Restaurant: Totoraku [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 10610 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064.
Date: October 22 & 23, 2013
Cuisine: Japanese Yakiniku
Rating: Best beef in town!
About twice a year my Hedonist group takes over Totoraku. It serves a very refined version of Japanese Yakiniku, which is Beef BBQ originally from Korea but filtered through Japanese sensibility.
Last spring, we took the whole restaurant with 28 people, but the evening was total chaos (albeit fun chaos), and this time we decided to split it into two nights. The first night (which I attended) was 13 people, oriented toward the heavy hitters wine wise, and the second night was about 18-19 with some non drinkers. Still, there were some pretty incredible wines that night too.
Everyone brings a wine vetted by the group and the standard is very high at this event, basically close to 100 points, high pedigree, age, or some combination thereof. As you’ll see, we really tore it up and in terms of scale and wine this was the most epic Hedonist event yet.
The outside is basically a shell. The “Teriyaki House” has nothing to do with the food within, and the phone number is incorrect. The place is like a beef speakeasy!
NV Krug Grande Cuvee. Parker 91-95. The NV Brut Grande Cuvee emerges from the glass with freshly cut flowers, almonds, pastry and spices. This is a relatively floral, bright Grande Cuvee with fewer of the oxidative qualities that are typical of the house style. According to Krug’s ID Code, this bottle is based on the 2004 vintage, which explains the wine’s tense, taut personality. Another year or two on the cork will only help the wine gain expressiveness and depth. Today, the Grande Cuvee is quite reticent and not showing the full breadth of its personality.
1987 Joseph Swan Vineyards Chardonnay Estate Bottled. A bit oxidized. Drinkable, more or less.
1970 Charles Krug Winery (Peter Mondavi Family) Zinfandel. Surprisingly fresh.
Shrimp with endive and caviar. Little okra’s to the left front of them.
1970 Château Haut-Brion. Parker 85. Although surprisingly light-bodied, consistently pleasant and enjoyable, this is an undistinguished effort. The 1970 Haut-Brion has always come across as angular, and lacking the exceptional perfume and complexity this estate can achieve. In this tasting, the wine displayed vegetal, tobacco scents, good spice, some fruit, and a medium ruby color with significant amber. The tannin and acidity were too high for the amount of fruit, glycerin, and extract. Drink it up.
Salmon wrapped in daikon, stuffed with avocado and other vegetables.
Octopus and tomatoes. And in the front, black sesame tofu.
In the front, mushrooms. In the orange thing, tomato salad.
A very soft gelatinous thing that probably had some crab in it.
1983 Joseph Phelps Insignia. 94 points. Transparent ruby. Bit of Madeira on an otherwise rich and complex nose. Focused with gorgeous acidity, fruit and length. Another marvelous mature insignia!
Beef carpaccio with special salt, flowers, and some onion family derivative. Very yummy. This is eaten raw.
Two kinds of beef sashimi, eaten nearly raw. On the left beef tataki (rib eye) and on the right (in the cup) beef throat sashimi. Also on the plate is a bit of Korean style hot sauce (the red stuff), some intensely strong garlic (yum) and micro julienned ginger.
The throat was very chewy, more about texture. The rib eye soft and more flavorful. All went well with the garlic and ginger — I particularly liked the garlic.
From my cellar: 1991 Chapoutier Ermitage le Pavillon. Parker 100. This is a Le Pavilion of mythical proportions. Produced from extremely old vines, some dating from the mid-nineteenth century, with yields averaging under 15 hectoliters per hectare, this is the richest, most concentrated and profound wine made in Hermitage. The 1991 Ermitage Le Pavilion follows the pattern of the 1989 and 1990-it is another perfect wine. The saturated black/purple color is followed by a compelling bouquet of spices, roasted meats, and black and red fruits. Enormously concentrated yet with brilliant focus and delineation to its awesomely endowed personality, this extraordinary wine should age effortlessly for three plus decades. Very powerful and full, yet displaying silky tannin, this is a seamless beauty! Anticipated maturity: 2001-2035.
A raw beef dish. Marinated raw beef is seen here with ginger, raw egg, cucumber, daikon, pine nuts, and something orange. Apparently, this is a Korean dish called Yukhoe. Actually, I’ve had it at Korean places, but in any case it’s delicious.
The elements are mixed together and then eaten. It’s hard to describe why it’s so good, but it is, with a very complex flavor and texture interplay.
