Benu – 8/27/10

22 Hawthorne Ln
San Francisco, CA 94105


Just over two weeks ago, Corey Lee opened up Benu, one of San Francisco’s most anticipated restaurants in a while. You see, Corey Lee was chef de cuisine of The French Laundry for four years, before leaving in 2009 to set out on his own. That pedigree alone brings with it a lot of hype and high expectations.  The resulting restaurant is Benu, focusing on Asian-inspired flavors, French technique, and local, seasonal ingredients.



The kitchen has two large windows open to the street, allowing passerbys to peer into the kitchen. As you walk up to the restaurant, you are greeted by a small outdoor patio/waiting area.


Benu offers two menus; an a la carte option, as well as a tasting menu (of around 16 courses) that changes daily. We opted for the latter, as it allowed us a whole range of dishes to try.

The first thing to come out was the ‘bread,’ in this case, a lavash with sesame and nori.


It’s a very thin cracker with Japanese accents from the sesame and nori. Rather addicting, these did a good job of getting your tastebuds going early.

tomato, dashi, summer blossoms

<tomato dashi

thousand-year-old quail egg, ginger, celery

quail egg

These first two dishes came out as a pairing. We were instructed to eat the egg first – the salty and rich flavor was accented by a little hit of ginger for an extra burst of flavor. The dashi broth was cool and cleansing; the tomato and summer blossoms added a ‘summer’ flavor to this dish.

geoduck clam, seaweed, raspberry ponzu


caramelized anchovy gelée, peanuts,lily bulbs, chili, basil

anchovy gelee

The next two courses also came out as a pairing. The geoduck had a fresh and clean flavor, slightly salty of the sea, with a nice ‘chew’ to it. The seaweed, however, was a little overbearing, bringing even more “sea” flavor into the dish. The anchovy gelee was wonderful – not overwhelmingly salty or fishy, and complemented by the textural elements of the peanuts and the lily bulbs.

veal sweetbreads, yuzu, pickles, mitsuba


Next came sweetbreads, which were very delicately fried. The sweetbreads had a meaty, somewhat creamy texture, and the fried batter added a nice crispiness. The yuzu and pickles added some acidity to level out the richness of the dish, which was a definite success.

eel, feuille de brick, avocado, crème fraîche


Here we have eel and avocado wrapped in dough, for a cigar-like pastry. The avocado was not too noticeable, however the creme fraiche did a good job of adding some light sourness and acidity to go with the fried roll. However, one person found an eel bone in their food! Being someone that spent some time in the ER earlier this year for an eel bone-related incident, this was really disappointing to see.

risotto, sea urchin, corn, lovage, black truffle


Risotto with black truffles and…what, sea urchin? Yes, sea urchin. This was my favorite dish of the night. The risotto was simply delicious and rich, and I thought the urchin held its own, adding a clean sea flavor, to go along with the earthiness of the rice and truffles.

monkfish liver torchon, apple relish, turnip, sorrel, mustard, brioche



The monkfish came with a delicious, light and buttery brioche. The torchon was very spreadable, though a little fishy. The apple relish added some fresh flavors and crunch to the dish.

“shark’s fin” soup, dungeness crab, cabbage, Jinhua ham, black truffle custard

shark fin soup

Shark fin would be a pretty controversial ingredient for this type of restaurant in San Francisco. That doesn’t mean you can’t make a dish inspired by it. The soup has a very rich and deep umami flavor..which really did resemble a shark’s fin soup. The custard (at the bottom) was so velvety smooth, adding an earthy truffle essense. Really superb dish.

abalone vol au vent, cabbage, onion, roasted chicken jus


The abalone, which is a nice big piece, was quite chewy, somewhat tough. That was a little disappointing. The flavor was good, though, and the pastry added a crispy and flaky component that meshed well.

pork belly, fermented pepper, cucumber, perilla

pork belly

A beautiful piece of pork belly was presented next. Though it was relatively lean, it was tender, juicy and flavorful – made even better by its crisped skin. The small balls of cucumber and shiso helped add some lighter flavors to balance out the dish.

