Visit This Pasadena Hidden Gem for “Cocina Mexiquense”

Chef Pablo Salas. Image credit: Michael Kleinberg

Tucked away inside the Hotel Dena, an art-driven Pasadena hotel, you’ll find Agents Only, a restaurant and bar with a unique look thanks to its wall of speakers and vintage TVs. The space’s allure goes deeper than visuals, however, thanks to the addition of Chef Pablo Salas, who just started a partnership with this hidden gem. 

A native of Mexico who’s competed on “Iron Chef: Mexico,” Salas has two restaurants in the Mexico City area, as well as in Chicago and Florida. Located in Toluca, Mexico, Salas’ first restaurant, Amaranta, repeatedly appears on San Pellegrino’s list of  “Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants.”

Though classically trained in French techniques, Chef Salas decided he was more interested in perfecting “cocina Mexiquense,” the cuisine of where he grew up – the state of Mexico – that stresses simplicity, vibrance, and layers of flavor.

At Agents Only, Salas’ first project on the West Coast, you’ll encounter delicious, sharable dishes like mushroom-laden Queso Fundido, Guacamole Tuna with chipotle aioli, creamy Enchiladas El Huerto, a decadent quesadilla stuffed with butter-poached lobster, and Fajita Enchiladas packed with peppers, onions, and your choice of protein.

Image gallery by Karin E. Baker for The LA Beat

The cocktail menu is adventurous and leans toward the agave based. Standouts include Smokey Piña (mezcal, pineapple, ginger syrup, fresh lime juice, and Islay mist) and Chili Mango (mezcal, spicy mango syrup, fresh lime juice, club soda, chamoy, mango spear, and Guajillo salt rim). We also enjoyed the non-alcoholic drinks, particularly the Pasa-Dena Cooler (cucumber, basil, Earl Grey tea, lemon, and sparkling water).

You can’t go wrong with the churros dessert with three dipping sauces: abuelita, raspberry, and dulce de leche.

Located at the Dena Hotel, Agents Only often features live music and will soon offer pop-up karaoke!

Agents Only is located in the heart of Pasadena at 303 Cordova St.  (626) 469-8100 

Karin E. Baker

About Karin E. Baker

Karin E. Baker is a native Angeleno who loves the eateries, history, nature, architecture, and art of her hometown. When not exploring poke shacks in Kona, tascas in Córdoba, and konditoris in Malmö, she writes about food, culture, lifestyle and travel. She obsesses over comma usage and classic films and is always happy to find an excuse to open a bottle of champagne.
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