1994 Penfolds Grange. Parker 91. This is the first vintage where Grange went to a bottle with laser-etched identification numbers to preclude the possibility of fraudulent bottles. The wine, a blend of 89% Shiraz and 11% Cabernet Sauvignon, shows some toasty oak mixed with notes of root vegetables, damp earth, blackberry liqueur, prune, and licorice. The wine is dense, full-bodied, not terribly complex in the mouth, but layered and rich. I would not be surprised to see the rating on this wine improve as this youthful Grange continues to evolve.
Beef tongue with salt. After cooking, you dip it in lemon juice.
1993 Guigal Cote Rotie la Landonne. Parker 88. The great glories of this house are its Cote Roties, of which there are now five separate offerings. The 1993s, which have just come on the marketplace, are from a troublesome vintage for everyone in Cote Rotie, rivaling 1984 in difficulty. Nevertheless, the single-vineyard wines have turned out well. As for the single vineyard wines, they are all excellent in 1993, but more herbaceous and clearly marked by the green pepper smells of slightly underripe Syrah. The most tannic of the three famous single vineyards is the 1993 Cote Rotie La Landonne. It is amazingly powerful and rich for the vintage, and reveals more fruit and intensity than it did prior to bottling. It exhibits a saturated ruby color, and copious amounts of pepper, tar, olives, licorice, and black cherry fruit in the nose. It remains the most muscular and structured of the three wines, and has managed to avoid the hollowness and vegetal character that plague so many 1993 northern Rhones. This Cote Rotie should age gracefully for a decade or more.
Filet Mignon with bell peppers, onions, and sisho pepper.
1996 Guigal Cote Rotie la Landonne. Parker 93-96. The 1996 Cote Rotie La Landonne is a wine with tremendous intensity and tannin, as well as a pronounced roasted herb, smoked meat, and Asian spice-scented nose with tell-tale black fruits, melted tar, and truffle notions in the background. Rich, powerful, and massive, this effort will require 3-4 years of cellaring, and will last for two decades.
The “salad.” Cucumbers, carrots, daikon. They are served with this spicy sweet miso dip. The vegetables do help to move along the fat and protein heavy meat.
2002 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Parker 94. One of the best wines of the vintage, this is a classic Pauillac that is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot. Dense ruby/purple in color with a glorious nose of melted licorice, lavender, barbecue smoke, black currants, and graphite, the wine is tannic, classically structured with an opaque ruby/purple color, beautiful definition, and a 1996-ish personality. This deep, full-bodied, elegant yet powerful 2002 should age handsomely for over two decades. Some patience will be required since this vintage exhibits more muscle and virility than normal.
Momotaro tomatoes with a vinaigrette. These are supposedly incredibly good tomatoes, as a hater, I didn’t try them. I think Oyama-san gets them from some special place in Orange Country.
2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falletto. Parker 96. Giacosa’s 2004 Barolo Falletto is so compelling it will be hard not to drink it in its youth. This gorgeous Barolo reveals a deeply structured frame layered with sweet dark fruit, mint, spice and pine. At once delicate and powerful, it is a beautifully finessed wine that is sure to provide much pleasure. A recent bottle of the 1982 is a testament to the virtues of this great site as interpreted by Bruno Giacosa.
My first time having this dish. Marinated duck.
The duck grilling. This was a lovely addition to the collection of meats.
1992 Bryant Family Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Parker 91. Over the next year readers should be on the lookout for some of the 1,000 case production of Don Bryant’s Cabernet Sauvignon from an old vineyard on Pritchard Hill near the Chappellet Vineyard. Bryant’s 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon offers an impressive black/purple color, rusty tannin, immense concentration, full body, and enormous richness in the finish.
Outside rib eye with special salt and garlic.
The outside rib eye on the grill.
1999 Greenock Creek Shiraz Roennfeldt Road. Parker 98. There are 236 cases of the 1999 Shiraz Roennfeldt Road (also from 65-year-old vines). Although it pushes ripeness to the limit, it does not reveal any raisiny/pruny characteristics. It offers wonderful freshness, good acidity, superb intensity, and copious quantities of blackberry, cassis, crushed rock, floral, and spicy new oak notes. Massive and concentrated with perfect equilibrium, it can be drunk now and over the next 25 years. Kudos to one of the world’s finest wine producers!
The inside rib eye on the grill.
2002 Marquis Philips Shiraz Integrity. Parker 94-99. Deep garnet-brick colored, the 2002 Integrity is a 100% Shiraz that displays evolved leather and tobacco notes intermingled with some meaty and gamey aromas and nuances of coffee, olives and underbrush. Full bodied, it has a coffee flavors in the mouth, medium levels of velvety tannins, and a medium-high acid backbone. It finishes long with notes of eucalyptus showing through. It is drinking now.
