Location: 9669 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. (310) 275-2914
Date: July 12, 2016
Cuisine: Wagyu Yakiniku
Rating: Like eating silk and gold
Totoraku, the ultimate Japanese Korean BBQ place evidently has a new challenger in town.
Yazawa is branch of a Japanese restaurant spun out from a super high end butcher. They serve up a variety of Yakiniku (Japanese take on KBBQ) done primarily with genuine A-5 Black Wagyu cows from Japan. The frontage is located on tony Little Santa Monica deep in Beverly Hills.
The menu, which takes a bit of time to explain the cow.
For wine tonight, as there were four of us, and the corkage steps up after 4 bottles, we just opened one each — but they were good ones:
Larry brought: 1996 Lynch Bages. Parker 90-93. The 1996 exhibits a dark plum/ruby/purple color that is just beginning to lighten at the edge, surprisingly velvety tannins and a classic Pauillac bouquet of lead pencil shavings, cedarwood, black currants, sweet cherries and spice box. This medium to full-bodied, elegant, savory, broad wine is still five years away from full maturity. It should continue to drink well for another 10-15 years.
From my cellar: 1996 Mouton-Rothschild. Parker 94-96. This estate’s staff believes that the 1996 Mouton-Rothschild is very complex. I agree that among the first-growths, this wine is showing surprising forwardness and complexity in its aromatics. It possesses an exuberant, flamboyant bouquet of roasted coffee, cassis, smoky oak, and soy sauce. The impressive 1996 Mouton-Rothschild offers impressive aromas of black currants, framboise, coffee, and new saddle leather. This full-bodied, ripe, rich, concentrated, superbly balanced wine is paradoxical in the sense that the aromatics suggest a far more evolved wine than the flavors reveal. Anticipated maturity: 2007-2030. By the way, the 1996 blend consists of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, and 8% Cabernet Franc.
Erick brought: 1989 Mouton-Rothschild. Parker 90-92. Considering the vintages and the estate, Mouton’s performances in 1989 and 1990 are puzzling. I have tasted these wines multiple times since my last reviews appeared in print. The 1989 Mouton-Rothschild is the superior wine, but in no sense is this a compelling wine if compared to the Moutons produced in 1995, 1986, and 1982. The 1989 displays a dark ruby color that is already beginning to reveal significant lightening at the edge. The bouquet is surprisingly evolved, offering up scents of cedar, sweet black fruits, lead pencil, and toasty oak. This elegant, medium-bodied restrained wine is beautifully made, stylish, and not dissimilar to the 1985. It is an excellent to outstanding Mouton that should be close to full maturity in 4-5 years; it will drink well for 15-20.
Walker brought: 1989 Penfolds Grange. Parker 93. A very hedonistic, almost decadent style of Grange, this blend of 91% Shiraz and 9% Cabernet Sauvignon from three grape sources – Kalimna in the Barossa, Penfolds’ other sources in the Barossa, and McLaren Vale – is a gorgeously opulent, almost Pomerol-like Grange with an over-ripe characteristic to the fruit. Cherry liqueur intermixed with cranberry and cassis presented in a seductive, full-bodied, very soft, forward style is truly not the classic Grange in the sense of having huge structure and massive concentration, but this wine is loaded, very corpulent, and fleshy. The wine is going to last for up to two decades, but it will be uncommonly succulent and delicious to drink young, as it was several months ago. Among the young vintages of Grange, this is perhaps the most flattering wine that they have produced over the last 20 years, at least for such a relatively young wine. Anticipated maturity: now-2018.
Wagyu toro sushi. This is raw beef nigiri style. And because of the vinegared sushi rice it pretty much tasted like toro!
Meat plate 1. And so begin the cuts of wagyu, ready to grill up. There is one piece each, served in pairs with a light sweet sauce, a “bbq” sauce that is pretty standard for yakaniku (slightly sweet soy), and a egg sauce (more on that later).
First up is the Ranboso (round) from the cow’s rump.
Maki-loin (rib eye). A very evenly marbled cut.
Nakaniku (rump). This is down below the tail, sort of cow ass. Look at that fat striping! And cooked it was ridiculously soft and unctuous. I actually preferred the leaner cuts.
After all that meat we decided to “fill up” on some carb dishes.
Japanese Wagyu curry rice. Minced Japanese wagyu curry rice with an egg. This was certainly the best curry rice I’ve had — and I love curry rice. The egg upped the richness but it was the depth of flavor of the curry itself that won out. I just missed the red pickles.
Cold Tan Tan Noodle. Sesame and chile ramen. Since I’m such a dan dan fiend, I figured I’d try this. Not like Chinese dan dan at al. Pleasant enough, with a touch of heat and a cool sesame vibe, but not the hot nutty intensity I was looking for. Still, that would have been weird.
The service at Yazawa was absolutely first rate. Not only did they explain the menu in detail, and cook some of the meat (they will cook however much or little as you like), but they were highly attentive, changing out the grill after every course and the like. Colin, who helped us, was highly knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and like a wagyu evangelist.
The food itself was uniformly excellent. All the meat was super fresh and “clean” (if super rich as well). The taste was lovely, although different, richer, and less beefy than Totoraku. Is it better? Just different, as this is just such a different type of meat. Both are fabulous.
The atmosphere was nice, but the format is a bit rigid with their fixed 4 person tables. And those tables don’t have much extra space at that. I had to keep my wines on a seat, my camera between me and the next guy, and constantly juggle around my (only) two wine glasses and other stuff. They need larger tables for our kinds of groups and they need MUCH larger tables with multiple grills for parties larger than 4. It’s also a general restaurant, and therefore doesn’t offer the “taking over the house” factor that is one of Totoraku’s many charms.
The wine thing at Yazawa is weird. There are nice beers and sake, but the red wine selection is tiny. Not too great too. And oddly, looking around, we saw only one other table with any red wine at all — and just one glass! Most of the tables were Asian women, which is a bit odd for such a meat focused place. This combines with a very rigid corkage policy. Thankfully they don’t limit the number of bottles brought in, but they have an escalating corkage of $35/$35/$50/$50/$70/$80 and then maybe even more. I’m not one of those that argues for no corkage at fine restaurants. The $35×2/$50 would be steep but fine, but going above $50 is always insulting. And to boot, they don’t have anything on their list! A $50 corkage is a flat $50 of profit to the restaurant. It’s way more lucrative than any wine on the list under a $100. Why complain? Why try to massage the system to irritate or exclude “wine guys”? It just doesn’t make sense. And for a restaurant that specializes in high end meat? What better excuse to drink first growths and the like?
Overall, Yazawa was so tasty that I’d certainly go back. It’s expensive but way more repeatable than the high end tempura. But we are limited to 4 people by the tables and the wine rules, so it only fits certain circumstances.