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Restaurants & Bars 4

Il Chianti---Japanese-Style Italian in Lomita (long review)

Christine | May 8, 200602:37 PM

On our third try, three of us went to Il Chianti for an early dinner yesterday. Three meaning my fairly elderly parents (in their eighties) and me. The other trips were abandoned because this seems to be a popular place for large parties and the wait for a weekend evening was over an hour. Who'd a thought, for Lomita?

The restaurant is split into four or five separate dining spaces, plus a few tables street-side. There's also limited counter seating. Nice, minimalistic decor; intermittent shouting from the kitchen when people enter, exit, and orders are taken. Livens things up a bit.

There have been a couple rave reviews on this board, and we were looking forward to something unusual. The wine list didn't seem very interesting so we ordered different beverages by the glass. The rest of the menu is split between japonesy fish-based dishes, pizza, and traditional Italian with a Japanese flair (such as the availability of pasta dishes with soba).

Drinks and bread with fruity olive oil and caramelized balsamic onions came in short order. For an appetizer, we ordered the special squid-ink risotto in a stone pot with (cod?) roe; it's listed as a primi.

The stone pot dish took about 20 minutes to arrive. To my dismay, the server placed it behind us, on another table, while she stirred it up and divided it among three small bowls. The presentation was lost as we were simply handed plastic bowls of rice; they could have done that much in the kitchen.

The risotto, very black and crunchy with the roe, was excellent. But it would have been so much nicer to have the stone pot on the table.

Neither parent was in the mood for pizza (the pizzas that passed by our table smelled great but looked rather anemic) and decided on the special lamb chops ($18, mother) and pork tenderloin ($17, father). I ordered the "wild chicken" dish ($13).

Barely three minutes had passed between the time we got the risotto and the time my father's pork and my chicken arrived. The portions of risotto, split among us, were pretty small, but, still, the timing was off.

We finished the rice and politely waited for my mother's lamb to arrive. Waited, waited.... Sensing our anxiety, the barman came over to tell us that the kitchen was very small and that the food is designed for family style so the lamb would take a little while longer. This seemed like a strange explanation to me since the dishes were listed as "primi" or "secondi" and the two we had on the table were obviously plated for the consumption of one person. Plus, it was early and the restaurant was barely 10% occupied. It took another 15 or 20 minutes for the lamb dish to arrive, which was way too long after the other plates were served.

The pork was a sizable portion, grilled perfectly, served with a half small roasted potato and some green beans. A small bowl of toasted sesame seeds mixed with sea salt and some other spices came on the plate; the pork was already plenty salty without, though.

The lamb, when it finally arrived, was three small lollipops, attached, grilled very rare. Too rare for my mom; we ended up trading plates after she tried one. My "wild" chicken was a boneless breast, pounded thin and fried to a crispy outside and very tender interior. Served with the half potato and beans and a stock reduction ladled around it that could have used much less salt.

The lamb also came with a small bowl of a spicy-tangy sauce (shirasha-based, I think) that really packed a punch. I liked it a lot.

Though the food was well-executed, none of the main dishes wowed me (the risotto did) and, as I said, the chicken and pork were both very salty. I'd like to go back and try one or two of the pasta dishes, and maybe some seafood courses, but my parents were so put off by the timing of the main courses, they could not be persuaded to go there again.

Overall: good, not great.

Il Chianti
24503 Narbonne Ave.
Lomita, CA 90717


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