Location: 1569 Fairway Dr, Walnut, CA 91789. (909) 598-8299
Date: May 22, 2021
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 2016 and it was such a fun time that we had to return again for a sixth visit — it’s now become a twice a year thing. This is my first return since the pandemic — although some in the group went once in the middle for a meal that was supposedly not quite up to snuff.
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.
Here is the private room — the only way to go.
2008 Louis Roederer Champagne Cristal Brut. VM 99. The 2008 Cristal is one of the most complete, most dazzling Champagnes I have ever tasted. A stunning wine from any and all perspectives, the 2008 simply has it all. Spherical in construction, with superb persistence. The 2008 takes hold of all the senses and never gives up. One of the many things that makes the 2008 special is a combination of ripe fruit and bright, piercing acidity. Marzipan, lemon confit, dried flowers and orchard fruit all build into the explosive, resonant finish. “We learned from the mistakes of 1996, when we picked more on acid than ripeness, as was the norm in Champagne back then” Chef de Caves Jean-Baptiste Lécaillon told me recently. “In 1996, the best fruit turned out to be the last picks, where the fruit was physiologically ripe. Today, we aim to pick all our fruit with that criteria.” (Drink between 2020-2050)
Caviar, scallop, and sulf clam “salad”.
2015 Ultramarine Blanc de Blancs Heintz Vineyard Sonoma Coast. VM 94. The 2015 Blanc de Blancs Charles Heintz Vineyard from Michael Cruse’s Ultramarine is a rich, powerful wine. Orange peel, almond, chamomile, butter and tropical overtones give the 2015 a good bit of raciness to play off its creamy, ample frame. The 2015 is overt and quite rich, with tons of the breadth that make Charles Heintz wines so distinctive. The radiance of the year really comes through nicely. Observant readers will note the 1% Pinot Noir listed in the blend; in 2015, the topping wine used was Pinot. Dosage is 2 grams per liter. (Drink between 2020-2025)
agavin: Eric, who brought this tried to make the case that this is in league with real Champagne. I was not convinced. Far from it. Basically barely better than a Mumm’s Sparkling wine. Only Champagne does Champagne right! And it’s the price of a Comtes or Grand Cuvee!
Edamame Tofu with Hokkaido Uni and Dill — awesome little combo.
From my cellar: 2007 Taittinger Champagne Comtes de Champagne Rosé Brut. VM 97. The 2007 Comtes de Champagne Rosé is a total knock-out. Racy and exuberant in the glass, the 2007 wraps around the palate with stunning textural depth and resonance. The 15% still Pinot adds structure and persistence to a creamy, inviting Rosé Champagne that will leave readers weak at the knees. Hints of rose petal, dried cherry, cinnamon and dried flowers meld into the sublime finish. This is about as good as it gets. Wow! (Drink between 2018-2038)
Chu toro and otoro sashimi. These tasted as good as they look.
2000 Krug Champagne Vintage Brut. BH 96. A wonderfully layered and nuanced nose features an intense yeasty character to the maturing fruit that displays interesting phenolic characters, in particular petrol, along with aromas of apple, pear and soft citrus hints. In contrast to the nascent maturity expressed by the nose the flavor profile is still tight and backward with a genuinely gorgeous texture, all wrapped in a strikingly persistent and highly complex finish. For my taste the 2000 Brut is at an inflection point as the nose does offer enough maturity so that it’s really quite pretty whereas the palate impression is substantially younger. As such it really just depends on how you prefer your Champagne because I suspect that the nose will be very mature by the time the still very youthful flavors attain their majority. For my taste preferences it would be no vinous crime to begin enjoying this now but be aware that this will age for a very long time. The best approach is probably to buy 6, or even 12, bottles and enjoy them over a longer period of time. (Drink starting 2014)
Toro tartar on toasted baguette.
The champagne lineup.
2004 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Chapelot. BH 91. Extremely generous wood treatment that includes toast, vanilla and oak spice frames ripe floral and white peach aromas and rich, full and sweet flavors that have added lift from the citrus-infused finish that displays racy acidity. This is an impressive wine but it’s not really a Raveneau-styled wine and it’s certainly carrying more wood than I can personally warm up to. Still, this is a wine of obvious quality. (Drink starting 2010)
Goldeye snapper with yuzu.
