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Beverly Hills Dining

Il Cielo

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 ambiance.

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 only. Expensive.

The Grill On The Alley

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

Fall 1997