What To Look Forward to at L.A. Times’ The Taste

Paul Sanguinetti, Jaymee Mandeville, Marcos Tello, Brian Summers at last year’s Cocktail Confidential Competition

Today’s the day. That is, the last day to get your tickets to this weekend’s events at L.A. Times’ The Taste before they go up in price! Also, there are some events (tomorrow night’s limited-capacity opening night, Flavors of L.A. and the weekend pass) that are sold out, so don’t snooze on it; get your tickets now while you can.

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Aburiya Toranoko Adds a Lively, Playful Vibe to Little Tokyo

Yanagita Seafarms Uni Goma Tofu

Over the past year, Lazy Ox Canteen has been one of my favorite spots to drop in and dally at the bar with a glass of wine and a couple small plates. I very much enjoy the energy of the place, though I prefer to not be in the middle of it – or the dining room as part of a 6 top, for example. So when Michael Cardenas talked of his upcoming project immediately next door that would be a Japanese eatery, I was instantly curious. I could sense that he also wanted a lot of energy pulsing through this adjacent space, and I can now vouch that he’s successfully achieved this element.

Cocktail bar and flatscreen

There are not one but two bars at Aburiya Toranoko. One, of the spirits variety, rests opposite the restaurant’s trademark brick wall mural – complete with an oversized, looming mirror so diners and drinkers not be deprived of its view. This is where the flatscreen is should you want to keep updated on the Laker game. The other bar, of the sushi variety, is along the back wall. You’ll receive multiple laudatory and exuberant greetings in Japanese on your way back there, or wherever your seat may be - and enjoy it. It’s an induction into this restaurant and a tone-setter for your meal.

You may find yourself having a hard time narrowing down which izakaya dishes to order. The courteous and knowledgable waitstaff are an important resource to aid you in doing so. When we ordered uni sushi, our helpful server instead suggested the Yanagita Farms Uni Goma Tofu. I’m glad she did, because it was a perfect starter and a great little dish of savory topped with fresh uni to kick things off. 

Hakata-Style Tripe

The New Union Farms Sizzling Mushrooms with Tobanyaki is a must-order. Sizzle, those mushrooms did. You’ll find yourself licking the broth out of the bowl before it’s bussed away. Another one of my favorites happened to be off the special menu: Hakata-style tripe. It had a ton of flavor and I was only used to experiencing this profile with ramen noodles. But the tripe just soaked it all up with its extra soft texture. Its savoriness made me forget that I used to consider tripe as one of those weird things my parents ate…along with chicken feet.

Another favorite was on the regular menu, the braised Colorado Black Pork Kukuni, which came with a couple broth-soaked daikon slices and was so tender the cut fell apart at the…chopstick. Though you would have to try pretty hard to screw up braised pork, I loved that it wasn’t too sweet with very little fat and came with a little sliver of extra-potent mustard that broke up the richness with its kick. (I also saw it garnishing other dishes.)

Oysters on the half-shell with caviar, uni, ponzu & ceviche

Besides the izakaya, Toranoko also offers kukuni – or yakitori. That is, vegetables and/or meat on skewers. Those of you in the foie gras cult can appreciate the Duck with Foie Gras in White Balsamic Soy Sauce Reduction…on a stick! There’s also a selection of oden, or objects in broth, as our server explained. This was new to me, and we got a tofu purse bundle with mochi inside. It was good yet unsurprising and struck me a bit as a novelty, but I clearly have more to learn about oden. For those more bowl-inclined, there’s a “rice/noodle/soup” section for that home feel. I hope to try something from this section next time on maybe a cold (for LA) day – perhaps a bowl of porridge. 

On my visit, we also ordered a delicious sushi roll but I can’t confidently comment on Aburiya Toranoko’s raw fish without a whole meal of it, and the focus was on the small plates for the night. The outlook on their sushi is auspicious, though, since – for starters – the sushi chefs are indeed Japanese.