2015 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux. BH 91. An elegant and pure nose is notably ripe but evidences ample classic Chablis aromas that include pear, white flower and tidal pool hints that are also trimmed in enough wood and menthol characters to warrant noting them. The rich and vibrant flavors possess good volume and muscularity before concluding in a clean, dry and mildly austere if slightly warmer finish. Like the Montée de Tonnerre this is an excellent 2015 1er and worth considering – plus it should age well. (Drink starting 2022)
Ruby snapper, charred.
J & B generously brought: 2007 Coche-Dury Meursault. VM 92. Bright, pale yellow. Tangy aromas of orange, peach and spices. Broad and lively, with intense fruit lifted by a near-perfect sugar/acid balance. Finishes with excellent cut. This is awfully good for a wine from seven-year-old vines.
Santa Barbara Spot Prawn.
Kama Toro — even better than o-toro.
From my cellar: 2008 Domaine Leflaive Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Pucelles. BH 93. A textbook Pucelles nose of honeysuckle and citrus is trimmed in a discreet application of oak and a trace of exotic fruit, neither of which continue over to the delicious, round and quite generous medium-bodied flavors that possess excellent depth on the focused and unusually powerful finish. There is an ample amount of underlying tension that adds relief to the otherwise densely concentrated dry exact. This is quite simply terrific and while there is good power, the ’08 Pucelles remains a wine of finesse. (Drink starting 2016)
Marcassin Chardonnay Marcassin Vineyard. Can never read the darn year on these bottles.
Halibut with shiso.
2002 Comte Armand Pommard 1er Cru Clos des Epeneaux. VM 93. Bright medium red, with little sign of amber. Expressive aromas of redcurrant, cinnamon, mocha, leather and earth, with complicating ferrous notes of iron and tobacco. Wonderfully silky and fine-grained, showing lovely class and lift to its red fruit and spice flavors. Not a powerhouse but remarkably suave and smooth for Pommard. Really rises and lingers on the highly aromatic finish. Still on an upswing. (Drink between 2018-2028)
Chu toro and otoro sushi.
Seared toro sushi.
King Crab with a bit of sunomono.
2009 Domaine des Lambrays Clos des Lambrays. BH 93. An intensely floral and spicy nose that is wonderfully elegant and admirably pure speaks of red currant, blue berry, game, smoke and warm earth. The silky-textured, precise and mineral-inflected medium-bodied flavors possess copious extract that does a fine job of buffering the very firm tannins and allowing for perfect balance on the mouth coating and impressively persistent finish. A seductive and relatively accessible Clos des Lambrays that should be approachable with only a decade of cellar time yet last for 25 to 40 years. (Drink starting 2021)
A5 Wagyu with potatoes.
Shrimp head miso soup.
Thai Red Curry Sorbetto — I made a version of this in 2017 and it was a dismal failure, but haunted me since and so this one is redemptive. Made a (no salt) red curry paste from scratch (chilies, lemongrass, galangal, cilantro roots, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, Asian shallots etc) and then cooked it into a pure Thai Coconut Milk base. Sweet and Spicy! — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — #SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #sorbetto#Thai #red #curry #spicy
Hpnotiq Blue Hawaiian Sorbetto — like a frozen cocktail — made by me for @sweetmilkgelato — Thai Coconut Milk, Pineapple, Lime, and Hpnotiq liqueur –#SweetMilkGelato #gelato #dessert #icecream #FrozenDessert #nomnom #dessertlovers #dessertporn #icecreamlovers #gelatoitaliano #foodporn #gelatolover #food #foodgasm #foodblogger #dessertgasm #desserttime #foodphotography #gelatoartigianale #gelatomania #dessertlover #icecream #icecreamlovers #sorbetto #Hpnotiq #BlueHawaiian #pineapple #coconut #lime
The full wine lineup.
Yarom scaring the waitresses.
Overall, OOToro — while always good — showed again that the private room is really the way to go. This was a great meal and much more subtle and sophisticated than some of the front room fare. Really great stuff — although we should have gotten the largest omakase for max variety, but even one down I was more than full (mostly because I ordered a couple extra tempura plates). The kitchen tonight was as good as ever despite the pandemic, however, we didn’t have a few of the more interesting items like the shabu shabu or tuna collar. Gotta get them to do the big one some time!