I’ve never had high-end sushi before. I rarely crave it, plus I can get the $2.75 sushi at my favorite Sawtelle restaurant all day. And when I can get fresh sashimi and uni from my go-to Japanese markets for a fraction of the restaurant price, eating at sushi restaurants just seems like a waste.
However, in an extremely clever bit of marketing (obviously geared towards people like me, because it definitely worked!), Aburiya Toranoko managed to put out a Blackboard Eats deal on the very same day that the L.A. Times put out a favorable review. Genius. Normally, I wouldn’t have gotten a BBE code for a random sushi restaurant (I guess it’s characterized more as an izakaya), but since I’d read through the review, I was curious to try it. Further testament to my indifference towards sushi, I didn’t use the code until this week, when it was set to expire on Friday. Usually, I use codes almost immediately because I’m pretty eager to try the restaurant. This was a $35 three-course prix fixe with 180 mL bottle of sake.
First course was a sampling of sashimi and one of their signature appetizers, “Yanagita seafarms uni goma tofu.” I Googled it and according to one Flickr photo, this means that it’s sesame tofu topped with a bit of uni. The tofu was super firm and creamy and had a nutty flavor. Wish there was more uni, but don’t I always. The whitefish sashimi on the left was drizzled with a pomegranate sauce, and the seared tuna was served with a totally understated and amazing crispy spinach. How did they make that?? No idea, but it was like eating delicious spinach potato chips.
Entree was beef tongue stew. Super tender chunks of tongue, cooked almost in a French-style bourguignon or some other type of gravy-stew sauce that I wish could’ve been served with some cold soba noodles or something. The sauce was just too good to leave in the bowl, but too rich to eat on its own. Tom got an assortment of sashimi and sushi (not pictured because… it looks like sashimi and sushi, obvs).
Got this off the regular menu! I won’t pass up foie gras if I can help it! This was an 8 oz. New York steak topped with a nice portion of seared foie gras. My only beef (please, refrain from lolling) is that it was served sizzling hot on a cast iron plate. Doesn’t the meat keep cooking if it’s served like this? I ordered it on the rarer side of medium rare, but once it settled, it was a little more medium with some reddish hints in the middle. Still, I am not such a connoisseur of meat, and I find many a meat can be happily improved with small bits of tasty foie gras.
All in all, for a $100 dinner, it was satisfying, but it hasn’t really changed my mind about izakaya/sushi restaurants. Toranoko’s regular menu had tons of tasty looking things I wanted to order and had to refrain from… I almost got their okonomiyaki, but I recently had a gigantic one at Gaam in Koreatown last weekend. In addition, everything I ate off the prix menu was unique and fantastic, so the restaurant is great, just not a regular go-to. Now that I’ve graduated, I can’t fall back on using the I’m-in-school! excuse for my extravagant eating habits… now it’s I’ve-got-loans! which is far less glamorous.