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I don't give 5 star reviews often, but this one is deserving. A completely unexpected gastronomical oasis in the desert! Pastel's serves unpretentious, affordable gourmet food in a funky little bistro smack dab in the middle of no where (aka Tecopa, CA). 

I had the crustless quiche (and I don't even like quiche, but it sounded good at the time). It was incredible, one of the most memorable meals I've had in a very long time. My partner had the lamb, which was so tender it was falling off the bone.

This is a very intimate space, and we were afforded the opportunity to meet the owner and his son. They were both delightful and made us feel very much at home.

Be warned, this place can get packed and feel a little crowded, but it's worth it. The service is extraordinary.

Also, please note that  they do not have a liquor license but do allow you to bring your own wine ($5 corkage fee).

"Kielbasa with a snap, creamy avocados, crunchy onions, cool tomatoes, creamy and surprisingly tangy cheese, nutty brown rice, and black beans cooked so perfectly that it was hard not to lick the plate." 


Posted by Julie Cason on April 01, 2009

If you have ever been near or in Death Valley, CA, you know that it is an assault on the senses--dry, dusty, desolate--with services few and far between. Tecopa Hot Springs, which is nestled between the southeastern edge of Death Valley and the even more desolate Nevada desert to the east, is a true oasis: it is there you will find a restaurant run by an award-winning chef who fled Las Vegas' scene 80 miles away.

Pastels Bistro is a bright blue gem sparkling against the pale white sandstone desert that stretches for what seems like a million miles in every direction. Locals and visitors alike chat across tables and with the lone (but very competent) waitress. The chef is visible through the order pick-up window and happy to chat about the menu, which changes weekly, depending on what produce is fresh and available. (And, since you've driven here across miles of nothing, you shake your head in amazement that anything fresh is even available.)

The Brazilian black beans entree (at $9; add kielbasa or chicken for $3.50 more) was an exquisitely executed dish--every taste and texture was represented and balanced. For every creamy yin of avocado, there was the yang bite of raw onion. The creamy, slow-cooked and richly seasoned beans were enlivened by the unusually tangy cheese and fresh salsa. The snap and smoky grilled fat of the kielbasa was undergirded by the chewy, nutty brown rice. Every morsel was to be savored. And my partner's eggplant lasagna was also perfectly executed--the chef knows pasta.

Every group of diners that departed told every new group what they just *had* to have--the eggs Benedict, the corn fritters, etc., etc. It seems as if every dish on the menu is someone's favorite--and that menu keeps changing. Such a delightful combination of comfort food and cuisine--in the most unlikely of settings--makes this restaurant worth a day's drive if you're in the area.

Here’s an odd one, but it’s worth a long, long drive for the fresh, intriguing, and lovingly prepared food: Pastels Bistro in Tecopa, CA–way out in the Northern Mojave Desert.. It’s the only business in town besides some thermal baths, but each night 4-6 exceptional dishes and one dessert are prepared by John, who runs the place and personally cooks every luscious meal. Matzo ball soup with tiny vegetables and corriander, the most lemony grilled chicken and avocado one could imagine, tiramisu with home-baked lady fingers. Sigh. About 10 tables, clear starry nights, worth a drive from LA or Vegas anytime.

— Ellen Deller

Four stars in the desert -- Tecopa bistro offers fine cuisine


Tucked away behind the art gallery at the Tecopa Hot Springs is what used to be an old rail tie house with a painted sign above it: Bistro Pastels.

Inside the modest-looking structure is a pleasant mish mash of a little over 10 tables and chairs, some pushed together and others standing alone ready to seat four people.

Only a few feet away tucked behind a wall with a serving window cut out of it is the kitchen where John Muccio, a tall bear of a man who speaks with the unmistakable accent of a New Yorker, serves up dishes that prove you don't have to drive all the way to Las Vegas to enjoy fine dining.

The walls are covered with local artwork, and crafts made by local or travelling artists are also for sale.

It feels less like a restaurant than an old friend's house, and more often than not the regular customers who come in are greeted like old friends by Muccio and his son, Ryan.

But you don't have to be a regular to get warm service; everybody does.

The fact that the bistro exists at all is a testimony the power of Tecopa's desert beauty.

Muccio ended up in Las Vegas after graduating at the top of his class from the New York Culinary and Hotel Management School.

Three years ago, Muccio left an impressive career in Las Vegas (including several years as executive chef at Gino Ferraro's, three years at Mama Joe's, and an assistant chef at Romeo's) swearing he would never set foot in a restaurant again.

Fortunately for valley residents and travelers, he changed his mind while sitting on David Washum's porch.

It was 2004, just after a huge rain storm that caused the desert to explode into color.

"I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I ever saw," Muccio said, in a voice that immediately betrays his New York roots. "I decided that's it, I'm staying."

But the restaurant didn't open immediately. Muccio spent the next two years traveling and checking out menus.

In April of this year, Bistro Pastels opened and offered visitors what Muccio calls a "flexitarian" menu.

The restaurant strives to be health conscious, offering many dishes that use organic products and are vegetarian.

But carnivores can count on something delicious, too.

Although no alcohol is served, customers who wish to bring their own bottle of wine or beverages can do so, provided they don't mind opening it themselves.

The menu changes from week to week, offering seasonal fare and chef's choice.

"We strive to be open seven days a week," Muccio explained.

There's no phone at the bistro (Muccio jokes he didn't want his mother calling), but you can call the restaurant's sister operation in Shoshone, C'est Si Bon, also owned and operated by Washburn.

The number at that restaurant, which serves breakfast and lunch, is (760) 852-4307.