- Ba Restaurant
By Christopher Moore
There are very few things that will make me go outside my bubble. I am a fourth generation Pasadenean and I know what I know. I’m sure many other people feel the same way.
Well, I was wrong. Located approximately two miles away at 5100 York Blvd., Highland Park, CA 90042, is a restaurant that at one time would have flown under my radar. I started to hear the name Ba Restaurant from a couple friends recently. I then heard about it again from a family member. Obviously, now I was curious.
After my visit to Ba Restaurant and lengthy conversation with owner and chef, James Graham, I quickly realized my need to broaden my horizons and reconsider past impressions.
I have been quite aware of the Westside’s migration East. Silverlake rocks. Echo Park has completely changed. Eagle Rock is ever changing. I even heard hints of a Highland Park transformation, but nothing to actually inspire me to visit. Today was the day. Ba Restaurant is the inspiration.
Let me get this out of the way now: I will go back to Ba Restaurant. I am a traditionalist. When I discover something I like, I will return. I discovered something unexpected and that I liked tremendously. Hopefully, you will soon agree.
James Graham and his wife were ahead of the curve when selecting a place to live and open a restaurant in the Los Angeles area. They loved the community feeling and the homes of South Pasadena, and they feel they found something very similar in Highland Park. They get a true sense of community living and working in this area. You don’t just go and open a restaurant as good as Ba Restaurant without a little experience. James Graham has that experience.
James Graham has spent a lifetime working in restaurants. He grew up in New York and worked in the business in Manhattan from the start. Yes, he started as a dishwasher initially, but he always had a vision. That vision was enhanced by a stint working at the world renowned Brasserie, a classical and traditional French cuisine, and then, eventually working with the always inspiring Anthony Bourdaine. James and Julia Graham moved to Highland Park after a very successful run owning and operation Grill Restaurant in Tucson Arizona. It was a hit from day one. But something else was calling…
Graham has always had a passion for working in the kitchen. In fact, he said his patience and experience helped create Ba Restaurant. He knew Highland Park was ready for Ba Restaurant. He just needed a location. As it so happened, Graham befriended the owners of Elsa’s Bakery, a local institution. Elsa’s Bakery had a corner space located next door that had been vacant for over a decade.
Graham and his wife could see the potential. They dove head first into construction and design. They are very proud that they undertook the entire process by themselves. Graham got the kitchen he needed, and his wife designed and decorated the space the public would need and appreciate.
During the construction, Graham had time to develop his menu. He returned to his roots. He came up with a traditional French fare that is unpretentious with a California twist. Freshness and the ingredients are highlighted in everything they offer. Frankly speaking, Graham told me they just get “really good ingredients and try not to screw them up.”
Every evening Graham sends a message to his local growers for his order for fresh greens and herbs. Graham takes advantage of his location by relying on local ports and other means of transportation for the freshness his requires for all his ingredients; livestock, poultry and fish included. He creates seasonal menus depending on the availability of ingredients and everyday he prints a new menu for that day.
His menu is not overstated and cluttered, but it will leave even the pickiest eater satisfied and eager to return. Only a couple of items stay constant throughout the year. One plate is his Mushroom Brulee. I was offered this as a starter and this alone is worthy of a visit to Ba Restaurant. The recipe is inspired from the Alps and Alsace-Lorraine region. It comes with a fresh assortment of bread. It melts in your mouth. It is a perfect blend of rich, creamy, hearty, and tasty goodness that I will order each and every visit.
I was next served the Grilled Salmon on Greens. This dish exemplifies Graham’s philosophy of getting “really good ingredients and trying not to screw them up.” The fish was grilled to perfection and was placed on a visually stunning arrangement of fresh greens that was lightly dressed with a home vinagrette. Your visual expectations once this plate is set before you are not let down once you taste it. For such a simple dish, it is somehow transformed to a higher level by Graham’s deft touch. Once again, his years of experience in the kitchen signs through brightly. I must also mention he spent a lot of time developing a wine list that will beautifully pair with any meal. Jus ask for a recommendation.
James Graham and his wife, Julia, sensed the need for a quality, local restaurant in the Highland Park area. They created a dining experience that people from all over should go visit. Leave your past impressions about the area behind you like I did and invite a friend to go enjoy an incredible meal at Ba Restaurant. They are open for Lunch Tuesday – Friday 11AM – 3PM and Dinner Tuesday – Sunday 5PM – 10 or 11PM. They offer Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10AM – 3PM. I must let you know a secret. James Graham loves cooking breakfast fare, so you can only imagine how popular his Brunch has become. It is definitely another reason to visit.
There is one secret that Graham would not let me tell you. I asked about the name Ba Restaurant. He only told me part of its origin. During the year of construction, one wall was covered in dust, debris, and old paint. When they did an initial cleaning, there on the wall was the remnants of an old painted sign. Yes, you may have guessed it. It was Elsa’s Ba. There was Ba staring them in the face the whole time. Graham says the meaning goes even further. You will just have to visit Ba Restaurant and ask to get the complete story behind the name. That really shouldn’t be a problem because the food alone is the most compelling reason to visit. You may even see me in the corner enjoying the Mushroom Brulee.
- Simple BBQ Ribs
“Country-style ribs are cut from the loin, one of the leanest areas of pork. These ribs are seasoned, boiled until tender, then baked with your favorite barbeque sauce. That’s it! Back to simplicity, back to the country life. Sigh.”
Original recipe makes 4 servingsChange Servings
2 1/2 pounds country style pork ribs
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons salt
1 cup barbeque sauce
Place ribs in a large pot with enough water to cover. Season with garlic powder, black pepper and salt. Bring water to a boil, and cook ribs until tender.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
Remove ribs from pot, and place them in a 9×13 inch baking dish. Pour barbeque sauce over ribs. Cover dish with aluminum foil, and bake in the preheated oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until internal temperature of pork has reached 160 degrees F (70 degrees C).