Totoraku

Totoraku
10610 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 838-9881

I truly encourage people to call the number above. It was hilarious the first time I heard it. I know many people will be rubbed off the wrong way already by what some may call pretentiousness, while others may think it adds a certain personality to the chef. As Chris wrote in his post for Yamakase: “By now, most food enthusiasts in town have heard of Totoraku, an invite-only yakiniku restaurant in West LA that takes pride in its exclusivity. Some say that an invite to the restaurant is as hard to obtain as one to Noma; one has to be invited by a friend of the chef or a previous diner who had “earned” the right of a return visit, and said nominator has to personally vouch for you.” I hope I do this place justice because it was an otherworldly experience, especially for someone who prides himself in meat consumption.

For those that don’t know, Totoraku is a BYOBB restaurant (bring your own best bottle), as Chef Kaz is a huge vino but does not serve alcohol at the restaurant. This line up is completely lost on me (although I did have a few sips of the syrah…I won’t even pretend I had a glass). It is also customary to offer a glass to (at least) Chef Kaz, his wife, and daughter-in-law. Also, he will tell you if your wine is no bueno.

A platter of yummy stuff. I wish I took notes but I really couldn’t understand what the girl was saying anyways. I believe starting from bottom left clockwise was caviar with fresh crab, top left quail egg with crab, jelly fish, homemade black sesame cube, don’t remember, soba, salmon with avocado and sprouts, okra, asparagus, and sea urchin risotto (my favorite of the bunch).

Raw Beef

Beef Carpaccio

Beef Tataki and Beef Throat (apparently that’s the amount for one cow).

Beef Tartare (with apple!)

The trio of raw beef dishes made my night. Beef tartare has been done to death but this dish is out of this world. It was also the first time I’ve tried beef throat (I’ve eaten chicken and duck throat when they were presented in their entirety…). Also, you bet I slipped in a “that’s what she said” joke somewhere in there. Beef tataki with a hint of garlic was perfection.

Hot Hot Hot Hot…Dishes

Sauce. I did not employ them much, if at all, unless suggested. Left to right: Sweet soy sauce with sesame, lemon juice, and soy sauce.

Beef tongue with some of its own topping. Never had one this thick before (thaaat’s…never mind).

Beef tongue in action. I am now a thick tongue convert. You would think the tongue would be too tough, but in actuality it melts like butter in your mouth. Did not use sauce.

Filet mignon with assorted vegetables (to be cooked). No pineapple, though. My second favorite hot dish. This dish was accompanied by:

Raw veggies. You may be the consolation champion, but you’re still in consolation at the end of the day. That’s how I feel about vegetables. Just kidding. The vegetables served as a good balance to the meat, although I did not feel “bogged down” at all as I normally do from your everyday AYCE BBQ. I will also go on the record that if all tomatoes were that sweet, juicy, and delicious I’d eat tomatoes more regularly.

Outside ribeye. VERY rich and fat. Goodness. As you can see it was already seasoned with salt and pepper. Perfect.

Inside ribeye.

Skirt steak.

Skirt steak in action.

Spicy soup with egg and vegetables. A bit like Japanese version of “egg flower soup”. Perfect ending to the meat.

Ice Cream

I chose Espresso, over pistachio, white chocolate, lychee sorbet, and blueberry sorbet. Nothing like ice cream to cap the end of a great meal. Other people in the group had dessert wine in addition (not pictured) to finish the meal along with their ice cream.

All in all, it was a great experience. It was not your every day Korean BBQ (even high-end KBBQ like Park’s comes nothing close to this place) nor fancy American steakhouse. As usual, I’m not going to grade the restaurant because I think it’s pretentious to be giving out grades like a teacher. I will rank this place in the same tier as the best steakhouse I visited in my life thus far. (Cut). It is, however, a completely different experience. One is located in beautiful 5 star hotel, while the other is squeezed in a dark “space” with no signs or decor to speak of except for empty wine bottles.

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