beef rib cap, crispy maitake mushrooms, lettuce, scallion, garlic


The beef was sliced thin and grilled. It was disappointing, as it was neither juicy nor had the same succulence that meat typically has. In addition, it was served somewhat lukewarm, so the fat in the meat had solidified a bit. The mushrooms were tasty, and the lettuce had a nice, crisp flavor – but the centerpiece of the dish fell flat.

sweet rice sorbet, asian pear, pine needle-infused honey

sweet rice sorbet

Soothing and refreshing, the asian pear and sweet rice flavors were both evident. I really liked the cookie as well, adding some texture. There was an overarching floral flavor from (I think) the pine-needle infused honey, which was almost too strong.

strawberries, vanilla soymilk, buckwheat shortbread, jasmine pearl tea


The strawberries and strawberry sorbet were both good, but the crunchy shortbread and vanilly soymilk foam made the dish for me. The foam was eerily like a vanilla soymilk and went well with the strawberries, and the shortbread added some delicious texture to the dish. However, the jasmine pearl tea gelee on top did not taste like anything, even by itself.

chocolates, coffee, tea


Lastly, chocolates are presented for the table. On this night, we had a lemon creme brulee, toasted sesame chocolate, walnut chocolate, and simple chocolate truffle. Oddly, for a party of 3, we were given 2 of each. My favorite of these was actually the basic truffle (with the gold flake) for its really silky chocolate interior.


Service was exceptional. While most would say that it’s expected at an establishment like this, I agree that it is. But very often, it’s not.

As for the food, it was a very solid meal, but not without some disappointments. So much of one’s satisfaction of a meal is based on expectations going in and, admittedly, mine were very high. Deservedly so, I think, given Corey’s background, and the amount of buzz surrounding the restaurant. Many of the dishes were very successful in my opinion – sweetbreads, risotto, pork belly, and “shark’s fin soup” come to mind. The beef dish was very disappointing, but outside of that, there were no big missteps, save for the eel bone.

The menu is well-crafted, showing a pretty diverse range, and the tasting menu has a really good progression of courses. I will likely be back to try again, not too far into the distant future.

Test Kitchen: Walter Manzke – 8/25/10

Test Kitchen: Walter Manzke
9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

I knew Test Kitchen’s devilish business plan would keep me coming back for more! As a recap, the kitchen opens its doors to various chefs and restaurateurs to allow them to try new dishes and menu concepts…and for us to sample these new creations. I first went to the Test Kitchen on Sunday to try Red Medicine‘s take on modern Vietnamese fare, and here I found myself again; this time, to sample Walter Manzke’s cooking. One of the two most notable “homeless” LA chefs (I would count Voltaggio as the other, Ludo doesn’t want a home), I first tried Manzke’s cuisine at Church & State and enjoyed it. I jumped at the opportunity to sample more of what he has to offer, outside of the French bistro fare Church & State patrons were accustomed to.

I dined with my friend Lilly (who has recently started a craft beer blog, LA Beer Hopping), and also spotted fellow bloggers Kevin of kevinEats, Holly of The Michelin Project and Ryan of Epicuryan. Also, Jason Bernstein of the Golden State also happened to be dining, who I am a big fan of.

Manzke is cooking for four nights only (8/25-8/28) with a menu of 5 dishes, which seem to have a lot of Asian inspiration. In addition, there were a few tapas options as well, and we tried two of them – the calamari and the bread & butter.

Bread & Butter Vermont butter, sea salt, foie gras butter with lavender honey

The bread was freshly baked; crisp on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside. The foie gras butter was much more interesting than the fresh Vermont butter, with a rather subtle foie gras flavor. The sea salt worked to bring out some of the flavor of the lavender honey as well.

Local Calamari grilled and fried, backyard arugula, black aioli

I really enjoyed this dish and the interplay of crunchy calamari with bites of the tender, grilled calamari. Both preparations were cooked just right; I preferred the grilled calamari with the aioli featuring…squid ink. How fitting!

