly Lance Lee, who has been at this Sushi Roku location for more than 15 years, nearly since its opening. Speaking of his reason for longevity in his position Lance said, “I like the environment, the people and the Japanese culture and level of respect. I have a lot of good friends here and our customers are family—some of which over the years I’ve watched their kids grow up.” 

Parking is at a premium in this area, so it’s important to note that a parking structure can be found just a block away on the southeast side of Union St. and Fair Oaks called “One Colorado Parking” and with validation at the restaurant your first three hours are free; or valet parking is available on Colorado Street in front of Armani Exchange or on Union Street in front of Forever 21 at a cost of $8 with validation and $10 without.

Outstanding deals can be had in the bar during the daily happy hour, with a selection of beer, sake, well drinks and cocktails for $5 and $2 off wine by the glass; and select sushi rolls for $5, several bites for $3-10 such as miso eggplant dengaku and albacore sashimi and desserts for $5-7. Happy Hour is 5-9 p.m. on Sunday-Monday (excluding holidays and special events) and Tuesday-Saturday 5-7 p.m.

Sushi Roku Pasadena is open for lunch Monday-Friday from 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.; and dinner is Monday-Thursday from 5-9:30 p.m., Friday-Saturday till 10 p.m. and Sunday from 4 p.m.-9 p.m. 

Sushi Roku
33 Miller Alley
Pasadena, CA
626-683-3000
www.innovativedining.com/restaurants/sushiroku/locations