Monday, August 24, 2009

The Secret Beef Place

Totoraku. "The Secret Beef" restaurant. For so long I can only imagine this ultimate yakiniku experience, but thanks to the people I met through food blogging, last year I finally got my way in. Since then I've been to Totoraku twice, though have yet to blog about it, with it being "secret" and all. Then people pointed out that it's on Yelp and Urbanspoon so it's not much of a secret (though you still can't just go on your own), so I shouldn't feel bad about blogging it ...

We got our way in through a professor of KevinEats and our group of 12, organized by Will of Fooddigger eagerly gathered one Friday night. With wine, of course, as the place is corkage fee-free. The chef owner of Totoraku is a huge wine connoisseur and patrons are expected to share the wine they bring with him during the meal -- and make sure it's a good wine.

With that introduction and also the fact that some of us were big wine people anyway, no one wanted to be the only one not bringing the wine, for our group of twelve, we ended up with 12 bottles of wine and 1 bottle of daiginjo sake.
Oh don't worry, we finished everything by the end of the night. Though it did result in one of us having a little "accident" in my living room (should I say who? :P )

First came a plate of selected appetizers: Cantaloupe and Prosciutto, Asparagus and Walnuts, Lobster Salad, King Crab Gelée, Sockeye Salmon, Quail Egg with Caviar, Japanese Persimmon Salad, Momotaro Tomato and Ricotta Cheese, Steamed Abalone.

All of the appetizers were excellent, but my favorite was the lobster salad.

Meat-wise we worked our way up starting from the raw beef. First up were the beef tataki and beef throat sashimi.
The beef throat sashimi was one of the most memorable dishes I had there. It had a great texture - rather on the chewy side. We were told it took one and a half cows to make that little bowl you see up there.

Beef tartar with pine nuts and pear.
On my second visit, I took PepsiMonster along, and he claimed that this was the best steak tartar he's ever had. The fresh, quality beef, along with the other components of the dish work together perfectly.

On our first visit, we also had the fortune of sharing some Culatello that was brought back from Italy by our very own Potential Gold, who spent quite some time learning the cuisine there.

After the tartar, our yakiniku fun began.

#1. Tongue.
This was one of the most tender cuts of tongues we've had, and as the night goes on this becomes a general trend with the other cuts of meat - more tender than usual, full of flavor. Just amazing.

We grilled all the meat on one of these table-top charcoal grills.

With the meat, we were also served some marinated Momotaro tomatoes.
Oh, it was only the best tomatoes I've ever had in my life. The same was true on my second visit. These tomatoes are ridiculously sweet and juicy. It's rather funny that I go to a secret beef place and the tomatoes are what I remember the most.

#2. Filet mignon with onions, mushrooms, peppers
As with sushi, we move from the leaner cuts of meat towards the fattier one here.

#3. Inside rib eye

#4. Outside rib eye (Rib Eye Cap)
I thought I took photos of everything, but I guess not? Anyway ... I love rib eye cap and the one at Totoraku takes the crown. Tender, flavorful, with just the right amount of fat.

The meat came with a bowl of vegetables and a nice spicy miso dipping paste - most of us filled ourselves up just with carrot sticks dipped in this miso paste.

#5. Short rib.
The short rib here is unmarinated, unlike what you find at most Korean bbq places, because really, if you have a high quality of meat such as you most certainly do at Totoraku, you don't need to marinate short ribs!

#6. The finale was marinated skirt steak.
I actually adore skirt steaks because it is one of the most flavorful cuts of meat, but I know most people don't like it much because it tends to be a tougher cut. At Totoraku this was not at all a problem - the skirt steak here was so tender, yet retains the flavorfulness.

The savory part of the meal ends with a bowl of Kuppa Soup
This is a slightly spicy soup with rice, egg, and vegetables. A nice way to end the meal and settle our stomachs down a bit.

No meal is complete without dessert though, or at least a palate cleanser. We had a selection of ice cream and sorbet: pistachio ice cream, lychee sorbet, blueberry sorbet, coffee ice cream, and white chocolate/raspberry ice cream
Even the ice cream and sorbet are excellent. Everyone had their own favorites here, but since I'm a big fan of blueberry, naturally that was my favorite. The coffee ice cream was also ridiculously good though ...

Totoraku pawns other yakiniku/bbq places in town hands down, but at a heftier price of $180 per person at the end of tax and tips. Not cheap enough for most of us to go regularly, but if you can get in and can fork the dough, this is an experience worth trying at least once.

Address and phone number? Well, it's kind of a secret. You at least have to work for it.
Totoraku Teriyaki House Pico on Urbanspoon
Totoraku in Los Angeles

For a more detailed review of the same meal, check out Kevin's post.



I believe the L337 spelling is "Totoraku pwns other yakiniku."

I had a little trouble figuring out which dishes were in your first visit and which was in your second. Did you get served the same things?


You're right, I should correct my spelling :P

All the dishes pictured here are from the first visit. The 2nd visit was almost the same. The appetizers and soups were different and also we got tongue sashimi :)

Right Way to Eat

Funniest thing is...I still would make the claim. It is the best steak tartare I have ever had. I could have that dish twice all by myself and still feel good about it.

I gotta get in to Totoraku again. Very soon!

Thanks again for getting me in!

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