Hamachi avocado, green apple, yuzu, jalapeno

This was the first course of the regular menu. Small pieces of hamachi were placed on top of equally small pieces of avocado. Both of these had a really melt-in-mouth texture, and the acidity from the green apple and yuzu really brightened up the dish without overpowering the subtle hamachi flavor.

Thai Curry-Carrot Soup Maine lobster, coconut tapioca

The Thai curry and the carrots were both distinctive in this dish – though, they did not clash with each other. Small chunks of lobster were cooked beautifully; the sweetness from the lobster and tapioca helped to temper some of the mild heat of the curry.

Loup de Mer Sungold tomatoes, mole verde sauce

Loup de mer, also commonly called branzino, is probably one of my favorite fishes with its light, flaky and moist flesh. This piece was a little bit firmer, but was still moist and delicate. The skin was crisped nicely, adding some texture. The tomatoes were outstanding – perfectly ripe, juicy and sweet. The mole verde was very mild in flavor, but the fish didn’t need much. This dish really reminded me of summer and light, vibrant flavors.

Beef Tenderloin chanterelle mushrooms, Katsuo Bushi broth

This last savory dish was another good one. The tenderloin was cooked a nice medium-rare and was quite tender, served with a nice poached egg. On its own, it may not have been anything spectacular, but I loved the Katsuo Bushi broth. Like a much richer dashi broth made from bonito flakes, it has a really deep, salty flavor. I never know how to describe what umami tastes like, but this had it..and a lot of it!

There was also a little bit of yuzu kosho to go with the meat – made of yuzu and chili peppers, the Japanese condiment gave just the right amount of heat and bitterness to take the dish even further.

Strawberry “Creme Brulee”

This was Manzke’s take on the classic dessert. Strawberries were topped with a strawberry sorbet, a light cream and caramelized sugar. The result was a much lighter interpretation, but still containing the flavors of a traditional creme brulee. I thought this was a pretty nice way to end the meal, and not leave you with something too heavy.

I was very pleased with the meal. The service and pace of the meal were both much better than my prior visit. I don’t think there were any significant missteps, and Manzke really shined in displaying some new flavors, particularly Asian. I think this is a worthwhile meal to take part in during Manzke’s short stay; but be warned, it may leave you wanting more of his food…with nowhere to get it!

Test Kitchen: Red Medicine – 8/22/10

Test Kitchen: Red Medicine
9575 West Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90035

This past Sunday was the last night in Red Medicine’s run at Test Kitchen, LA’s new “pop-up” restaurant. Drawing upon the success of the now-nationwide famous LudoBites’ pop-up concept, the restaurant is well…a test kitchen. There’s no permanent chef; rather, the space is rented out for short periods of time by chefs (typically of upcoming restaurants) who will showcase dishes of a new concept. And somehow, we’ve all nurtured the desire to be their guinea pigs.

The format is unique and could be wildly successful. As long as the restaurant can continually schedule chefs people want to see, the restaurant will be ever-changing, fresh, and most importantly, will  keep people coming back for more. The debut chef for the restaurant is Jordan Kahn, who will helm the upcoming modern Vietnamese restaurant Red Medicine.

12 dishes were served family style, in “no particular order.” We had an early reservation, and really felt rushed – all 12 courses came out in one hour.

radishes, coco-butter, lime, dried soy

Crunchy and crisp, these were a good starter. I enjoyed the clean flavors.

cured amberjack, lime leaf, french melon, nuoc cham, bird chili, mint

The melon was sliced into pieces, and topped with the fish. Slightly spicy from the chili, though sweet from the cantaloupe, the flavors worked pretty well.

green papaya, crispy taro, rau ram, fried shallots, peanuts

I can’t say I’m an expert in papaya salads, but this was a pretty good rendition for me. Cool and refreshing, with a nice ‘crunch’ in every bite from the papaya, peanuts, and taro. I could eat this all summer.

tomatoes marinated in an infusion of their vines, silky tofu, crunchy tofu, herbs

