photo credit: Jakob Layman

Dos Besos image

Dos Besos



$$$$Perfect For:Special OccasionsDate Night
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Dos Besos can be summed up in three words: Lovely. Charming. Delightful. 

Those words might sound a bit banal, like how you'd describe a friend's cute(ish) baby or an arthouse film you didn't understand. But in the case of Dos Besos, a Spanish tapas and paella restaurant in Pasadena, we really mean it. It's a perfectly nice restaurant in Old Town with pleasant service and very good, occasionally great, food. It's ideal for nights when you want to put on a slinky little top and be charmed out of your seat while sipping sangria. You’ll be comfortable here with coworkers, in-laws, or someone who bases their entire personality on a love of cured meats.

Dos Besos image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

The menu at Dos Besos focuses on the coastal cooking of Valencia, a port city in Southern Spain. Which is a long way of saying: you should come here to eat seafood paella. Even though Spanish food has had a moment in LA in recent years, very few restaurants have the cojones to call themselves paella specialists, probably because the dish is so difficult to execute well. Not at Dos Besos. The paella, which requires 30 minutes to prepare, is near perfect, with rice that's soft on top but crispy and charred on the bottom, creating that elusive caramelized layer known as socarrat. Each grain is suffused with flavor, courtesy of the garlic and white wine broth it’s cooked in. And by the time it reaches the table, the rice is tinged a lovely shade of orange we call Bad Fake Tan.

The rest of the food here is all about turning simple ingredients into flavorful dishes with just a splash of extra virgin olive oil (give or take a few dozen splashes). The pan con tomate is a good example: hearty, grilled bread is pressed flat and thin, kissed with garlic, then smeared judiciously with tomato pulp and lots of olive oil. Paired with shaved Ibérico ham, it's a straightforward and effective way to funnel meat and bread into your mouth.

When this austere style of cooking goes right, you’ll smile and daydream of recreating it at home (even if the knives in your kitchen are collecting dust). But some dishes are so basic they feel a bit drab. You can probably skip the mushrooms in truffle cream and the gambas al ajillo.

Dos Besos image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

The dining room at Dos Besos is "contemporary," which here means brick walls, patterned tile floors, gold-plated cutlery, and pale pink plates that look suspiciously similar to the ones at CB2. Most of the tables are situated around a glass-encased kitchen in the corner, designed with large windows that offers views of the chef, a ferocious wood oven, and hopefully, a fire extinguisher or two. 

Despite being on the pricier side (expect to spend around $100 per person), Dos Besos possesses all the characteristic of a great neighborhood restaurant. It's intimate, but not too sexy. Equally appropriate for first dates or your great aunt's birthday. Along with our favorite local spots Agnes, Union, and Perle, consider Dos Besos as another solid option for the area. The best, actually, if you’re in the mood for paella. And yes, this is Old Town, so you will have to pay for street parking with quarters or an app. Not everything can be charm, delight, and loveliness, after all.

Food Rundown

Dos Besos image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

5J Jamón Ibérico de Bellota

If you're looking to put something on toast, may we recommend the 5J Jamón Ibérico de Bellota? Without going the whole hog on, well, the hog, "5J" means "cinco juntos," or "5-star." It's the highest grade in the ham world, sourced from a pig that spent its entire life roaming through oak tree groves and eating acorns (while developing a delicate, nutty flavor to be appreciated later). Be sure to eat this with the pan con tomate. The first time we ate at Dos Besos, we began eating the toast and meat separately like complete animals until the waiter ran over, horrified, and instructed us to put one atop the other. Magic ensued.
Dos Besos image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Pan Con Tomate

Simplicity in its highest form. Crusty bread is rubbed with a little bit of garlic and a lot of tomato pulp, then drenched in olive oil. There's a joke in here about needing a life vest or something. We'll work on it. Also, if it wasn't clear earlier: order some jamón with this.
Dos Besos image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Tortilla Española

A very silky, extremely smooth pancake made from oil-slicked potato slices and fluffy eggs. This one is much thicker than other versions of the classic Spanish dish, which often are flatter, but that just means a more creamy texture in the middle. Spoon on some of the sharp garlic aioli on the side to balance out those startchy, salty flavors.
Dos Besos image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Pulpo a la Gallega

Thick, juicy octopus chunks are cooked just right—tender and soft, like our hearts after watching the opening scene in Tarzan. Yes, there is copious amounts of olive oil. Duh. Are you even reading this review?
Dos Besos image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Atún Crudo

It’s a mixed green salad atop a thin sheet of raw tuna with little pops of capers and, yes, a healthy dose of olive oil. A nice thing to order if you want greens on the table.
Dos Besos image

photo credit: Jakob Layman

Paella del Mar

Forgo other entrees and maybe that day’s lunch to ensure you have room for this dish. Mussels, clams, calamari, shrimp, and two very large prawns are scattered throughout, but the real star is the saffron-tinged rice. It's incredibly flavorful and perfectly cooked, with a golden-brown crust on the bottom. Enjoy scraping the cast-iron skillet for every last crispy morsel.

Paella En Su Tinta

Our second-favorite paella at Dos Besos. The jet-black squid ink lends an intense layer of savoriness and a goth-approved color. It tastes salty, umami-y, and very, very rich. The flavor of the stained rice is like the bottom of the ocean: extremely deep and a little scary.

Coconut Sorbeto

There are three types of sorbet (lemon, coconut, and pineapple), each served in the husk of the fruit from which it’s made. Maybe we’re easily entertained, but it’s a nice touch. We like the coconut best, a slushy dairy-free sorbet that pairs well with a post-meal digestif or espresso.

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