Archive for November, 2008

An Incredible Food Blog and Book

This obsession with food and dining has some wonderful benefits. I have been fortunate to meet some extraordinary people. One of them is a remarkable man, Simon  Majumdar. Normally, my husband has an aversion to my “foodie” friends and will think of a dozen reasons to avoid my outings. However, he and Simon became fast friends and even organized their own outing to eat hot dogs and burgers at my husband’s favorite stand, Marty’s in West Los Angeles. Simon is knowledgeable, witty, personable, and can wax poetic about the humblest street food to the ultimate haute cuisine dining experience.

I do have a link to his site and highly recommend it.

Simon was also generous in his comments re this site and recommended it as one of the 10 best food blogs. See below:

He has just finished writing a book called Eat My Globe: One Year to Go Everywhere and Eat Everything.



I thank Simon for his acumen, his passion but most importantly for his friendship. However, my endorsement of Simon’s blog and “I can’t wait for his book” doesn’t reflect our friendship. Dining with Simon is a lesson for us all. He knows what he is talking about plus he brings honesty, intelligence and graciousness to those who work so hard in the restaurant industry.




We were suppose to have dinner at Comme Ca, but without going into detail, we left. Now it is Saturday night in Los Angeles and we have no reservations. We called Mako and Lisa couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. “Come on over; I can’t give you your favorite table by the window, but you are always welcome.”

We have known Mako and Lisa for years – Lisa was front of the house at Chinois and Mako was chef de cuisine. 

Mako has since opened two new restaurants – Luau in Beverly Hills and Robata-Ya on Sawtelle. He starts off at Mako and then checks in at Luau and sometimes finishes the evening at Robata-Ya.

We BYO’d our own wine.


Always nice to start off with Krug Champagne.



Crispy Oysters, minced tomatoes, black olives, basil – the oysters were deep-fried, light as air and delicious.



Yellowtail sashimi, yuzu sesame dressing – I really liked the addition of the vegetable rice roll with the sashimi. The sauce was delicious and the yellowtail as good as it gets.



The Chateau Guiraud white with the above course was a match made in heaven.



Diver Scallops and Baked Uni, Sea Urchin sauce – absolutely perfect


At this point Mako made the rounds of the dining room and left to go to Luau. Unfortunately, the next dish was a disaster.


Peking Duck, Crepes, Julienne Vegetables, Homemade Miso – the duck was so dry that it was inedible. The crepes were cold.


The accompaniments to the duck – the nuts were perfect.


As a comparison the first photo is the Peking duck we had at Bernard’s in Chestnut Hill, Mass and the second photo is Chinois’s Peking duck.





Chinois serves their duck with a bao that I prefer over the crepes, although the crepes at Bernard’s were fine as they were hot.



Red wine with the duck


When Mako is expediting, the kitchen is faultless. To Lisa’s credit we were not charged for the duck, but I have to wonder if Mako’s cuisine suffers when he is not there.

Fried Clams at Home

I am a nut case for fried clams with the belles. Living in Los Angeles, it is almost impossible to find decent fried clams. But, if you are having a major craving, I suggest you contact Ipswich Fish Market. It isn’t cheap, but you get a clam frying kit that actually works.

From their site:

Clam Frying Kit with “The Clam Box” Secret Recipe

“We think the best fried clams on earth are deep-fried at the Clam Box restaurant, located on route 1A in Ipswich, Massachusetts. Now you can make these delicious fried clams at home – anytime – with the Clam Box secret recipe! We’ve created a Clam Frying Kit including a corn flour mix, a plastic sifter, tartar sauce and one quart container of our own Ipswich Shellfish shucked clams. It’s easy. Simply place the clams in evaporated milk, drain, dredge in the secret corn flour mix and deep fry in vegetable oil. Serve hot and dip the delicate little morsels into tartar sauce. So good!”


delivered for $129.95


delivered for $189.95


delivered for $289.95

The only trick to making decent fried clams is to fry a small amount at a time. If you don’t, you get a clumpy mess.


 Fried Clams with the bellies at Home!



I now understand one of the reasons why Kaz has always kept his “restaurant” a secret club. Now that it has been discovered and so many bloggers rush to try it out, take pictures and then pile on their “take”, the experience at Totoraku is somehow lost in a jumble of critiques. Totoraku is not an exclusive club, but Kaz is very sensitive to the fact that not everyone will love it. Therefore, once you have come with a regular and obviously enjoy what he is doing, you are more than welcome to return.

Yes, it is expensive. Yes, it is bare bones decor. Yes, it is essentially just beef. But, it is fun and unique and something you share with good friends. It is not Providence, it is not Urasawa, it is not Spago, it is not Melisse, it is not Sona. You eat what Kaz “cooks” and Ashima, his wife so aptly serves. But, if you just enjoy yourself, let Kaz do his thing and bring good wine, you will have a wonderful time.

A new to me decor 


Dice K, the Boston red Sox player always comes to Totoraku when he is town – a present from him.



My guess is Ashima, Kaz’s wife, did this arrangement.



The decor


The wonderful Kaz



Appetizer plate


From left to right

Alaskan King Crab “jello”

Steamed Abalone served with zenmai (Japanese mountain vegetable) and tofu topped with gold flake.

 Tomato and Ricotta Cheese topped with a bit of basil

Cantaloupe and Prosciutto

Lobster Salad with seaweed, spinach and jellyfish

Smoked Salmon Roll with avocado and sprouts

Asparagus with walnut paste 

Hard Boiled Quail Egg topped with Caviar  

Fuyu Persimmon Salad with marinated tofu, corn, mountain yams, corn, French green beans 


 Beef Tataki & Beef Throat Sashimi – absolutely extraordinary. Ashima instructed us to use just the soy sauce and add either ginger or garlic to the sauce. I added neither as the beef was so perfect that I didn’t think it needed one additional component. The beef tataki had been lightly seared and again needed nothing additional.



