Totoraku

I have tried to describe the room as bare bones minimalist and funky, but I think the photos do a better job than just words. Notice the wine bottles on top of the wall that separates the kitchen from the dining area, the tatami screens that shield you from the other diners, the fluorescent lighting, the prints of Hollywood stars from a by-gone era and the exposed pipes.

Ashima, Kaz’s wife, is the only server and she graciously showed us to our regular table right next to the entrance of the kitchen closed off by a canvas curtain. We had brought our own wine as well as wine glasses.

Appetizer Plate – A potato salad on a thin slice of cucumber topped with a deep fried anchovy “wafer”, eel on a tofu cube, asparagus with walnut paste, melon and proscuitto, hard boiled quail egg half with caviar, vegetable gelee “terrine”, tomato with mozzarella cubes and seaweed, yellowtail sashimi, baby octopus and a smoked salmon roll wrapped in daikon with avocado.


Thinly sliced Beef Sashimi from the throat. Since there were 4 of us, this came from 2 cows instead of just one.


Beef Steak Tartar. I am not sure you can tell from the picture, but the beef was cut into thin strips about 1½ inches long and ¼ inch wide, which served to intensify the beef experience. As before, the tartar is mixed by the diner.



Beef Liver Sashimi. I am not a fan of liver and was expecting to not enjoy this. Was I wrong – the taste had no resemblance to liver as I had anticipated. It was luxurious, unctuous and in a word delicious.



Ashima then set the hibachi in the center of the table. At first, it was not hot enough, but with some adjusting from Ashima, all was right with the world. Now, it is beef orgy as platter after platter of beef is presented and the diner does his own cooking – rare being the optimum choice.



Some of the beef dishes are served in its pristine state and some are marinated. Depending on the cut as well as how it is “prepared”, we are instructed which sauce to use with each cut.

Beef Tongue – the only dipping sauce to be used is lemon.



“Regular” Ribeye with onions, mushrooms and peppers

Ashima then presents a marinated tomato salad and a plate of raw vegetables with miso paste (I think) that helps to cut the beef overload.

“Inside” of the Ribeye


Around this time a bowl of rice is presented.

Short ribs


Skirt Steak

 

Ice Cream

I am not an expert on beef and the various cuts, but what is extraordinary about this meal is the marked differences in flavor from one cut to the other. Hopefully, I have identified the cuts properly. The quality of the beef is just extraordinary and does come from an American rancher. I also should mention that I am not a beef person and generally prefer fish and small amuse type dishes in the style of Keller or Kinch, but for some reason I find the experience atTotoraku very satisfying. It is not something that I would want to do on a weekly basis, but it is a spectacular way to fully appreciate beef in all its guises.

Wines for the evening

1.  ’00  Boisson Renard, Puilly fume, Dagueneau…classic Dagueneau flavor, forward and assertive…clean, perfect finish.

2.  ’00 Y. Gangloff, Cotie Rotie, La Barbarine–great, dense, full bodied Rhone.  It doesn’t get any better.

3. ’97 Ridge Mataro, this classic Mudeverde, was very well made and perfectly aged in our cellars.   It was very fullbodied and assertive, great flavors.

All in all, a wonderful evening with great company, food, and wine.

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