Location: 1569 Fairway Dr, Walnut, CA 91789. (909) 598-8299
Date: July 16, 2016
Cuisine: Japanese Sushi (with slight nod to China)
Rating: Ends of the earth, but very good
Chef Kaz of Totoraku, an occasional hedonist, sent us far east to this Sushi restaurant.
And by far east I mean REALLY REALLY far east — to Walnut California. 40+ miles from my house. 20 miles past Alhambra (which most people consider to far to drive for food). It took an hour and twenty minutes on a Saturday night!
The slick looking and crowded location is in the heart of the affluent Chinese American San Gabriel Valley. But yes, it’s Japan, if perhaps catering to Chinese taste.
1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. BH 97. A distinctly reticent but elegant nose with a purity of expression that is truly impressive to experience as it’s relatively high-toned and while the yeast comes up with air, it’s relatively muted at presence, combining with intense, precise and superbly detailed and complex flavors that culminate in an explosive and wonderfully long finish. This may very well rival the sublime ’90 in time even if it’s not quite as concentrated. This is still a baby so there is absolutely no rush whatsoever.
Salmon with melon. A light starter.
Halibut sashimi with wasabi. Salty and with no small kick, this was a refreshing kick off.
NV Krug Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée. VM 94. The NV Grande Cuvée is absolutely stellar. This is one of the very best Grande Cuvées I can remember tasting. The flavors are bright, focused and beautifully delineated throughout, all of which make me think the wine will age well for many, many years. Lemon peel, white flowers, crisp pears, smoke and crushed rocks race across the palate in a vibrant, tense Champagne that epitomizes finesse. This release is based on the 2005 vintage and was disgorged in winter 2012/2013. The blend is: 44% Pinot Noir, 37% Chardonnay and 19% Meunier.
Live Santa Barbara spot prawn and oyster with yuzu sorbet.
Goldeneye and red snapper nigiri with wasabi.
Rice, toro, foie gras, caviar, shiso, and gold. Beneath it was something crunchy too, maybe a pickle.
2012 La Chablisienne Chablis Grand Cru Grenouilles. 88 points.
Three sashimi. Front to back: shipjack, chu toro, and o toro. On the left was dried persimmon and butter. The toro was amazing.
Ruby snapper nigiri with yuzu pepper. This kicks off what is to be a lot of yuzu pepper. I kick the stuff, but it does overwhelm the fish.
2009 Bouchard Père et Fils Corton-Charlemagne. VM 95+. Pale yellow. Tight, slightly metallic nose hints at lemon, lime, green tea, creme brulee and vanillin oak. Very ripe but firm on entry, with penetrating stone fruit and lemon-lime flavors. Then explosive on the back half, with a rising, compellingly tactile and sweet finish that suggests a great future. These vines were picked very late, noted winemaker Prost, who added that he used a higher percentage of new oak for this cuvee (18%) than for any of his other whites in ’09.
Uni sashimi. With and without sea salt. Great uni.
Squid with black cod caviar. My least favorite dish. Very fishy finish.
2007 Domaine / Maison Vincent Girardin Corton-Charlemagne. BH 92-95. A highly complex lemon and orange peel, white flower and green apple nose introduces substantially bigger and richer if less refined broad-shouldered flavors that are quite dense and I like the mouth feel before the flavors slide away into a notably dry, intense, extended and punchy finish. This is a big wine with plenty of extract that really stains the palate.
Kama toro. The fattiest cut of the tuna, from the collar. Amazing. Like butter!
2002 Jean Boillot & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Clos de la Mouchère. VM 94+. Lemon, lime, spring flowers, nut oil and minerals on the vibrant nose. Dense and sweet, with penetrating flavors of peach, spice and minerals lifted by a captivating floral character. Broad, classy and extremely long on the back end. Already showing terrific personality, but this will be even better for five to seven years of cellaring.
King Salmon with wasabi. Great salmon.
From my cellar: 2002 Maison Leroy Saint-Aubin 1er Cru Le Charmois. 94 points. Great stuff. Still fairly reductive.
King crab leg with uni sauce. Very soft and sweet meat. Quite delectable.
2007 Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Flax Vineyard. VM 93+. Inky ruby. Deep, youthfully brooding cherry and dark berry skin scents are complicated by anise and black tea. Very rich, with fleshy blackberry and kirsch flavors, a chewy texture and slow-building tannins. The tannins gain power on the finish, which strongly echoes the cherry and licorice notes. No way I’d touch this one for at least another five years.
agavin: a touch of cork on the finish.
Seared o toro. Shiso, yuzu pepper, and crunchy pickles underneath. Pretty scrumptious. The crunch was new to me, but worked, even if it felt like a Chinese nod as they are into textural variations.
2006 Jonata Winery Pinot Noir La Poesía de Jonata. VM 88. Medium red. Spicy cranberry and redcurrant on the sharply focused nose, with gentle underbrush and dusty floral qualities adding complexity. A dry, firm midweight, showing subtle red fruit character and no excess fat or sweetness. This distinctly understated pinot finishes with lingering floral pastille and strawberry flavors and soft, lightly chewy tannins.
A5 Japanese Wagyu beef with some tempura vegetables.
2010 Aubert Chardonnay Sonoma Coast. agavin 86. All flabby and no acid.
The shrimp heads return as miso soup.
2009 Marcassin Pinot Noir Three Sisters Vineyard. web 94. Color is light ruby red. Much more restrained than the estate. Very pretty nose of cherries, strawberries, clove and baking spices. A savory note pops up as well. Palate is smooth and refined with solid acid and body. Nice slippery finish lingers and tapers beautifully. Lovely wine.
Albacore nigiri. Lots of garlic!
Seared salmon belly with yuzu pepper.
1991 Beringer Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Chabot Vineyard. 92 points. From the yummy days before everything in California became too extracted for its own good.
Kobe beef sushi with black pepper sauce and yuzu pepper. Again, like I concluded on other occasions, the line between wagyu and toro can be a thin one.
2005 Araujo Estate Syrah Eisele Vineyard. VM 92. Good deep ruby-red color. Wild, nuanced nose offers black raspberry, mocha, violet, graphite, minerals and bacon fat, with a captivating suggestion of Asian spices. Lush, sweet and superconcentrated, with a creaminess of texture giving the wine an added measure of refinement. There’s just enough energy here to maintain freshness, not to mention the undercurrent of minerality that runs through all of the Araujo reds. Finishes broad, rich and chocolatey, with substantial tannins.
Lobster and vegetable tempura.
2006 Oremus Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos. VM 90. Full, bright orange-copper color. Aromas of orange peel, toffee, maple syrup and sweet butter, plus some high-toned oak; no shortage of fruit here. Quite concentrated and dense with extract, showing a slightly bitter orange peel edge and steely acidity to the layered flavors of dried apricot, pineapple, anise and botanical herbs. Finishes long, ripe and tactile, with lingering notes of peach nectar and game. There’s something cool here that contributes energy to this wine.
agavin: like apricot juice. Really nice.
Mango creme brulee cake (from 85 degree bakery).
Some of the gang with the chef.
The table next door had this special ordered blue fin tuna collar dish. Impressive (if ugly).
Overall, OOToro is an interesting place. It’s far. Very far. And the food adheres to a certain over-the-top super-rich-ingredient version of sushi. Plus they “distract” with LOTS of yuzu pepper and wasabi and general richness. Still, it was (in a rich way) very enjoyable — if a touch pricey. But that drive!
Afterward, at 85 degrees again, Annie goes nuts for squid rolls.
And second dessert, this chocolate confection.
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