Ise-Shima: Two Italians Walk into a Japanese Restaurant….

March 10, 2020

I’d previously been to the impressive bar at Ise-Shima Restaurant & Lounge at the Miyako Hotel for cocktails following an event at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center, but it was only recently I dined there for the first time.

Prior to my visit, I perused the menu online and learned that Ise-Shima specializes in the highest quality seafood and traditional Japanese dishes, in addition to a few unexpected American favorites. The photographs made my mouth water and there were so many tempting items, I knew a dining companion was essential.

Since the Miyako Hotel is located in the City of Torrance, I asked Torrance City Council Member Aurelio Mattucci to join me for lunch. I like to keep up on local politics and issues (Torrance just had a municipal election), and the best way to do that is over a fine meal with someone on the inside.

The bar, lounge and restaurant work on many levels – you can settle into a swanky booth for a romantic date, conduct business at the elegant bar, gather round a table in the dining room for a family meal, have an impromptu meal with friends at the sushi bar, or dine under the stars on the outdoor patio.


After we were seated in the dining room, Aurelio suggested we have the chef choose the dishes, and being the adventurer that I am, I concurred. As we sipped iced tea and discussed the results of the recent election, our server set down the Seasonal Bento. Composition is foremost in Japanese cuisine and the Bento was an impressive example – it was bountiful and beautiful.

The opportunity to graze several dishes is a satisfying alternative to an entrée, and the Seasonal Bento – which is changed every month – fits the bill. There were six items served with accompanying dipping sauces, ginger, wasabi and diverse garnish: a clam miso soup; tuna and salmon sashimi; a rice cake topped with delightfully slivered shrimp; delicate tempura; whole shelled shrimp; and an assortment of braised vegetables with egg. The Seasonal Bento is a balanced, light and satisfying meal.

While Aurelio and I discussed the homeless challenges every city is dealing with and the looming pension crisis, we moved onto other menu items.
We sampled a side of perfectly grilled vegetables with beet, carrot, squash and shishito pepper. Is there anything better than a shishito pepper? I don’t think so.

Diners can enjoy the Jidori Karaage, fried free-range chicken served with ginger-garlic sauce, as an appetizer or an entrée. I consider myself an authority on fried chicken (it may be my all-time favorite dish) and Ise Shima’s version was fantastic – crispy, moist and flavorful. Fried chicken is famously associated with the American South, but in recent years I’ve discovered that several Asian cultures have taken it to a superior level. The fried chicken on its own is perfection, but the ginger-garlic sauce provides the wow factor.

We moved on to a side of tempura vegetables (the Bento provided enough of a tease to require more) with mushrooms, carrots, those divine shishito peppers and a nearly transparent leafy green I couldn’t identify, yet happily devoured. I adore everything about tempura – the crunch, the different food textures, the visual fragility. Ise Shima offers the tempura as both an appetizer and an entrée.

Vegetarian diners will appreciate the Agedashi Tofu, deep fried tofu with tempura sauce. It was crispy and surprisingly light with the garnishes delivering flavorful emphases.

We then shared few of the entrées while discussing social media, particularly the effect it has had on local issues. The first entrée we sampled was the Mugifuji Pork Loin Cutlet. Tender and panko crusted, this dish was all about the accompanying Tonkatsu, a Japanese BBQ sauce.

The Grilled Salmon is served with lemon, melted butter and seasonal vegetables. The salmon was flaky and flavorful so I didn’t feel the need to add lemon or butter.

The Japanese Wagyu Sirloin Steak was simply grilled allowing the flavor to shine. It was savory and richer than I expected, with a remarkably tender texture. It was a delicious cut of meat and Aurelio had a difficult time sharing it. The steak is served with grilled vegetables and is one of the more costly items on the menu, but worth it.

As tempting as it was, we had to pass on dessert – neither of us could eat another bite – but it was an enlightening meal, equally culinary and community focused.

The Japanese are famous for their hospitality and it’s on full display at Ise-Shima. The staff couldn’t have been more friendly and attentive and we never felt rushed.

Ise-Shima is open to the public for breakfast buffet from 6:30 am to 10 am; lunch from 11:30 am to 2pm; dinner from 5 pm to 10 pm; café hours from 2 pm to 5 pm; and Happy Hour every day from 5 pm to 7 p.m.

For additional information and reservations, visit the website at or call (310) 320-6700.

Ise-Shima at The Miyako Hotel is located at 21381 South Western Avenue, Torrance, CA 90501.

Photography courtesy of Gloria Plascencia Photography.