The most exclusive? Well, so says the Huffington Post and Los Angeles Magazine and a whole host of others. Last year, I had a chance to check them out. I really hesitated at first, because exclusivity kind of bothers me. There's something about having to be someone "special" to enter an establishment that grates at my blue collar, Hawaii background....
And yet, I've always been in search of delicious food......
I was torn. In the end, my friend "C", Yummy Yummy, and Quanito ended up having dinner at Totoraku. The place where you have to know the chef, or have the recommendation of a customer. There's the magic business card with the secret number to call for reservations.
The story of the place is the thing of legend...... Kaz Oyama was working at Hide Sushi when a customer talked him into a partnership and opening a restaurant of his own. Unfortunately, Kaz lost all that money....he did open Teriyaki House Pico, which soon shuttered. This eventually led to Totoraku. And I've got to give it major props when it comes to a success story.
So let me say this about the whole experience. "Chef Kaz" is a joy, friendly, schmoozing...he loves his quality French Reds, so you probably should bring a bottle, since they don't have a liquor license. So, the $200 price of dinner doesn't include that. With that in mind, the place is a relative bargain.
You will knock on that door and someone will open it......just slightly, like some yakiniku speakeasy. You have to have reservations, otherwise it's goodbye.
The writer from LA Mag called the place a "kaiseki" style restaurant, which is to me is not quite true "light meals to ward of the pangs of an empty stomach" says Yoshihiru Murata, but not really.....I tend to consider the modern definition which incorporates fresh seasonal preparations and ingredients. Looking at it this way, other than the opening foray, which really looked like a major Hassun course, Totoraku is yakiniku.
This was a kind of hit and miss....some of the items were ice cold which killed the flavor. The shrimp with caviar was quite good.
The beef carpaccio was nice, except for the few pieces that were a bit too metallic for my taste.
I didn't care for the beef tataki, much too tough, not seared enough, and kind of bland for my taste.
However, the yukkwe may possibly be the best version I've ever had. The very clean flavor and texture was nicely cut by the Asian pear......it was tender, with richness from the egg yolk. This could easily be the best item of the night.
I will say, sone of it was quite good........outside and inside rib eye, some of it not to my liking....the gyutan, beef tongue was much too thick. But overall, it was a nice yakiniku selection.
For me the bookend dishes were what made the meal. Other than that, it was a nice yakiniku dinner.
What was kind of disturbing was the phone conversation we all overheard.
Apparently, a "regular" and most folks here were regulars, had a reservation for 12. According to what we heard, he wanted to add 4 four. So Kaz is talking to this guy, who I guess is quite "important"......after all, you literally survive on regulars, right? The solution? Kaz was cancelling a reservation for four, who "were first time here and from out of town." So let's think about this.......that would be us if we weren't already here. Someone had worked and finagled to arrange a meal here and you were going to cancel them for some flaky customer who wanted 16 instead of twelve? Oh well, it's Hollywood after all, right? There are those who are entitled and those who are not. What really struck me was this....we had reservations for 4....we were from out of town....it could have easily been us. The four of us looked at each with the "wow, that kind of stinks" look. And yet, I understand.......this facade of exclusiveness, it indeed cuts both ways.
I'm glad to have had the experience. It's just not the kind of place for me.......