Location: 1569 Fairway Dr, Walnut, CA 91789. (909) 598-8299
Date: November 12, 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 in July and after having seen this crazy tuna collar we decided to return.
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 location is in the heart of the affluent Chinese American San Gabriel Valley. But yes, it’s Japan, if perhaps catering to Chinese taste. This photo was shot at about 10pm after everyone else had left.
Ron brought: NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Brut Rosé. VM 92. Pale orange. High-pitched red berry, orange zest and jasmine aromas, with suave mineral and smoky lees notes adding complexity. Spicy and precise on the palate, showing very good punch to its strawberry and bitter cherry flavors. Opens up smoothly with air and picks up a bitter rhubarb quality that lingers onto the long, tightly focused finish. This bottling showed more brawny character than many past renditions of this cuvée, but with no lack of vivacity.
Marinated Japanese seaweed with mountain potato. For those not put off by the slimy texture (didn’t bother me) this had a wonderful vinegar/dashi tone.
Live spiny lobster sashimi. He was still wiggling as we ate his tail. Of course, this being Ootoro, they can’t resist putting some yuzu kosho on the side.
Yarom brought: 2004 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. BH 95. Stylistically, this closely resembles the Valmur with its ultra elegant and pure aromas featuring white flowers, oyster shell and subtle spice notes that perfectly complement the round, powerful, rich and full-bodied flavors that coating the mouth and culminate in a saliva-inducing, incredibly intense finish that reminded me more than a little of a great Corton-Charlemagne. This just oozes minerality and the texture is minerally to the point of this resembling a block of stone. A great Les Clos.
Rice, toro, foie gras, caviar, shiso, and gold. Beneath it was something crunchy too, maybe a pickle.
Goldeneye and red snapper and a third nigiri with wasabi.
From my cellar: 2006 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. VM 92. Medium bright yellow. Sexy aromas of yellow peach and hazelnut. Superripe and sweet, with flavors of apricot, peach and buttery pastry. Not particularly complex but thick and approachable. Finishes with a distinctly sweet quality.
agavin: maybe a touch advanced. Typical of 2006.
Chu toro on the right, otoro on the left. We mostly liked the chu toro slightly bette of this delectable duo. It was softer, while the otoro had more fat and more chew.
Parfait of sesame tofu and uni.
Danny brought: 2013 Sine Qua Non Résisté. VM 92. A rich, voluptuous white, the 2013 White Wine Résisté is built on pure texture. Honey, apricot pit, succulent peaches and mint all race from the glass. The high acidity of the Petite Manseng adds a kick of brightness on the finish. The blend is 45% Roussanne, 26% Chardonnay, 14% Petite Manseng, 10% Viognier and 5% Marsanne; 40% from Eleven Confessions, 29% Cumulus and 31% Bien Nacido.
Persimmon and truffle in some kind of mayo sauce.
Boiled meat (indeterminate) on daikon. Like a snippet of one of those traditional Japanese stews.
Ron brought: 2015 Vignobles du Soleil Costières-de-Nîmes Saveurs du Temps. Very nice, lots of acid. Great pairing.
Either some kind of scallop or orange clam.
On the right, Mackerel, on the left needle fish.
Flaming sea snail. Chopped up charred bits of this “creature.”
Arnie brought: 2009 Marcassin Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard. VM 92. The 2009 Pinot Noir Marcassin Vineyard is quite pretty and lifted in the glass. Expressive and floral, the 2009 possesses gorgeous fruit and lovely mid-palate pliancy. Here the Pinot tannin carries the fruit much more gracefully than in the Chardonnay. Sweet floral and spice notes reappear on the finish, adding lift. The 2009 is intense, but not at all heavy.
Roasted Blue fin tuna collar, kama-toro. This giant collar from a giant fish is one of the things that brought us back. The meat looked and felt like roasted lamb, but of course tasted more like tuna. It was very rich and solid and almost certainly the best cooked tuna I’ve ever had.
Dr D brought: 2002 Domaine Jacques Prieur Corton-Bressandes. VM 90+. Good deep red. Crushed blackcurrant, black cherry, smoke and cured tobacco on the nose. Broad and rich, with a restrained sweetness. Notes of dark berries, sassafras and mint. Began with an almost medicinal austerity but grew sweeter in the glass. A big, rich, very ripe, soil-inflected wine that should repay six or seven years of patience.
Toro tartar with avocado, truffles, and uni. Uh, yum! Nice crunch too from the pickles.
Seared toro on shiso. Charred and great — but I prefer the raw versions.
Yarom brought: 1981 Penfolds Grange. Parker 97. The 1981 stood out as slightly superior. Winemaker John Duval always felt this was a tannic style of Grange, but the wine has shed its tannins, and this is one of the few vintages where the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon was above 10%. Sweet notes of creme de cassis, cedarwood, charcoal, and barbecue spices are followed by a full-bodied, opulent wine displaying heady amounts of alcohol, glycerin, and density in its full-bodied, skyscraper-like texture. I was drinking this wine with great pleasure in the mid-nineties, yet here it is nearly 15 years later, and the wine does not appear to have budged much from its evolutionary state. This is a testament to how remarkably well these wines hold up, and age at such a glacial pace.
agavin: the peculiar thing about this wine is that Yarom had it in his fridge (rabbited) for 2+ weeks and it was still drinkable. Only Grange would survive like that. It wasn’t fabulous (anymore), but it was pretty good.
Fried squid. Japanese calamari.
Shrimp springrolls. These were awesome. We reordered. Super hot, light and crispy.
Ron brought: 95 Figeac. Parker 92. Tasted at the Château Figeac vertical at the property from one of the last remaining imperials, one could argue that the six-liter format would have benefit the 1995 Figeac. Even so, that should not take anything away from this, the best vintage of that decade. Firstly, one notices that it is deeper in color than the underwhelming 1996. Then you fall into the aromatics, a beguiling concoction of blackcurrant pastilles, melted tar and tobacco all beautifully preserved after two decades. What differentiates it from the succeeding vintages is that here there is the fruit to back it up. The palate is fresh and quite dense in the mouth. The acidity is perfectly matched to the fruit, lively with a touch of piquancy on the ebullient, red cherry and wild strawberry finish that still has a bit of glycerin. The 1995 is the best vintage between 1990 and 2001, and represents a worthy wine to celebrate Thierry Manoncourt’s 50th vintage.
Seated Wagyu A5 nigiri. Tasty, although i prefer the raw toro. Not as tender as I would have expected.
The chef shows us the cow’s pedigree.
Tamago. With some seafood in it and a bit of plum sauce.
Wagyu fried rice. Bits of squash, marcona almonds, etc. Pretty awesome and very filling. It totally stuffed me up.
Lobster and vegetable tempura.
Yuzu sorbet and cheesecake. A very mild sorbet with a slightly icy texture.
My yuzu sorbet is way better. It’s pictured here, but not eaten tonight at ootoro (but you will be able to get it at Ramen Roll if you are lucky). I make it with a lot more yuzu and it is punchier. The caramel offsets the sour fruit. Plus I go for a proper Italian Sorbetto creamy texture :-).
The wine lineup. All enjoyable.
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. Our second visit was a bit cheaper and probably better than our first. I’d really like to try the preorder $250 omakase. It might be epic. Or more of the same.
But that drive! It was so far that most of the party booked a nearby Marriot and turned it into a bunch of meals, massages, and other decadences. I drove home to my lovely wife.
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