While they tout their hand-crafted cocktail menu made only with fresh juices and no added sugar, I still found the recipes themselves to err on the sweet side. A good bet would be to stay with the sake. My dining companion and I actually discovered a really delicious, unpasteurized one that was pleasantly at the bottom of the price range: Rin “Organic” out of Fukushima.

Aburiya Toranoko is one of those places that you have to go back to try all the different dimensions of their playbook. If you come with a group, I guess you could play all sections of the field by ordering a little bit of everything. But one thing’s for sure, the place continues to carry out Cardenas’ insistance on playing with his food. Since everyone in partnership, management and the heads of kitchen are Nobu alumni, however, it tends to give the food a more refined take.


Mon – Sun: 11:30 AM – 2:30 PM
Sun – Thur: 5 – 11 PM


Fri – Sat 5 PM – Midnight

Happy Hour: 5 – 7 PM (Food items: $5, Well drinks: $5, Drink items: $3)

Aburiya Toranoko
243 S. San Pedro
Los Angeles, CA 90012

Summer Desserts Debut at Nobu

Cheesecake - $12 | Photo credit Craig Takahashi

Summer is upon us, and there’s no better time to introduce a new dessert menu. Nobu on La Cienega has you covered – with three new options from pastry chef Gabriele Riva. This ever delicate-yet-decadent, deconstructed cheese cake is made with Cheesecake mousse, sable breton, raspberry coulis, and sweet gorgonzola gelato. Yes – gorgonzola gelato! (Indeed, I am on a gorgonzola ice cream kick and cannot wait to try this one – especially after the phenomenal Pear-Gorgonzola-Walnut ice cream from Tai Kim of Scoops at the Eat My Blog Bake Sale over the weekend.)

Equilibrium - $11 | Photo credit Craig Takahashi

Further along the summer theme is Chef Riva’s Equilibrium ($11), which resembles a fresh green salad. The dessert is a mix of orange segments, light goat cheese cream, baby arugula, carmelized pecans and sorbet. I’m curious to try this one out; I can’t say that I’ve ever had a salad for dessert, before.

And don’t forget that there’s a fresh summer cocktail menu to lead into or even supplement your desserts…

Nobu West Hollywood
903 N. La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069-4709

Bar and Lounge
Sun – Mon: 5 – 10:15 PM
Tue – Sat: 5 – 11:15 PM
Happy Hour 7 nights per week:
5 – 8 PM

Nobu Re-Introduces Daily Happy Hour With Summer Cocktails

Lounge Fixtures at Nobu West Hollywood

Nobu in West Hollywood may be the epitome of La Cienega swank, but one good thing about them is that they have happy hour every day. Make no mistake – these aren’t dive bar prices, but this isn’t dive bar food, either. Nobu’s imaginative bites do well to accompany you and titillate your taste buds while you take in (and exude) all the glamour in their lounge area.

Marcus Voglrieder recently updated their cocktail menu to match the warmer temperatures and while washing down your Wagyu Foie Gras Gyozas, Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno and Ginger Panko Encrusted Scallops. The original Happy Hour bites menu is still available, as is their $40 Omakase option.

During happy hour, the following drinks are $9:

