Bistro LQ Pop-Up at Sangers & Joe - Seafood Tower - Review

Chef Laurent Quenioux, the “LQ” of Bistro LQ, has been recommended many times by the veterans here on FTC and on our old Chowhound board back in the day. I never got a chance to try his original Bistro LQ restaurant, but these days he’s doing them as a series of pop-ups.

Thanks to @Ns1 for the heads up, Chef Laurent was doing his famous Seafood Tower pop-up at Sangers & Joe in Pasadena.

There are 3 Tiers of the Seafood Tower, with progressively more and more seafood, and the list seems ridiculous when you read it, LOL. :laughing: There’s so much stuff.

The evening started with complementary bread service: Beurre de Barratte Butter and freshly baked bread from a local bakery.

Tier 2 includes:

24 Oysters
2 Langoustines
6 Bouquet Shrimp
2 oz Crevette Grise
2 oz Spicy Octopus
2 Little Neck Clams
4 Spot Prawns
7 Whelks
2 Crevette Grise Uni Shots
1 Appetizer of Mussels in Escabeche
2 oz Bigorneaux
3 Sea Urchin
1/4 lb King Crab Legs
2 Cups of Clam Chowder
2 Dungeness Crab Toast Rouille
2 Cherry Stone Clams
1 Abalone
1/2 Maine Lobster
2 Gambas
Grilled Monterey Bay Wild Squid

They started us off with Spot Prawns:

Served Sashimi style, with deep fried heads, they were excellent. Very fresh. :slight_smile:

Dungeness Crab Toast Rouille:

Fresh, sweet chunks of Dungeness Crab with a smear of Avocado, it was like a decadent Avocado Toast.

Grilled Monterey Bay Wild Squid:

This was a warm dish (cooked), and one of the best dishes we had all night. Tender, lightly smoky, slightly briny fantastic Monterey Bay Wild Squid. Really, really good. :slight_smile:

Clam Chowder:

A very traditional Clam Chowder, thick, with delicious chunks of Little Neck Clams. I would say I liked Chef Cimarusti’s version (thinner, lighter) at Connie & Ted’s more, but still this was very good.

Finally, the Seafood Tower Tier 2 arrived:

To say that there was a lot of food would be an understatement, LOL. :laughing: I was actually scared to see so much bountiful seafood sitting in front of us.

Fresh Oyster Selection: Samish Star (WA), Marin Miyagi (BJ), Laguna Bay (BJ) -

It was a good selection. The Marin Miyagis were my favorite.

The condiments were all made fresh, in-house, with: Housemade Cocktail Sauce (on the sweeter side), Shallots in Vinegar, Housemade Mayonnaise (really delicious).

Bigorneau Periwinkles:

These were tiny little morsels of seafood. They were rather bland, but dressed up with some Lemon and a bit of Cocktail Sauce or Shallots & Vinegar and they were fine.

Additional shots of the seafood tower:

Spicy Octopus Salad:

Bouquet Shrimp:

One of the misses of the evening. They were overcooked and mushy.


Gambas were soft and mushy, but this isn’t the fault of the chef, but of an inherent problem with Gambas’ (and Langoustines’) meat deteriorating naturally immediately after being dispatched. So unless they can source them live and cook them immediately it seems this will always be a problem (thanks @Porthos).

Little Neck Clams:

King Crab Legs:

Excellent! Nice salinity, sweetness in the King Crab meat, well-cooked, the meat was still firm yet tender. :slight_smile:

Sea Urchin:

This was difficult to judge. Basically my individual Sea Urchin was ROTTEN. As in dead, stinking, bad. :frowning: :sob: It was disgusting and I had to spit it out. To be fair, I read an article talking about how you might not know what the quality of a Sea Urchin is like until you cut it open. So I just got bad luck there. But it was pretty awful.

My guests let me try some of theirs and it was fresh and delicious, so I think it was just a bad / dead Urchin.


These were also sadly mushy. But they suffer from the same inherent problem as Gambas (unless you can source live Langoustines this will always be the case). :frowning:


Just AWESOME! This was super fresh, crisp, firm, as good as I’ve had in a while. :heart:

Cheese Cart (Selection of Non-Pasteurized Cheeses Imported from France):

We had 4 cheeses from Chef Laurent’s famous Cheese Cart. And I’d have to say these Unpasteurized Cheeses from France were just fantastic! :slight_smile: So good. :slight_smile: My favorite was a Reblochon that was soft, oozy and delicate.

It was $120 for a Tier 2 Seafood Tower, and for 3 of us, it was too much food. We were completely stuffed and it was a bargain. :slight_smile: My favorites were the Abalone, Monterey Bay Grilled Wild Squid, King Crab Legs, and the Marin Miyagis. Oh! And the Honey Mussels Escabeche were really, really delicious! :heart:

We were bummed about the overcooked Bouquet Shrimp, and the Gambas and Langoustines inherent soft / mushiness. If the shrimp wasn’t overcooked, and if we had live Gambas, Langoustines (I wish!) I think they could’ve been additional highlights of the evening.

