Location: 9669 S Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. (310) 275-2914
Date: July 12, 2016 & April 25, 2019
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 interior soars upward with high ceilings, but doesn’t offer very many tables.
In fact, they all conform to this standard fairly small 4 top configuration.
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!
After the above ala carte item, we ordered the $200 a person “level 4” Omakase, then followed with some more ala carte in the form of carbs.
Tataki “Ponzu Sauce.” Thin sliced seared wagyu with onion slice. Tender little beef bits.
Wagyu Bresola. Dry aged and salted. With the truffle salt this was bright, salty, and had a bit of an “Italian” flavor.
Uni Wagyu Tartar / Truffles. Raw wagyu topped with uni and truffle.
Mix this puppy up and the uni stands in the same way that the raw egg usually would. Certainly a rich little concoction.
In April of 2019, the trio was slightly different.
Wagyu on a toast.
The tartare with uni, pretty much the same as before.
And Wagyu short rib with polenta.
Yazawa Garden Salad (4/26/19). Red Lettuce, Sweet Snap Pea, Bell Peppers, Broccoli and Yazawa dressing. This was a nice salad, probably mostly because of the zesty Japanese dressing.
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.
This is then cooked (very fast, just seconds a side) on the very smooth gas BBQ.
Flipped about 4-5 seconds later — then another 4 seconds then into the sauce. So soft and tender!
Next cut is the Jyo-Kalbi (chuckeye/rib eye). Notice how the fat runs in a different direction. A little more beefy and intense. Some really great beef.
Out comes this whipped egg/milk sweet sauce.
And Yazawa’s signature cut, the Yazawa-yaki! It’s a super thin cut sirloin, marinated.
The staff are required to cook this one (other cuts you can do it, or they can). The cutis so thin that we would probably just turn it into beef scraps.
It is then rolled and dropped into the egg sauce. Pretty amazing, with a sukiyaki-like flavor and tons of rich beefiness.
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.
Misuji (brisket). Not like Mom’s BBQ brisket!
Zabujan (chuck eye). Up under the shoulders with a heavy diagonal marbling. Nice and tender and a bit more beefy.
Then another signature cut, the Chateau Briand (center cut filet).
On the grill. This was one incredible piece of “steak.”
We placed an ala carte order of tongue too.
On the grill. Good stuff, but this cut wasn’t super different than other good tongue I’ve had.
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.
Uni Gyu Toro Don Bowl. Minced raw Japanese Wagyu on rice with uni and pickles.
A very interesting umami taste. Great stuff.
Yazawa special rice. Umami rice topped with ginger and Japanese Wagyu, served in a very hot clay pot.
They mix it up for us.
This is a teapot filled with dashi and some wasabi.
Tons of garlic in there. Optionally, you pour some dashi in to up the umami factor. Pretty incredible like that.
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.
White chocolate semi-freddo with berries. My favorite, light and fluffy and delicious.
Macha green tea ice cream with crunchies.
Almond panna cotta.
Special tea at the end.
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.