  • Matsuhisa Martini 14
    Akvinta Vodka, Hokusetsu Sake, Ginger & garnished with Cucumbers
  • Spicy Acai Martini 14
    Veev Acai Spirit, Acai, Passion Fruit & Serrano Peppers
  • Bellini Martini 14
    Akvinta Vodka, Crème de Peche & White Peach puree
  • Piña Martini 14
    Pineapple Vodka, Fresh Pineapple & Fresh Lime
  • Lychee & Elderflower Martini 14
    Marani Vodka, St. Germain Liquor & Lychee Juice
  • Pink Canton 14
    Right Gin, Canton Ginger Liqueur, St Germain & Pink Grapefruit juice
  • Spring Punch 15
    Fresh Raspberries, Stoli Raspberry, Cassis & Champagne
  • Cucumber Martini 14
    Finlandia Grapefruit, Fresh Cucumber & Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Champagne 95 14
    Grand Marnier Liquor, Crème de Peche, Pineapple Juice & Champagne
  • Pisco Sour 14
    Pisco, Fresh Lime Juice & Sugar Cane
  • Japanese Caipirinha 14
    Leblon Cachaca, Fresh Lime, Shiso & Ginger Beer
  • Mia Margarita 14
    Corralejo Anejo, Passion Fruit, Shichimi & Fresh Lime Juice
  • Mango Martini 14
    Mango Infused Vodka, Passion Fruit & Fresh Lime Juice
  • Watermelon Shiso Martini 14
    Krome Vodka, Fresh Watermelon, Lemon & Shiso

The pricing on your other liquid options is as follows:

Martinis $9
Sapporo $4
Mixed Well Drinks $7
Specialty Wines by the Glass $6
Hot/Cold Jyunmai $9

Looks like Marcus has been hard at work. Can’t wait to try his new libations!

Happy Hour Daily
5 – 8 PM

Happy Hour Food Menu (unchanged)
Specialty cocktails $9 during Happy Hour

Nobu West Hollywood
903 N. La Cienega Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90069

Nobu Reinvents Tapas Menu With Omakase Option in Bar & Lounge

Lounge at Nobu West Hollywood

Perhaps you’re in the neighborhood but not in the mood to commit for the night. You want bites, not entrees – and were thinking something more elegant than bar food: The Nobu bar or lounge might be the perfect place to stop. They’ve recently made some additions to their already-popular menu – like Uni Dry Miso, Wagyu Dango Wasabi Saffron Aioli and Spanish Baby Octopus with Ginger Soy. Not to mention a brand new dessert menu. I will have to try that Suntory Whiskey Iced Cappuccino at least once!

And if you just want the best of what Chef Alex Becker has to offer you, you can always choose the 6-course omakase for $40. The first 3 courses are direct from the sushi bar followed by 2 dishes from the hot kitchen – and then dessert. Choices, choices…some of us are just more decisive than others.

Peep the new tapas menu below for the full range:

Nobu Style Sashimi Tacos with Yellowfin Tuna, Lobster, or Crab 8
Yellowtail Sashimi with Jalapeno 9
Whitefish Sashimi with Dried Miso 9
Yellowfin Tuna Tataki with Tosazu or Cilantro Dressing 9
Oysters with Nobu Sauces (Ponzu, Nobu, Maui) 10
Lobster Ceviche Butter Lettuce 12
Nobu New Style Sashimi – Salmon, Whitefish or Scallop 8
Uni Dry Miso 12
Tiradito – Whitefish, Scallop, or Octopus 8
Kanpachi Agua de Chile 12

Baby Artichoke Salad with Crispy Leeks 7
Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi Salad with Matsuhisa Dressing 10
Hearts of Palm Salad 7

Wagyu and Foie Gras Gyozas 10
Scallop with Jalapeno Salsa 8

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Gingerbread On The Rocks at Nobu

Looking for a holiday nightcap?

Marcus, a longtime mixologist in the Nobu family, will take care of exactly that with his holiday cocktail: Gingerbread on the Rocks. He starts out with crushed gingerbread cookie, which he mixes into a puree comprised of nutmeg, cinnamon and molasses. Double espresso Van Gogh gives it that rich coffee kick while Canton French ginger liqueur accentuates the root of the cocktail. It is then topped with more gingerbread crumbs. The result? A nostalgic look back at Christmases or holidays past. Gingerbread never tasted – or slurped – this good.

Available for $12 through December

Christmas Eve (12/24) hours: 6 – 10:15 PM
Christmas (12/25): Closed

Nobu West Hollywood
903 N La Cienega Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90069