Bistro LQ Pop-Up
@ Sangers & Joe
57 E. Holly St.
Pasadena, CA 91103
Tel: (323) 553-0563

For the latest Pop-Up Menu / Theme and Locations:


great report. that’s a shame about the shrimp and uni. did you let the chef know? was the cheese cart included in the price? i really like FWD’s seafood tower, it’s more expensive but had absolutely no misses. i was thinking of trying LQ’s tower but after your and @tailbacku’s reports i think i’ll just stick with FWD.

Thanks @PorkyBelly. No, the Cheese Cart is extra, but fairly priced: 3 Cheeses (any) for $12, additional Cheeses for $3. Includes his homemade Blackberry Jam (amazing), Strawberry Jam (also great), freshly toasted Hazelnuts and a Spiced Apple Compote.

Re: Uni - No. I would’ve (Chef Laurent is so affable and nice), but we were completely stuffed, so I wouldn’t have been able to eat any more even if it was replaced. (We had plenty of leftovers.)

I was just eyefucking that menu earlier today, so this review came at a perfect time.

Yikes, so disappointed to hear about the few dud items - esp. the urchin ugghhh :grimacing:. I honestly think the French (in France) are the most consistent quality wise. Everywhere else has been dissapointing for one reason or another. Sighhhh… And it’s truly one of my all time favorites things to eat… Need to find a reason to go back to France soon.

The cheeses look amazing! Are restaurants allowed to serve unpasturized young cheeses? Partner and I were trying to find reblochon in the stores and were told that importation (or maybe it was just sale?) wasn’t allowed for unpasturized young cheeses (or something like that?)…


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The fried spot prawn heads are so savory and delicious. One of my favorite preps in town.

The problem with the langoustines and gambas isn’t that they were overcooked. The problem with those two is that the flesh breaks down quickly if not fresh. So it was either the freezing and thawing process or that it wasn’t frozen quickly enough at the point of origin. That’s why it’s so tough to get those things here.

“Unlike shrimp or lobster, langoustine meat begins to deteriorate immediately after the creatures die, because of a bacteria underneath the shells that breaks down the meat and turns it mushy, said Rod Mitchell, the owner of Browne Trading Company, a seafood and caviar importer in Portland, Me.”


Thanks @PorkyBelly for the tip on FWD. I’ll have to give it a try. :slight_smile:

Sorry, should’ve said, “I didn’t realize that restaurants are allowed to serve them if they can’t be sold to consumers in other venues, and I wonder why there’s a difference.” :wink:

True statement. Which is why I miss the live langoustines at (now-shuttered) Bartolotta in Vegas quite a bit…

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yes, that was a fine logistical feat and them critters were still alive and kicking too…

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Ah that’s exactly what I tasted! Thanks @Porthos and @J_L. Yah, we were baffled at the Gambas and Langoustines because of the great highlights and well-cooked seafood outside of those items. There was such a good attention to detail, but for those items they were duds.

So there aren’t really any restaurants in LA that serve those items live right? Thanks for the info, I’ll update my post.

I was curious, which led me to this; quite a lesson in langoustines . With all the work seemingly involved, $20/ea sounds like it was a bargain.

Love the report. Thanks

LQ’s pop-up is capable of both great, and greatly overrated (sorry to use that dreaded word here), things, IMHO.

Whole uni is perhaps the dish with greatest presentation and the worst delivery on any dish that I know of. I have been so disappointed with the whole uni’s I have had at so many seafood places - Connie and ted’s, Hungry cat, and LQ.
Never again - if I want great uni I will get it a sushi bar.


I agree with you about the uni. I’ve never had great live uni from the shell.

Yep. Some of the worst Uni I’ve had is uni from the shell. The exception were the Maine uni at Blue Ribbon in NYC about 12 years ago.

Now that you mention it @Porthos , I have one exception as well. Was sitting at Swan Oyster Depot one lovely afternoon. The uni “catcher” happened in with a bag full of that morning’s catch from the Santa Barbara waters. The guy behind the counter opened one up and gave us some - that was truly sublime. I realize now I have been expecting something like that whenever I try it elsewhere, and it just does not happen.

Hi @Ns1,

Totally agree. Thanks for the article. I’d gladly pay $20 to try them live and see just how amazing they are supposed to be. :slight_smile:

Hi @CiaoBob,

Thanks. You speak the truth. :slight_smile: Thinking back on it, while it is a striking, gorgeous / shocking presentation (Uni in its shell), I’ve had almost as many disappointing results as I have great results (same as you, I had a mediocre one at Connie & Ted’s once, but to be fair I’ve had 2 versions there that were very good). And at Bistro LQ now, and once at a random place I’ve since forgotten.

Your experience with Swan Oyster Depot sounds sublime. :slight_smile: