Jewelz What are we doing today?

26Jan/117

Aburiya Toranoko

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.

Sushi bar at Aburiya Toranoko
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.

The bar at Aburiya Toranoko
I see you

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

Vegetables

Nasu Dengaku baked in two ways, with white and red miso
Nasu Dengaku baked in two ways, with white and red miso

New Union farms sizzling mushroom with red cheddar cheese tobanyaki
New Union farms sizzling mushroom with red cheddar cheese tobanyaki

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."

House made shiokara marinated intestines
House made shiokara marinated intestines

Nothing like eating intestines. Another dish that would've been great with rice.

Yanagita seafarms uni goma tofu
Yanagita seafarms uni goma tofu

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.

Filet katsu meat of the day
Filet katsu meat of the day

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.

Jidori fried chicken with oroshi sesame
Jidori fried chicken with oroshi sesame

You can't go wrong with fried chicken. EVER.

We then made our way to the sumiyaki portion of the menu.

Liver and Heart Sumiyaki
Liver and heart

These were some big hearts. Both liver and tender were very tender.

Tender beef sumiyaki
Tender beef

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.

Chicken skin sumiyaki
Chicken skin

For the motherfucking win. It's fried skin. Tell me where you could go wrong here.

chicken thigh sumiyaki
Chicken thigh

Tender. As it should be. You know what they say, once you go dark meat...

New Zealand lamp chops
New Zealand lamp chops

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.

IMG_1341
Tonsoku

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.

Yamamura farms daikon radish oden
Yamamura farms daikon radish oden

Chino Valley ranchers tamago egg
Chino Valley ranchers tamago egg

Mochi kinchaku rice cake
Mochi kinchaku rice cake

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.

Manila clams asari miso soup
Manila clams asari miso soup

Colorado black pork kakuni braised

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.

Binchou Maguro
Bincho Maguro

Ikura
Ikura

Toro with Japanese Pickles
Toro with Japanese Pickles

Sake and Hamachi
Sake and Hamachi

Uni
Uni

Ama ebi
Ama ebi

Hotate
Hotate

Soft shell crab
Soft shell crab

Awabi
Awabi

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.

Fuji Aspen
Fuji Aspen: Absolute Citron, Germain, Apple Juice, Apple Slice, Mint, Lemon

Makers Mark BBQ
Makers Mark BBQ. Makers Mark, antica, peychaud bitters, aberol, hint of bbq sauce

Ginger Dream
Ginger Dream: ginger infused vodka, canton, ginger, ginger beer, champagne

IMG_1342
Toranoko Bloody Mary: bacon infused bodka, wasabi, and yuzu infused bloody mary mix

And with all the gluttony out of the way, we moved on to the final two dishes of the night: dessert.

Flourless chocolate cake
Flourless chocolate cake

Matcha flan
Matcha flan

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.

Aburiya Toranoko
243. S. San Pedro St.
Los Angeles, CA
Sun-Thur: 5p-11pm
Fri-Sat: 5p-midnite
Bar open til 1:30am

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Comments (7) Trackbacks (2)
  1. Nice to see you blogging again! And I like the sound/feel of this place. A little funky, good food. That uni/tofu combo sounds amazeballs!

  2. I must go soon! Great pics!! I was super jealous of you and C last night!

  3. Blogging is not pointless! I can’t keep up with y’all on Twitter! LOL.

  4. looks gooood! japanese food at little tokyo can be a little boring, but this looks like a lot of fun.

  5. You didn’t eat at Lazy Ox right after? Weak.

  6. all of this looks AMAZING!! and the one i want the most is the clams in miso lol. you cant even see the fricking clams! BUT I WANT!

  7. oohh…i like mullets :0

    sounds like a fun place. can’t go wrong with fun.


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