 Beef Tartare – unlike “normal” beef tartare, this was strips of beef with a raw egg yolk, daikon and  ???? This is to be mixed by the diner and absolutely delicious.


Beef Liver – I hate liver. When I even eat chopped chicken liver, I use a dozen hard-boiled eggs for about 1/2 pound of liver. This has no relationship to liver – it is sensuous, delicious and just melt in your mouth “goodness.”

Now Ashima sets up the grill – as there were six of us, we had 2 grills.



Given that there were 6 of us and lots of wine, lots of glasses, I apologize in advance for photos through wine glasses etc. I didn’t want picture-taking to overshadow the pure enjoyment of the evening.



Filet Mignon with onion, pepper, mushrooms




 – a bowl of veggies – carrots, lettuce, cucumber, cabbage with a small bowl of miso dipping sauce or more like a paste.



There was also a “salad” of cut up tomatoes



Outside of the Rib Eye – just seasoned with salt and pepper



 Inside of the Rib Eye – marinated



 Short Ribs


  Skirt Steak



 This was described as beef used for shabu shabu grilled



 Soup – I asked for mine mild. One dining companion requested spicy and be forewarned it was very spicy.

Not pictured ice cream for dessert 

BYO Wine:
Krug NV

Fx Pichler Riesling from Austria..2006

1999 Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Montebello (Magnum)

Pierre Usseglio 2005 chateauneuf de Pape

1885 Madiera

What a wonderful evening with the ever gracious Kaz and Ashima. Our guests were equally wonderful and as I mentioned at the beginning, relax, have fun and just let the experience take you for an unique ride.





Providence Saturday night at the Chef’s table with 4 friends was wonderful. Chef Mike is just getting better and better. I have a major problem with a lot of extraneous ingredients on the plate and what distinguishes Providence’s cuisine is the “editing.”



From left to right – Mojito Raviolo, Gin and Tonic with Lime and Greyhound Vodka Raviolo – the liquid raviolo is made with two chemical agents sodium alginate and calcium chloride. Rob of the Hungry in Hogtown blog writes, “sodium alginate, which is derived from seaweed, is a common emulsifier and thickener in the food industry…. When sodium alginate meets calcium chloride, the sodium ions in the alginate are replaced by calcium ions, thus creating a polymer skin that holds everything inside.” 


First course 


Shima Aji, Shiso, Wasabi oil, lime, microgreens – absolutely delicious – 


Second Course


Uni, Cauliflower Mousse, White Truffle, Crispy Buckwheat, Chive – I have said it a million times that I am an absolute sucker for good uni preparations.  This was super with very fresh uni, great texture contrast – smooth mousse and crunchy buckwheat plus truffles – what more could one ask for.


Third Course


Hokkaido Scallop, Hachiya Persimmon Puree, Pink Grapefruit, Watermelon Radish, Compressed Cucumber, Wasabi, American Caviar – just a superb combination of flavors. The scallop sat on top of the grapefruit slice adding a citrus note, the persimmon puree was a definite dominant flavor (perfect for me as I love Hachiya persimmon), salty component from the caviar and the scallop was just as fresh as fresh could be.


Fourth Course


 From left to right

Squid cooked sous vide with mizuna and slow roasted tomato, squid tendril, Monterey Bay Abalone cooked sous vide, Artichoke, Balsamic, Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 3 perfect pieces of fish with no extraneous ingredients.

Fifth Course


Crispy Sweetbreads, Parsnip Puree, Shimeji Mushrooms, Almond, Truffle Fondue, Maine Lobster, Frisee, Quail Egg – many times meat and fish dishes can be a disaster, but what made this dish work were the unifying accompaniments – the truffle fondue, the quail egg and some of the best shimeji mushrooms I have tasted. I was tempted to ask for an extra side dish of mushrooms!


Sixth Course

King Crab Legs wrapped in Kelp,  roasted in salt, Yuzu Kosmo Butter – This took Donato quite some time to prep tableside





Donato is adorable.





Crab legs plated with the off the charts Yuzu Kosmo Butter

Seventh Course


Japanese Rouget, Applewood Smoked Bacon, Salsify, Rosemary, Sauce Vin Rouge – Perfectly cooked fish with absolutely glorious crunchy skin and a sauce that would make Escoffier proud.


Eighth Course


A-5 Kobe Beef, Musque de Provence Pumpkin, Bone Marrow, Pea tendrils  – I was getting a bit full and saved a tiny piece of Kobe to eat the next day. My neighbor is raising chickens so with freshly laid eggs and a tiny slice of real Kobe, the leftovers were marvelous. I wouldn’t have minded an extra bit of bone marrow.


Certificate of authenticity


Ninth Course



Cheese – my favorite were the epoisse spoons


Palate Cleanser


 Celery Sorbet – this was the only loser of the night – awful


Ninth Course


Walnut Ricotta Torte with Crème Fraiche Ice Cream


BYO Wine Selections


1997  Soter Beacon Hill Blanc de Blanc, Oregon Sparkling Wine

1998  Corton Charlemagne, Domaine Marius Delarche

1999  Corton Charlemagne, Domaine Marius Delarche 

1983  Hermitage, M. Chapoutier

1998  Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine Combier

2003  Inniskillin Ice Wine, Niagara Peninsula,Canada, Vidal


What a wonderful dinner with perfect company, great service and incredible food.