Totoraku (Los Angeles, CA) (2)

10610 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Dining date: 9/26/11

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Totoraku (AKA ‘secret beef restaurant’) is one of the more unique dining experiences in LA. I thought it would be a good idea for my parents to come and eat here while they were in town. Plus, my dad loves beef as much as I do. As far as I know, they don’t have quite the same type of yakiniku experience in the Bay Area. Given I don’t have the ability to make a reservation, this would prove tricky. However, my friend was kind enough to make one and dine with us.

I handled the alcohol duty, always fun since Totoraku is strictly BYOB.

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Of my three visits, the menu has varied very little, with much of the differentiation being in the first appetizer course.

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Shrimp with caviar, fresh abalone, asparagus, proscuitto with lemon, momotaru tomatoes, smoked salmon, king crab with mushroom, black sesame tofu and bluefin tuna with okra is what I remember from this plate. Always hard to catch everything on here. For the most part, this is the chef’s lone creative outlet in a menu full of raw beef dishes. Basically a plate of 9 different amuse bouche, the flavors are typically on the lighter side, just enough to get the appetite going. My favorite would have to have been the bluefin tuna with  okra – something about the slimy and crunchy texture of the okra went well the flavorful tuna.

Sirloin Cap Carpaccio

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The onion was a key component adding the brightness of raw onion, contrasting the rich, well-marbled meat. A well-made carpaccio, indeed.

Seared Ribeye and Beef Throat Sashimi

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The ribeye was fine (it was about as expected), but I rarely see beef throat on a menu…let alone raw. Slightly chewy but I liked the texture, with a rather mild beef flavor. I just wonder what happens to all of the other cow throats out there.

Ha. Oh, the irony.

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Steak Tartare topped with Quail Egg

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A solid tartare. I think the quail egg, stirred into the mixture, really added a richness that brought everything together. I think there was a touch of light soy sauce here, a differentiating flavor from a French steak tartare.

The grill signals the start of the GYOM stage…that is, grill your own meats (yay!). The progression of courses have been exactly the same as my previous visits, so I won’t comment individually.

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Beef Tongue

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Filet Mignon

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Assorted Raw Vegetables

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Momotaru Tomatoes

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Outside Ribeye

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Inside Ribeye

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Short Rib

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Skirt Steak

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Alaskan King Crab Udon Soup

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We passed on dessert (ice cream), opting for Scoops Westside’s instead.

While the meats are certainly a highlight, the king crab udon may have been the most memorable dish of the night. I was glad they had this since my dad loves crab, and it’s really an impressive looking dish. It’s served in a huge bowl ready for sharing, topped with large chunks of crab legs and udon. So good. Seriously. If anything, it’s on the spicier end of my lame-ass tolerance, which means it’s probably just right (or mild) for most. Still, I love myself some soup noodles (udon was one of my favorites growing up), and the meaty crab legs just added to the fun. An excellent dish.

At about $200 a head, Totoraku isn’t cheap. It’s probably more expensive than it needs to be (heck, you do all of the cooking), but that seems to be the market price of a top-notch yakiniku place in LA. I think it’s worth at least one visit for the experience. The combination of variety and quality of beef is second to none in LA, and it’s really a treat for any lover of beef. The meat is pretty well-marbled, marinated just right and delicious. And that Alaskan king crab soup is something to behold. Oh, and it’s a fun experience too.

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