In Spain it is a tradition to greet and say goodbye with two kisses on both sides of the cheek. At Spanish restaurant Dos Besos, owners and husband-and-wife team Alejandro and Kit Llobet open their hearts to every person who walks through the door.
“We like to meet everyone who comes in and feed as many people as we can with amazing, fresh ingredients,” Kit said.
Alejandro, who is also the head chef, hails from Barcelona while Kit grew up in Pasadena. The Llobets previously owned a private catering business called Villa Paella before opening their physical location earlier this year. The design has a contemporary look with a Spanish twist and has floor-to-ceiling windows, string lights, an open kitchen, and an outdoor patio.
“We wanted to bring traditional Spanish cooking to Pasadena,” Kit said. “Having a non-mobile kitchen also allows you to be more creative.”
The Llobets buy their ingredients and wines from local vendors who import products from Spain. Starting with a glass of Spanish wine ($12 to $16), Dos Besos has a wide selection of cavas (sparkling), blancos (whites), rosés (rosé), and tintos (reds). Rioja wine is the most requested among customers. There is also a small selection of beers (beer, $8 to $9) and soft drinks, tea, coffee, juices, and sparkling water ($5 to $10).
“The Rioja region has an ancient way of harvesting its wine,” Kit said. “It’s smooth and has many flavors.”
Tapas (entrées, $12 to $52) include Andalusian gazpacho with Andalusian vegetable soup served cold, Spanish omelette with Spanish potato and onion in a tortilla, Spanish meatballs with Spanish meatballs in tomato sauce, Iberico de bellota Marcos ham salmantino with acorn fed with Iberian ham and the popular pan con tomate with bread spread in homemade tomato paste seasoned with olive oil and salt.
“Everyone loves bread, but this (pan cristal) is from the Catalan region of Spain,” Kit said. “It’s a nice combination of soft and slightly crispy on the outside.”
Dos Besos is known for serving its paella, a traditional Spanish dish from the Valencia region made with saffron-infused bomba rice, a protein or vegetable, and an optional layer of socarrat. Each paella takes about 35 minutes to cook.
“The paella is served in a shallow pan and the socarrat adds an earthy flavor and crunchy texture,” Kit said. “It’s not just a dish you share, it’s also an experience.”
Paellas ($47 to $58) include the Paella en su Tinta with squid ink, Fideuá de Mariscos with seafood noodles, Paella de Vegetales with vegetables, and the most popular dish, the Paella del Mar with seafood.
“Seafood goes well with rice,” Kit said. “It’s what everyone would want to order in Barcelona.”
For entrees (entrées, $28 to $49), there are rack of lamb with a New Zealand rack of lamb in rosemary sauce, green peppercorn sirloin with filet mignon in peppercorn sauce, salmon al lemon with capers with salmon in lemon caper sauce and sea bass in salt with Mediterranean sea bass baked in rock salt. All entrees are served with a side of herb roasted potatoes and sautéed green beans.
“The salted sea bass is super fresh and light,” Kit said. “It’s herbed and comes out on fire.”
Save room for dessert ($8 to $12). There are four options: Sorbeto with lemon, pineapple and coconut sorbet, affogato with vanilla ice cream and a shot of espresso, vanilla ice cream with vanilla ice cream, and the Tarta de Santiago, a Spanish almond cake with vanilla ice cream.
“Tarta de Santiago is flavorful and not heavy,” Kit said. “It’s full of almond flavor and has a light powdered sugar on top.”
The Llobets enjoy being a small boutique restaurant in town and have no plans to expand.
“Seeing everyone’s milestones and being a part of their celebrations makes all the hard work worth it,” Kit said.
99 Union Street, Pasadena
5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 5 to 9:30 pm Friday and Saturday