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NEIGHBORHOOD EATERY

A New Spaghetti Factory

March 17, 1994|MICHAEL KRIKORIAN

In the middle of a row of stores in Gardena's Pacific Square, surrounded by businesses with such names as Tokyo-Do Shoten, Hakugosha Cleaners, Murata Pearl and Heisei-Do Stationery, is a marquee that may strike some as strange as a sushi bar on the Via Veneto in Rome. The sign reads "spaghetti" and it heralds the restaurant Akane Chaya, which features more than 50 spaghetti combinations.

Evidently, in Japan this would not be an unusual sight at all, because spaghetti is extremely popular there. Tadashi Kimura owned a spaghetti house in Osaka where he prospered for 12 years in fierce competition with dozens of rival spaghetti joints. Two years ago he moved to California and opened Akane Chaya, a modern, spare space with black chairs, Japanese prints, an open kitchen and jagged, dark wallpaper on roughly painted beige walls.

To begin your meal consider the steamed clams with sake ($5.80) or the baked mushrooms with ponzu ($5.30), a tasty dish featuring shiitake and oyster mushrooms in a refreshingly light sauce made of lime juice, soy sauce and rice vinegar.

Of course, for a main dish the way to go here is the fresh spaghetti, which comes in 56 versions. The seafood spaghetti ($10) is topped with plenty of shrimp, clams, squid and octopus with a tomato sauce. Lucy, a frequent customer, whom I snagged to translate an interview with chef Kimura, said her favorite dish was the tarako - piripiri spaghetti, ($8.10), which features cod roe and red pepper.

Two other popular selections feature the pasta mixed with bacon and mushrooms ($6.80) and with cod roe, mushrooms and squid in a light cream sauce.

There are also several rice dishes including mushroom and chicken curry rice, ($7.30), seafood risotto ($7.50) with clams and shrimp, and an interesting rice pilaf with squid and cod roe ($6.80).

There is a short list of hamburgers and steaks, but that would be like living in Tokyo and ordering teriyaki.

Akane Chaya is at 1610 W. Redondo Beach Blvd., Gardena. 768-3939. Open Tuesday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Closed Monday.

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