This dish was one of the most interesting of the night for me…kind of an Asian caprese salad. The tomatoes were ripe, juicy and sweet, and the tofu had a very cheesy consistency and texture. The herbs added some more complexity of flavor to the dish.

brussels sprouts, caramelized shallots, fish sauce, prawn crackers

This was probably my favorite savory dish of the night. The brussels sprouts were addicting – crispy and light, with a mild sweetness from the caramelization. I’d love to buy a bag of these and eat them like potato chips!

saigon tartine- pork belly, pate, coriander, carrot pickle, green chili

These were essentially mini banh-mi. I got a nice crunch from the pickled veggies; initially, I was thinking there should’ve been more meat. However, I think a traditional banh-mi is supposed to be less meat-heavy, and this was more along those lines. I wouldn’t say there was any ‘modern’ spin to this dish, other than it being miniaturized.

caramelized chicken dumplings, lemongrass, scallion, bibb lettuce

These dumplings, more like meatballs, were a bit dense and dry for me. I think white meat was used; I would have preferred a dark meat to lend more fat and juiciness.

baby carrots, fermented black bean, star anise, coconut, tarragon

As the dishes come out in “no particular order,” I don’t think dish order was a big focus. However, as I felt like we were gearing up into the “entrees,” I would’ve preferred this dish earlier in the meal. I like black bean sauce, however I’m not too sure it worked with me on this one. Black beans have a sweetness to them, and so do the carrots; and it just didn’t meld too well for me.

bay scallops, pomelo, young ginger, tamarind syrup, puffed tapioca, charred friseé

The tamarind syrup was all overpowering in this dish. The small bay scallops didn’t hold up very well to the strong sauce. I appreciated the texture from the puffed tapioca, but it didn’t add any flavor notes. I loved the charred frisee however, reminiscent of the brussels sprouts.

beef bavette, bacon X.O., chinese eggplant, chinese celery, lime, palm sugar, sesame

As long as you cook it medium-rare to medium, I find it’s hard to mess up a flank steak. This was no exception with tender chunks of meat and good flavor. I appreciated the eggplant as well. It was mushy, and I like it that way.

peaches, crème de cassis, raspberry, condensed milk, tonic water sorbet, violet

I thought the peaches were delicious in this dish, alone. Outside of the creme, I don’t think the ingredients added too much to the dish. But I loved the sweet, ripe peaches.

coconut bavarois, coffee ice cream, thai basil, peanut croquant, chicory

Jordan Kahn made his name as a pastry chef, and it really showed in this dish. The peanut croquant was really reminiscent of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, but crispy. The chicory has a coffee-like flavor; combined with the coconut, peanut and touch of thai basil – the flavors and textures were really good.

In all, there were some hits and some misses but overall, my impression of the food was positive. Where I probably disagreed most was with the portions and the insanely quick pace to the meal. I’ve never had 12 courses in the span of one hour; I felt like I was just trying to keep up for most of the meal, so that they could fill the table for a 7:30 reservation (we sat down at 6). Most of the dishes pictured were for a party of 5 – thus, dishes were good for one or a few bites. At the end of the meal, I felt like I was still waiting for the entree to come. However, I can’t fault that $40 is a pretty good price to try 12 different dishes, but we weren’t allowed to order additional dishes of anything once the meal had run its course.

Animal – 8/21/10

435 N Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048

I’ve been wanting to try Animal for a while, and finally got the chance. Founded by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Two Dude Catering (Food Network) fame, Animal has been a consistently popular restaurant since it opened in 2008. Every time I’ve tried to make a weekend reservation (I admit – usually with short notice), I get a response such as “the earliest table we have available is 10:30.” Or 11:30. What! I didn’t even realize people were seated that late (the restaurant is actually open til 2am on Fridays and Saturdays). They offer the full menu for first-come, first-served walk-ins at the bar, and this is what we opted for.

