It's been a long time.
Let's see, so in between the last time I blogged (not counting the J Gold map) and today, life's been...kind of busy. Between work, side projects, and you know...GETTING engaged, it's been crazy busy. It's a good thing twitter is a nice and simple platform for microblogging. Not to mention, my love affair with the Instagram iPhone app, blogging has almost become, dare I say, pointless?
But alas, sometimes it's just good to do some good ole writing and after today's visit to Aburiya Toranoko, the newest baby in Michael Cardenas' Downtown LA empire, I thought it'd be a good time to revive this blog. Well, let's not kid ourselves. I'll probably post again in 2012.
Anyhow, on to the next one.
The sushi bar at Aburiya Toranoko
So first things first, this is less a review and more a preview of what's available at Toranoko. I had the honor of being invited to friends and family night and we were given the opportunity to sample any and everything on the menu, gratis.
And as this was a preview night for friends and family, this really is not the right time to pass judgment, but as with my experience with Lazy Ox when it first opened, Cardenas runs a relatively tight ship on opening day.
In Michael's words, "Lazy Ox is rock, Toranoko is hip hop" and that is indeed the case when you walk in. Old school hip hop is playing through the sound system and setting the tone for the evening while a massive piece of street art by Prime, a downtown graffiti artist, adorns the north wall. A large mirror overhanging the bar allows you to play voyeur around the room. In the main room, there are tables and booths along the walls while the center is split by a giant communal table that can seat at least 24 people (I didn't count, so don't hold me to this.) The rear of the restaurant is the sushi joint, featuring a 10 seat bar with a mother tiger holding a baby tiger designed by Jiro of Onitsuka Tattoo. The art on the bar (which for some reason reminded me of an Ed Hardy t-shirt), is also a Jiro creation. If you had to make analogy, you could say that Toranoko is like a mullet, business in the front and party in the back. Or maybe it's just a party everywhere.
So what about the food? The menu is broken down into various sections. Apparently this only represents fifty percent of the menu, so like Lazy Ox, I expect that their menu will continually evolve and rotate through various dishes. For tonight's tasting, we sampled a few dishes from each category
Both were tasty. I loved the broth that the mushrooms were cooked in. If only I had a bowl of rice, I'd soak all that sauce right up.
Next up is the seafood section. In addition to its varied seafood list, Toranoko offers has a "catch of the day" and a "fish of the day."
Nothing like eating intestines. Another dish that would've been great with rice.
You can't go wrong with uni. The goma tofu was kind of crazy. When we ate it, it tasted like peanuts. The texture was a different from most other tofus I had. With the help of google, I discovered that goma tofu is in fact sesame tofu. The interplay between the unctuous uni, the goma tofu, and the saccharine sauce made for fantastic bites (I have no clue what I'm talking about here. I just figured I'd use some big cloying words.)
Moving right along, we made our way to the beef/pork/poultry section of the menu.
I believe tonight's meat was rib eye. Unlike most tonkatsu dishes, this was very tender and moist, as it should be with rib eye. The only gripe I could make was that it could use about about an ounce more of the tonkatsu sauce.
You can't go wrong with fried chicken. EVER.
We then made our way to the sumiyaki portion of the menu.
These were some big hearts. Both liver and tender were very tender.
Not as tender as I thought it'd be, although the table next to us that got it had more of a medium rare preparation.
For the motherfucking win. It's fried skin. Tell me where you could go wrong here.
Tender. As it should be. You know what they say, once you go dark meat...
I could easily order a dozen of these, but it'd cost me $60.
We close out the sumiyaki section with one of the more interesting items ever ordered outside of a dim sum joint.
First time I had pigs feet prepared over a grill. I'm more used to the pigs feet being braised until the cartilage and ligaments break down. Grilling the feet gave it a nice flavor, but it was definitely a lot chewier than I am used to. It's nice to see them take risks and put some pigs feet on the menu though.
On the current menu, Toranoko features six types of oden.
The odens are definitely on the lighter side of the palate and provide a nice counterbalance to a lot of the richer dishes on the menu.
And there's no way to eat with my fiance and not consider some rice/soups/noodles.
This was probably our favorite of the night. The braised pork belly just fell apart the moment your fork hit the meat. The daikon was rich and the broth savory. I'd argue this should be under the meats section though.
That is an assload of food, but guess what, we are not done.
Let's rock out with our...nevermind. Check out some of the sushi options available at Toranoko.
Whereas Lazy Ox featured a curated wine and beer selection, Toranoko expands on the wine selection while adding a pretty deep list of sake and cocktails.
And with all the gluttony out of the way, we moved on to the final two dishes of the night: dessert.
Absolutely loved the matcha flan. Then again, I love all things matcha.
So the verdict on Toranoko? It's a fun place. Michael and team have worked hard to create an inviting atmosphere where you can enjoy a night out, eat good food, and have fun. I suggest you go yourself and make your own determination. I love hip hop, so I love the atmosphere. If you don't love hip hop or want a quiet night, this might not be the best place, just as Ox isn't the best place for a quiet evening out. If you're looking for a fun lively environment that allows you to enjoy a good cocktail, sushi, izakaya and yakitori, then Toranoko might be right up your alley.
243. S. San Pedro St.
Los Angeles, CA
Bar open til 1:30am