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.
24503 Narbonne Ave
Lomita, CA 90717
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.
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.
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.