Archive for the 'Totoraku- West Los Angeles' Category

Totoraku – West Los Angeles

We took friends to Totoraku for their first experience.  I had warned them that there was zero ambiance, that it was run as a private club, that it was smoky and that basically it is beef and more beef.






Chef Kaz



Appetizer Plate

Melon and Prosciutto

Asparagus with walnut paste

Fresh White Turbot

Hard Boiled Quail Egg topped with Caviar


Broccoli and Blue Cheese

Fresh Bamboo Shoots

Sauteed Abalone

Pork gelee

Smoked Salmon Roll with avocado and sprouts






Beef Ribeye



Steak tartar – to be mixed by the diner



Beef Tongue (to be eaten with lemon sauce)

Ashima, Kaz’s wife now brings out the grill.



Filet Mignon with onion, pepper, mushrooms



The filet on the grill


Not pictured:

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

 “Salad” of cut up tomatoes



Outside of the Ribeye



Inside of the Ribeye






Skirt Steak


Not pictured – soup for me



Ice Cream


We BYO’d wine from my husband’s cellar. He picked unusual things that our friends might not have tasted before as they aren’t from the US.

NV – Gruet, Brut Blanc de Noirs, Albuquerque, New Mexico

2002 – Edi Jimiic, Chardonnay, Slovenia

200 – Pinot Noir, Santa Ynez Valley, Melville Vineyard, Lane Tanner, California

1988 – Ch. Cos D’Estournel, Saint Estephe, France

1992 – Ridge Vineyards, Cabernet Sauvignon, Montebello Santa Cruz Mountains, California

1988 – Essenia, California Muscat, Andreww Quady, Madera, California

The menu doesn’t change that much from one time to another so this is not the sort of place you would go to once a week. But Kaz and Ashima are wonderful hosts, the beef is superb and it remains an unique and wonderful experience.


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.





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.