Obviously, this place is not for vegetarians, as the menu is meat-centric, offering various meats and cuts that are rarely found all in one place, including oxtail, rabbit, sweetbreads and octopus.

boudin, rooster aioli, gherkin

This boudin was made of chicken liver and rice, then fried in bite-sized balls. It was actually pretty light, and nicely crispy – a good way to start the meal.

pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg

Here, pig ears are sliced thin and fried. Combined with lime and chili peppers, it’s topped with a fried egg. Honestly, the fried egg really makes this dish for me. The spiciness of the peppers was slightly mellowed out by the runny egg yolk, which really brought everything together. However, I could’ve used two egg yolks here.

barbecue pork belly sandwiches, slaw

First off, the pork belly was melt-in-mouth tender. It probably helped that it was a rather fatty piece of pork. The meat was succulent, with the barbecue sauce adding a slight sweetness and smokiness that was not overpowering. Too often I see BBQ pork sandwiches that are dredged in a thick BBQ sauce, and this was not the case. The coleslaw added just the right amount of acidity and lightness to this dish. Bravo!

poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar

I remembered seeing a picture and description of this dish when I first heard about Animal and was like…this is a total must-order. I love oxtail. Here we have braised oxtail and its gravy (presumably the braising liquid), on top of french fries and a mild cheddar cheese.  I think the fries were fried extra crispy, in order to add more texture, and combat sogginess from the gravy. Really delicious – definitely a fan.

foie gras loco moco, quail egg, spam, hamburger

Here’s a play on the Hawaiian staple dish of loco moco which, at its base, usually has rice topped with a burger patty, spam, fried egg, and gravy. Animal steps it up a notch with a lobe of foie gras. Completely decadent and rich! I first tried pieces of each of the components separately and found them good on their own. Combined, it made for something quite tasty (though, it can be hard to taste the foie gras with all those components, since it’s a pretty thin slice). This was probably my favorite dish of the night.

bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p anglaise

Of course, a restaurant named ‘Animal’ would have a dessert with bacon in it. I’ve heard a lot about this dish, and it’s the must-try dessert on the menu. Layers of rich chocolate and hazelnuts is topped with bacon bits. I like salty things with chocolate, and the bacon lended this saltiness and the “crunch” in this bar. While good, I wouldn’t particularly say it was ‘great,’ however I was pretty full by this point.

peach and raspberry pie, whipped cream

Animal serves a daily pie topped with freshly whipped cream. Today’s pie was peach and raspberry. The peaches were nice and sweet, and the raspberries were tart (a little too tart for me). The pie crust was quite nice though, and the whipped cream was a nice accompaniment. I began to actually eat the cream with the bacon chocolate crunch bar, which made for a pretty good combination.

In all, Animal met my (high) expectations. The food is a little different, with innovative takes on comfort food and some new dishes altogether.  The food is very rich, and you’re likely to leave full and sleepy. At least, I did. I would come back, especially for the pork belly sandwiches and loco moco, as well as to try some of the rest of the dishes on the menu.

Another restaurant from Shook & Dotolo is in the works on Third Street in West Hollywood, which will be a different concept from Animal. It will be exciting to see what these guys come up with.

LudoBites Truck – 8/14/10

LudoBites Truck aka LudoTruck
Locations around the city

I don’t typically review the food trucks I visit, but the LudoBites truck is a little different from the typical food truck. Based on the now-famous fried chicken served at previous LudoBites engagements, the truck serves a few varieties of fried chicken, as well as a number of sides that compliment the chicken. Not yet ready for regular day-to-day service, it “pops-up” at various locations and events around the city with relatively minimal advertising – a way to limit the masses from overwhelming the truck (see: first LA Street Food Fest). Given the buzz currently surrounding everything LudoBites-related, it’s understandable that they are easing its way into normal service.

I was taking a gardening class at Cube LA’s downtown offshoot (Yes – I do have a small home garden), knowing that the truck would be paying a visit at noon – coincidentally, the class’ end time. I’ve had the chicken twice before, at the aforementioned LA Street Food Fest, as well as at LudoBites 4.0, and I was eagerly anticipating a third taste. Given that I was already on the scene as the truck arrived, our party was first in line to order!