“Special” beef. I think it was a form of sirloin. It was certainly good, very salted.
2009 Hundred Acre Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Few And Far Between. Parker 94. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Few and Far Between Vineyard has developed beautifully since I last tasted it from barrel. Mocha, espresso, exotic spices and orange peel all come together in this inviting, multi-dimensional Cabernet Sauvignon. Totally alive in the glass, the wine is constantly changing, and reveals different sides of its personality with each taste. Hints of sweet red berries and cloves add complexity on the long, polished finish.
You have to special order the lamb, which like all of Kaz’s meats, is pretty wonderful.
2009 Schrader Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon RBS To Kalon Vineyard. Parker 96. The 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon RBS Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard comes across as dark, plush and inviting, but with greater inner focus and minerality than some of the other wines here. Graphite, smoke, tar and licorice are some of the notes that wrap around the intense, juicy finish. I especially admire the way the RBS grows in the glass as it turns more explosive over time, yet never loses its more refined shades of expression. The RBS is 100% clone 337 from the B1 and B2 blocks. According to winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, it is the addition of fruit from B2 (new this year) that gives the 2009 much of its personality.
And as a final course, the rarely seen but much enjoyed slightly spicy Korean style egg drop soup.
From my cellar: 1990 Chateau d’Yquem. Parker 99. An extraordinary effort, Yquem’s 1990 is a rich and fabulously superb, sweet wine. This wine also possesses lots of elegance and finesse. The wine’s medium gold color is accompanied by an exceptionally sweet nose of honeyed tropical fruits, peaches, coconut, and apricots. High quality, subtle toasty oak is well-integrated. The wine is massive on the palate, with layers of intensely ripe botrytis-tinged, exceptionally sweet fruit. Surprisingly well-integrated acidity, and a seamless, full-bodied power and richness have created a wine of remarkable harmony and purity. Certainly it is one of the richest Yquems I have ever tasted, with 50-100 years of potential longevity. An awesome Yquem!
Toto serves homemade ice creams and sorbets as dessert.
So chaotic was this giant night that they brought out all five flavors on each plate and just placed them about the tables. I like the ice creams better than the sorbets here. The white chocolate was fantastic. Still, it’s all great.
Chef/Owner Kaz Oyama on the right. Both parties are partaking of my D’Yquem.
And this place IS all about the beef, which is arguably some of the best I’ve ever had. Certainly the best yakiniku/Korean BBQ I’ve ever had. There is a perfect tenderness to every cut that’s fairly transcendant. I’m not even that much of a steak fan — but I’d take this stuff any time over even a spectacular cut from Mastros or Cut. The food here does not vary much from visit to visit. There is no menu. The quality however is utterly consistant. So while it isn’t an everyday sort of dining experience, perhaps once every 6-9 months, I love to return for my fix.
This was a spectacular evening — really, truly, deeply epic. It was about 5 hours of mind boggling wines and crazy beef.
The Wines of Night 2
The next day a further 18 or so Hedonists returned for the exact same meal, but as they brought their own wines (ours being liver food at that point), I light them here too. I didn’t catch 100% of the wines. Missing are the 96 Sassicia, 01 Gaja , 97 Solaia and probably more.
1986 Ducru Beaucaillou. Parker 90-92. At 16 years of age, this wine continues to taste more like a 5 to7-year-old Bordeaux. The color is a handsome dark ruby with just a bit of pink at the edge. The wine exhibits sweet red and black currant fruit intermixed with wet stones, spice, and flowers. Medium-bodied and still moderately tannic, but very concentrated, this firmly structured, slightly austere wine has tremendous upside to it. By the way, this was the first vintage where I began to notice on some bottles the wet cement/damp cardboard aromas that were far more increasingly evident in the subsequent vintages, 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990. Interestingly, the last five times I have tasted the 1986 Ducru-Beaucaillou, they were totally pristine bottles.
1990 Figeac. Parker 91-94. One of Bordeaux’s most schizophrenic properties, as disappointing as Figeac’s 1989 has turned out, the 1990 is fabulous. This property has not made a wine as rich as the 1990 since 1982. In contrast to the 1989, the 1990 is a great Figeac, potentially a richer, more complete and complex wine than the 1982. The 1990 exhibits a saturated dark purple color (somewhat atypical for Figeac), and a gorgeous nose of olives, fruitcake, jammy black fruits, minerals, and licorice. Medium to full-bodied, with gobs of glycerin-imbued, sweet, jammy fruit, this wine is nicely buttressed by moderate tannin and adequate acidity. Fleshy and rich, as well as elegant and complex, it is approachable because of the wine’s sweet fruit, but it promises even more pleasure with 2-4 more years of bottle age; it will last for 20 years. I predict the 1990 Figeac will have one of the most exotic and compelling aromatic profiles of the 1990s. It is a terrific wine!
