Monday, May 07, 2007

Il Chianti @ Lomita

I'd heard a lot of good things about the Japanese-run Italian restaurant called Il Chianti. So maybe my expectations were running high when my girlfriends and I decided to check it out last Friday.

Yes, I admit, by default of it being part of a Japan-based chain I was very curious. Inside the restaurant was the stuff first-dates are made of cozy seating, dim lights, natural decor, cordial waiters. The menu was just as inviting with a wide variety of antipasto, pasta, secondo and desserts to satisfy.

You're won't find much of an array of Japanese/Italian-fused concoctions. No natto-filled cannoli or ume-shiso pasta. Il Chianti is more of what you'll find sitting atop a fancy Tokyo high-rise youshoku (Western food) finely tweaked for the Japanese palate.

Maybe it was just an off-day for them, but style prevailed heavily over substance. As wonderful as the menu sounded, most of what we ordered fell short of being great, and even got me reminiscing in my head about more flavorful times. We started off with a "house special" mixed salad which looked more like a $2-a-bag Trader Joe's medley. No toppings. Nothing. It came with homemade dressing a light but rather salty, miso-based sauce.

Our 8-inch pizza was topped with prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato sauce and a mound of arugula, none of which really stood out from the other. The thin crust was crisp, but I've had far tastier prosciutto at French Market Cafe (and all through out Europe of course). Steer away from the gnocchi if you've ever had it homemade. There was so little bite that I thought my teeth had gone soft.

We also tried the homemade pasta with tomato sauce, garnished with thin slices of Parmesan. It was good in a thank-god-our-last-dish-didn't-suck kinda way.

After dinner, we sat around chatting and trying hard to take in at least $30 worth of ambiance. I'm not going to completely rule out Il Chianti. After all, how could over a dozen other online reviewers be wrong? So tell me readers, what was the best dish you've had at Il Chianti? Maybe if you do a good job of convincing me, I'll make a second trip back.



Il Chianti
24503 Narbonne Ave
Lomita, CA 90717

Il Chianti on Urbanspoon

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In other news...

LA Times contributor Linda Burum offers her own review of Il Chianti in Wednesday's paper. I need to correct her on the definition of youshoku ryouri, which doesn't mean "Japanese style western dishes." It actually just means "western cooking." So Il Chianti is really youshoku ryouri.

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Speaking of Japanese-style pasta, here's a cute little commercial which was big in Japan last year. It shows two little tarakos (cod roe) singing a promotional song for a Kewpie brand pasta sauce. I need to get me one of those hats.



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Justin.TV: I don't know why I enjoy watching some Asian dude with a camera on his head 24/7. I think I wanna just catch him taking a dump one of these days.
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9 comments:

BoLA said...

I do like the pizza here when I went with my g/f who raved about it. But then again, I don't have a discriminating tongue for prosciutto. The dish I absolutely loved here was the creamy, rich mushroom risotto. :) Definitely could have shared with you to steer away from the gnocchi and the black squid ink spaghetti. Hope you give this one another try. The servers are super nice!

Tokyoastrogirl said...

Hm, that pizza looks better than it tasted, I guess. Too bad they don't have Japanese/Italian fusion....my best friend looooves tarako pasta. I'm still drooling over your Gonpachi photos, BTW!

Pirikara said...

Heya BoLA~ Yeah, I should try the risotto. Though it will have to be after the lactose-free diet I'll be testing out soon. =P
Heya Tuna~ Yeah the photos do look much better. One of my old-reliable J-I fusion places is Blue Marlin on Sawtelle. Yeah I love tarako pasta too. Hope to see the both of you next time for dinner~!

Anonymous said...

I liked their Tataki and Tuna tartar

Anonymous said...

Haven't been here in awhile but the Spaghetti Bottarga, Squid Ink Risotto and Tuna Tartare are fabulous. Everything else is just okay, but the truly hilarious part about this place is the vast difference in service if you speak Japanese versus if you don't. I've actually seen the hostess turn away non-Japanese Asians though there should have been enough seating.

Anonymous said...

wow that is racist, never going there now!

Anonymous said...

Were from Japan and this food is 10 times better than the usual slop thats is served up here in the States. Check your love handles if you dont believe me.

Anonymous said...

Were from Japan and this food is 10 times better than the usual slop thats is served up here in the States. Check your love handles if you dont believe me.

Anonymous said...

We just checked it out on a whim after driving by it many times. The hostess (not very friendly at all) actually looked at us like we were martians when we walked in. She asked if we had reservations, funny cause the place was empty as it was a Saturday morning. Anyway, she struggled with her thoughts for a moment or two and then agreed to seat us. How nice of her. We're both Caucasian, by the way.

The place looks like a dingy mess, even the menus were dirty (I wanted to wash up after touching them).

I agree about the salad dressing being WAY too salty. I couldn't eat it.

The sampler appetizer was interesting, but the only thing worth talking about was the little dollop of risotto, which was by far the BEST risotto I've ever had. It was creamy and flavorful and had a little garnish of veg that tasted like a cross between kimchee (sorry spelling?) and bruschetta.

The main course was spaghetti and "steak". Both were, average at best. The "steak" was really pot roast and it was tough. Spaghetti was cooked perfectly al dente, but the sauce was just okay.

The waiter was a charming and VERY nice young man. (Saving grace for the visit overall.)

I would MAYBE go back for risotto and a glass of wine, but that's about it I think. The pizza another family was having looked good, but who knows if I'd bother trying one...