The truck’s menu features chicken prepared three ways, with a number of sauces, sides and desserts.

Provencal Pepite “Chicken Ball” with Herbs de Provence, Crunch Buttermilk Strips, Honey-Garlic Glazed Wings and Coleslaw

The chicken strip and wing are relatively new, with the ‘chicken ball’ being the staple. These were all quite good – the chicken strip was moist and tender, though the breading was a little thick. The wing was also moist with just the right sweetness, and the ‘chicken ball’ was as tasty as ever, though smaller than in previous incarnations. Served piping hot, the juices literally run all over once you bite into it.

Of the four sauces, I was able to try the honey whole grain mustard, piquillo, and Ludo’s hickory smoked BBQ (from left to right).

I’m familiar with the piquillo sauce from prior visits; while good, my favorite was probably the hickory smoked BBQ sauce. Smoky, tangy and sweet – it really complemented the chicken, especially the fried variations.

“Perfect” Three-Day Fries

I’m not sure why these are three-day fries, but they were relatively simple for Ludo’s standards. And that’s definitely not a bad thing; the fries exhibited a very nice crispiness while keeping a fluffy and moist interior…and hey, who doesn’t love fries with their fried chicken?

Honey Lavender Biscuit

Ludo’s honey lavender butter served at LudoBites 4.0 was one of the best butters I’ve ever had. Using this butter to create a moist, yet flaky biscuit – voila! A really great biscuit, and it was great to see Ludo’s take on this southern classic.

To wash this all down, the truck offers soda, water and two agua frescas. Pictured below is the strawberry-watermelon.

I really liked this. More watermelon than strawberry, it provided a very refreshing cleanser on this summer day.

The only other truck present was the Coolhaus truck, which offers some really good (and unique) ice cream sandwiches.

I really enjoy their ice cream sandwiches, and is there a better way to cap off a meal on a warm summer day in LA? Well, yes. I opted for another helping of the “chicken balls.” I couldn’t help it.

I was really happy to be able to enjoy this chicken once again; in fact, I had been looking forward to it for most of the week. It did not disappoint one bit, and I can’t wait for the LudoTruck to begin regular service!

Totoraku – 8/7/10

10610 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Some people know Totoraku as the “secret beef restaurant.” Others have no idea what it is. Likely the hardest reservation in Los Angeles, Totoraku is a non-descript “hidden” restaurant serving what many consider the best beef in the city. However, the restaurant does not serve steaks; rather, it specializes in yakiniku – grilled cuts of meat cooked over coals at your table. Given that I’m a beef lover, and that it’s consistently in the top LA restaurants on Yelp, it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a while.

The exterior signage of the restaurant says it’s a “teriyaki house,” which is kind of humorous since the restaurant is nothing like that. Unsuspecting passersby would not look twice at the rather plain awning and storefront.

Reservations are strictly limited to those with some sort of connection to the owner (which I didn’t have). Without a reservation, they won’t even let you in the door. So, when Kevin of kevinEats had a reservation opening to come here, I jumped at the chance.

The decor isn’t much; the focus is obviously on the food. Chef Kaz Oyama is quite the wine connoisseur, especially in French wines. He keeps an impressive collection of empty bottles on the ledge separating the kitchen and the dining room.

First up was a tray of bite-sized appetizers. Unfortunately I didn’t catch all of them in time, but it did include: fresh mozzarella, quail egg with caviar, asparagus with sansai and walnuts, steamed abalone, shrimp with zucchini, cantaloupe melon with prosciutto, sockeye salmon, black sesame tofu, and an Alaskan king crab gelee. I was a little surprised by this course, as it showed the chef’s creativity outside of Japanese cuisine, using some European flair (mostly French and Italian) to make some tasty bites.

Next up, let the beef begin!

Short Rib Carpaccio

Extremely tender, melt-in-your-mouth pieces of short rib. The thing you probably notice first is the extreme marbling – really a thing of beauty, and a common characteristic of all of the cuts we would have.

