One of the loveliest things about Il Cielo is the outdoor garden that is reminiscent
of a European courtyard. Enveloped by foliage, vines and delicate white lights weaving
among the trellises, the outdoor patio is romantic, simple and very pleasant. The
indoors is equally charming, with soothing, pale peach walls that create an agreeable
For starters we chose salads; the smoky flavor of the grilled vegetables and endive
with gorgonzola cheese and red wine vinaigrette did not overwhelm the taste of the
leeks, zucchini and carrots. The homemade buttery, dense mozzarella served with prosciutto,
sun-dried tomatoes and arugula rivaled the very best cheese produced in Italy.
Our entrees were equally satisfying. A generously sized grilled Ahi tuna steak
covered with a bruschetta-style topping was served with grilled vegetables on the
side. The fish was perfectly cooked and the bruschetta was a good counterpoint. The
lobster ravioli with lobster sauce were unusually delicate for a dish that is sometimes
heavy. Desserts were an ambrosial tiramisu and fresh raspberries and strawberries.
Il Cielo's food is special because it is both innovative and traditionally Italian
yet manages at every turn to be light and healthy, too. The service is excellent.
Because of its romantic atmosphere, the restaurant attracts many couples, and because
of its excellent service families and businesspeople eat there, too.
Il Cielo, 9018 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Tel. 310-276-9990. Open
for lunch and dinner, Monday to Saturday. Moderate. www.ilcielo.com/ilcielo/index.html
A three-foot deep floor-to-ceiling aquarium extending from the entrance to the
other end of the premises makes the strikingly beautiful Crustacean one of the most
dramatic and talked about restaurants in Beverly Hills. The fish tank is full of
brightly colored carp that are as resplendent as the dining room, which looks much
like a Chinese teahouse and is furnished with Asian antiques.
Unfortunately, the decor is the best thing going for the restaurant, as the Euro-Asian
food is uneven and the service needs beefing up. For appetizers or "Asian Tapas,"
we sampled the seafood dumpling with lotus leaf and tamarind-ginger fumet that was
delicate and flavorful. Warm, garlicky and delectable Philippine Island green-lip
mussels were broiled with Asian pesto and served with seasoned crostini. We did not
fare as well with all of the "large plates." The Dungeness crab mache with
aromatic vegetables was cold, heavy and tasteless. Rice ho-fun ravioli, Pacific prawns,
braised fennel and carmelized shallots were bland. Red snapper with dill-turmeric
essence, shrimp naan crisp and rice noodles was moist and delicious. An, one of three
Vietnamese sisters who own the restaurant, is famous for her garlic noodles with
secret garlic sauce; it was the best dish we had and may be worth the trip just to
try this pasta.
The restaurant recommends a different wine by the glass, albeit a small one, for
every course, which is a fine idea. After ordering we waited too long for the food
to reach the table and we did not get our wine until after we had finished the main
courses. Our waitress was alternatively inattentive and too familiar.
Crustacean is a restaurant with some well-prepared and experimental cuisine and
a dazzlingly elegant atmosphere, but it is too pricey for its inconsistent kitchen
and lackadaisical service.
Crustacean, 9646 Little Santa Monica (Corner of North Bedford), Beverly Hills,
CA 90210. Tel. 310-205-8990. Open for lunch and dinner, weekdays, Saturday, dinner
The Grill on the Alley combines old-fashioned American food like you might find
in the original "Joy of Cooking"; outstanding service; a fun, relaxed atmosphere;
and some of the best mixed drinks in Los Angeles. Jimmy, the bartender, moved here
from New York nine years ago and has been making his famous "traditional"
and "contemporary" martinis ever since. He serves up an impressive fourteen
varieties of this cocktail, which is enjoying renewed popularity.
We slipped into comfortable green leather and dark wood booths and began with
a hearty shrimp cocktail and a perfect Caesar salad with just the right bite. I enjoyed
a grilled Eastern swordfish - the portion was huge - with vegetables on the side. My
guest ordered the special, delicious lamb shanks breaded with a savory mustard crust,
topped with rosemary sauce and served with sautéed zucchini. We also tried the
garlic mashed potatoes, a favorite among the 12 potato options. There is great variety
on the menu with many dishes (meat, chicken, fish, seafood, vegetables and so forth)
from which to choose, but the kitchen manages to pull it all off beautifully, including
faultless service that makes dining here very pleasant.
Dessert at The Grill is not to be missed, although with their generous portions
it's hard to find room for it. The buttery crust and gooey, luscious filling in the
warm cobbler with peaches, strawberries, cherries and vanilla ice cream is hard to
beat. We also liked the assortment of cookies that were as good as your grandma used
to bake. Because of its reputation, The Grill is crowded, so make reservations or
get there early.
The Grill on the Alley, 9560 Dayton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Tel. 310-276-0615.
Open for lunch Monday to Saturday, dinner all week. Expensive. www.thegrill.com
- Emily Fancher