1982 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Parker 100. One of the monumental wines of the last century is the 1982 Pichon Lalande. Since bottling, it has flirted with perfection, and was a sprinter out of the gate, which gave rise to questions about how quickly it would begin its decline. However, at age 27, it retains all its glossy, rich, flamboyant cassis fruit, chocolaty, berry jam-like notes, and plenty of earthy, foresty flavors. This is a full-bodied, extravagantly rich Pichon Lalande seemingly devoid of acidity and tannin, but the wine is incredibly well-balanced and pure. It is an amazing effort!
1985 Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Parker 90-91. Fully mature, this wine shows some pink at the edge, a sweet nose of herb-tinged cherries and black currants intermixed with dusty notes and new oak. The wine is medium-bodied, elegant, very flattering, and perfumed. It does not have the weight, depth, or dimensions of the top vintages, but is quite seductive.
1982 Certan de May. Parker 92-98. A murky, dense, opaque garnet color is followed by spectacular aromatics of roasted herbs, smoked meats, cedar, prunes, black cherries, and black currants. Rich, powerful, and full-bodied, with a thick, unctuous texture, considerable fat and glycerin, and dazzling concentration, Certan de May has not produced a wine of such intensity, thickness, and aging potential since their 1949, 1948, 1947, and 1945.
1961 Château Brane-Cantenac. RJ Wine 93. This looks fully mature. Initially there are some sandalwood notes on the nose, then some high tones. The palate is open, and nice and clean with some acidity lending a freshness, but nowhere near that of the Giscours. It’s a tiny bit dried out, but there is still some good black fruit in there on the palate. Returning to this later, it was becoming very secondary and faded on both the nose and the palate.
2000 Du Tertre. Parker 91. A dense purple color is followed by layers of concentrated blackberry fruit intertwined with damp earth, mushroom, and sweet, toasty barrique smells. With ripe tannin, medium to full body, a layered texture, and a concentrated, impressively endowed finish, this is the finest Du Tertre since their 1979. This is a property on the move … up!
1995 Chateau Rayas Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone. Parker 90. The 1995 Chateau Fonsalette Cotes du Rhone is a twenty-year wine that requires 4-5 years of cellaring. It exhibits a black/purple color, good acidity and tannin, a closed, dense, moderately tannic personality, exceptional richness, and a powerful, full-bodied finish. Yields of 30 hectoliters per hectare were slightly higher than the 15-20 achieved in 1996. This is a wine for those who cannot find or afford to purchase Rayas.
Grace family Cabernet Sauvignon (can’t read the vintage).
1996 Chapoutier Ermitage l’Ermite. Parker 99-100. One of the candidates for France’s wine of the vintage is unquestionably Chapoutier’s 1996 Hermitage l’Ermite. In October, 1997 I reported that this was a virtually perfect wine made from a small parcel of vines, believed to be over 100 years old, located close to the tiny white chapel owned by the Jaboulets on the highest part of the Hermitage Hill. Yields were a minuscule 9 hectoliters per hectare. Now that this wine is in bottle, it is unbelievable! Unfortunately, only 30 cases were exported to the United States. The wine boasts a saturated black/purple color, as well as a phenomenal nose of rose petals, violets, blackberries, cassis, and pain grille. In the mouth, it is phenomenally rich, with a viscous texture, and a multidimensional, layered finish that lasts for over a minute. Its purity, perfect equilibrium, and unbelievable volume and richness are the stuff of legends.
2010 Saxum Terry Hoage Vineyard. Parker 94+. Here in its first vintage, the 2010 Terry Hoage Vineyard bursts onto the palate with rich, dark fruit. The weight power and richness of Syrah comes through beautifully in the layered, sumptuous wine. Flowers, licorice, mint, tobacco and grilled herbs wrap around the finish. The 2010 boasts serious density and fabulous overall balance. It is terrific first effort. The blend is 46% Syrah, 33% Grenache and 21% Mourvedre.
1989 Marcel Deiss Riesling Bergheim.
1976 De Suduiraut. Parker 92. For me, the 1976 is the greatest Suduiraut of the seventies, and the only wine other than the 1989 that resembles the magnificent 1959 this property produced. Medium to dark amber/gold, this full-bodied, massive wine has a very intense bouquet of vanillin oak, ripe pineapples, and melted caramel. Very deep and viscous, this is a decadently opulent Suduiraut with enormous presence in the mouth.
Vin Santo Del Chianti. Silvio Nardi.
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