Seared Ribeye and Beef Throat Sashimi

The ribeye was very lightly seared, tender and flavorful – salt and pepper was all that was necessary. This was my first time having beef throat (shown on the right); Kevin pointed out that the portion shown here is made up of two cows. The throat is somewhat chewy (a change of pace from all of the other tender cuts), but exhibits a strong beefy flavor. I definitely enjoyed it.

House Smoked Tongue

This dish also caught me a bit by surprise; definitely something different. The meat was very good – deliciously smoky and extremely tender, without appearing overly fatty.

Steak Tartare topped with Quail Egg

I loved this dish. The beef, along with daikon, pea shoots and a quail egg are mixed up together. There’s a nice accent of sesame oil, which really brought everything together. Sliced apples (or pears?) added some sweetness and crunch. Good stuff.

After this dish, the grills came out and we knew it was time to cook up some beef!

With the grills came out a trio of dipping sauces – soy sauce, lemon juice and a tare sauce.

Beef Tongue

Slightly chewy with very nice marbling, these pieces were delicious. Chef Oyama sprinkled these with a large-crystallized sea salt and pepper.

Filet Mignon

As expected, these were very tender chunks of beef. Careful not to cook it too long, we were able to keep the meat pink in the center, yielding a pretty juicy and flavorful bite. Definitely one of the better pieces of tenderloin I’ve had in a while, as I often find the filets I have tender but lacking in great flavor.

Assorted Raw Vegetables

Zucchini, radish and carrots were cut up and left for the duration of the meal. All of these were fresh, crunchy, and provided a crisp, refreshing bite in between courses of rich meats.

Momotaru Tomatoes

These tomatoes were very ripe – yielding a deliciously sweet and juicy bite every time. This is the first time I’ve ever had these tomatoes to my knowledge – a great varietal. It was a treat to have something sweet to cleanse the palate in between courses.

Outside Ribeye

I love how Chef Oyama split up the outside “lip” of the ribeye and the inside, as they really are two distinctive cuts of meat. The outside, shown below being grilled, is much fattier and more tender.

Inside Ribeye

The inside of the ribeye is typically less marbled than the outside, and this was no exception. However, all of Chef Oyama’s cuts are spectacularly marbled, making this cut another extremely tender and flavorful piece of meat.

Short Rib

Again, some excellent marbling is displayed. At the risk of sounding like a broken record player, the short ribs were very tender with some good beef flavor.

Skirt Steak

The last meat on the menu was this skirt steak. A cheaper cut, I really like skirt steak, as it is typically a more marbled cut with some great flavor. No exception here. The soy marinade provided a nice sweetness to pair with the smokiness of the grill.

As we rounded out the beef dishes, we had the option of having seconds of some of our favorite cuts. These were:

Short Rib #2

We were told these were cut from a different part of the short rib. Look at that marbling! Really superb and noticeably more marbled than the last short rib course.

Inside Ribeye #2

Consistent with the first round of the inside ribeye – another tasty piece of meat.

Skirt Steak #2

This was actually one of my favorite cuts of the night, and the second round did not disappoint.

Short Rib Carpaccio

Like the first round, these melted in your mouth with a touch of scallions and daikon. This would be our final meat course of the night.


This soup was made of bamboo, bean sprouts, egg, shiitake mushrooms and spinach. You have the option of choosing the spiciness level of the soup. Medium was perfect for me. There’s a really deep, soul-satisfying flavor to this soup.

Assorted Ice Creams and Sorbets

The flavors available on this night, clockwise from the top: Blueberry sorbet, Pistachio ice cream (light green towards the back), Lychee sorbet, Espresso ice cream, and White Chocolate with Raspberry ice cream. Great selection here, and none were letdowns. My favorites were probably the refreshing lychee and intense espresso ice creams.

In all, I had a great meal. Having heard a lot about the restaurant, I came in with some pretty high expectations and the beef definitely did not disappoint. At close to $200 before tax and tip to enjoy this experience, it definitely cannot be a regular occurrence. However, it’s a very unique meal in LA, a great experience, and I would encourage all to go if given the chance…especially if you’re a meat lover like I am!