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.
Over the past year, Lazy Ox Canteen has been one of my favorite spots to drop in and dally atÂ the bar with a glass of wine and a couple small plates. I very much enjoy the energy of the place, thoughÂ I prefer to not beÂ in the middle of it – or the dining room as part of a 6 top, for example.Â 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 alsoÂ wanted a lot of energy pulsing through this adjacentÂ space, and I can now vouch that he’s successfully achieved this element.
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.Â This is where theÂ flatscreen is should you want to keep updated on the LakerÂ game.Â The other bar, of the sushi variety, is along the back wall. You’ll receive multiple laudatory andÂ exuberantÂ greetings in Japanese on your way back there, or wherever your seat may beÂ -Â and enjoy it. It’s an induction intoÂ this restaurant and a tone-setter for your meal.
You may find yourself having a hard time narrowing down whichÂ 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 itÂ was a perfect starter and a great little dish of savory topped with fresh uniÂ to kick things off.Â
The New UnionÂ FarmsÂ Sizzling Mushrooms with TobanyakiÂ 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 braisedÂ 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 veryÂ little fat and came with a little sliver of extra-potent mustard that broke up the richness withÂ its kick. (I also saw itÂ garnishing other dishes.)
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 aÂ “rice/noodle/soup” section for that home feel. I hope to try something from this section next time on maybe a cold (for LA) dayÂ – perhaps a bowl of porridge.Â
On my visit, we also ordered a delicious sushi roll but I can’t confidently comment on Aburiya Toranoko’s rawÂ fish without a whole meal of it, and the focus was on the small plates for the night. The outlook on their sushiÂ 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, unpasteurizedÂ one that was pleasantlyÂ at the bottom of the price range: Rin â€œOrganicâ€ out ofÂ 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)
243 S. San Pedro
Los Angeles, CA 90012
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, deconstructedÂ cheese cake is made with Cheesecake mousse, sable breton, raspberry coulis, and sweet gorgonzolaÂ gelato. Yes – gorgonzola gelato! (Indeed, I am on a gorgonzola ice cream kick andÂ 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.)
Further along the summer theme is Chef Riva’s Equilibrium ($11), whichÂ resembles a freshÂ green salad. The dessert is a mix ofÂ orange segments, light goat cheeseÂ 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 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, CrÃ¨me de Peche & White Peach puree
- PiÃ±a 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, CrÃ¨me 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 optionsÂ is as follows:
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
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 forÂ the full range:
NOBU COLD TAPAS
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
NOBU HOT TAPAS
Wagyu and Foie Gras Gyozas 10
Scallop with Jalapeno Salsa 8
Looking for a holiday nightcap?
Marcus, a longtime mixologist in the Nobu family, will take care of exactly that with his holiday cocktail:Â 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 thenÂ topped with more gingerbread crumbs. The result? AÂ 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