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“An experience like no other”
Review of Totoraku

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Ranked #1,639 of 10,143 Restaurants in Los Angeles
Price range: $25 - $100
Cuisines: Japanese
Neighborhood: Westside
Restaurant details
Neighborhood: Westside
Reviewed February 11, 2014

I don't know how the beef served here can be so unlike beef served anywhere else. It's as if Chef Kaz has bred his own secret species of cow, and it is incredible. The hospitality shown by Chef Kaz and his family are second to none.

Thank Matt R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviews (11)
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7 - 11 of 11 reviews

Reviewed December 18, 2013

So I've been meaning to try this place for quite some time now...ever since a friend of mine forwarded me articles about Chef Kaz almost a year ago. I didn't really put much effort or thought into it since I knew it was an exclusive "invite by chef only" type of place. Until..I was racking my brain to think of places to eat near the Westside Pavilion since we had a movie screening to attend that evening.

So on a whim I gave the restaurant a call the evening prior. I spoke with a woman with a thick Japanese accent (who I later learned was Chef's wife). I gave her my Japanese name and phone number and she said Chef Kaz would call me back the following morning. Well he certainly did and invited us to dine their that night!

As you've seen from my photos and others it's an unassuming building labeled "Teriyaki House Pico" nestled between a shoe repair store and a hole-in-the-wall music store. The shades were all drawn and the front door locked. You wouldn't even think twice about a restaurant even existing there. I barely even knocked on the door before we were whisked in by the woman I spoke to the night before. She greeted us in Japanese by name and promptly seated us closing and locking the door behind.

Now I knew that Chef Kaz was an avid wine enthusiast and I brought a bottle of '05 Kosta Browne PN "Kanzler Vineyard" for the raw beef courses and a '90 Beringer Reserve Cab for the cooked beef. I immediately asked for an additional glass to share with Chef Kaz. His wife brought us three glasses and thanked us over and over again for the glass. Chef Kaz came out a few minutes later and thoroughly enjoyed the glass of KB with us. We talked for a few moments about our favorite wines in Napa/Sonoma before he thanked us again and graciously excused himself back to the kitchen.

A few seconds later his wife brought out the amazing first course which included many different Japanese vegetables, mountain fruits, and some sashimi. Everything was so beautifully prepared and the pairings of ingredients were absolutely incredible. This portion was quickly followed by the raw portions of filet mignon, tongue, outside ribeye, inside ribeye, short rib and skirt. Everything was executed in perfect time and order.

Next came the beautiful Japanese charcoal oven. It was a warm day in LA that night and the combination of no A/C in the building and the charcoal oven inches from my face made it a bit warm for my taste but it was absolutely worth it! Chef Kaz's wife continued bringing out dish after dish of different Kobe cuts that tasted so amazing with the shoyu, lemon and sweet sauces. She will advise you what sauce to use with which cuts but pretty much everything stands on its own!

We opened the bottle of '90 Beringer Reserve and again insisted Chef Kaz and his wife have a glass with us. She bowed and thanked us and Chef Kaz came out moments after his wife brought him the glass. He was impressed with the Beringer Reserve and said their reserve Chard is one of his favorites and that he sincerely appreciated us bringing in this botlte of Cab.

After the cooked meats we had a bowl of a spicy beef soup followed by the dessert course of ice creams and sorbets. We chatted with Chef Kaz and his wife before we left and couldn't thank them enough for his amazing cooking and hospitality. It truly felt like we had stepped into their house somewhere in Japan. I told Chef Kaz I will be bringing obaasan (grandma) back on our next visit!

1  Thank kiwifoto
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 4, 2013

This restaurant is very difficult to get in to. Typically, you must know the chef or know someone that has previously dined in the restaurant. That being said... the restaurant has no fancy signage or full page advertisements. Instead, they have the BEST meats and steaks period.

The chef/ owner takes pride in finding the best cuts available. The set meal consists of assorted suishi, followed by numerous uncooked beef dishes followed by the best raw vegetables. Then comes the barbeque at your table ( you cook to your desired temperature ).

Service was excellent. As in many traditional Japanese restaurants... service is respectful and attentive. There is a certain ambiance here... Chef Oyama is an excellent host.

If you have the opportunity to visit this restaurant... Take it !!!

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Brad L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 27, 2011

There are 2 types of people in this world...those who have dined at Totoraku and those who wish they can dine at Totoraku. Until Friday night, I was of the latter...but after Friday night, I am now of the former!

The food was fairly similar to the course laid out by the others here. We started with a plate of assorted appetizers. We then had some raw beef and beef tataki plates. The binchotan grill came out and we then grilled tongue, filet mignon, inside/outside rib eye, kalbi, skirt steak, etc. We also had the awesome tomato salad, vegetables, etc. We got there at 7:30 and stumbled out the door at around 11:30.

A few things that I'd like to point out though.

1) I love Japanese people. They are so cute in how they act and talk. It's such a pleasure and I love it. They remind me of hello kitty, kerropi, and the rest of the sanrio characters. Chef Kaz Oyama-san and his wife and workers all exemplified the great Japanese culture of being absolutely polite, humble, and just so freaking cutesy. Love it!

2) I shared a glass of my French wine with both chef Oyama-san and one of the waitresses and they both loved it with a "oishii desu!" Totally made my day that they liked my wine. It wasn't one of the crazy expensive wines that were on the wall but it was a fairly respectable (at least for me), Baron Rothschild 2003. It needed some decanting but we didn't have one so it wasn't as good as it could have been, 2003 wasn't so great of a year, etc. but oh well.

3) I have had a lot of beef in my day and this experience was awesome. There are individual slices of meat at various places around LA and the world that come close (e.g. unmarinated short ribs at Park's, special JB at mapo in Gardena, wagyu kobe beef at Cut, kkot deung shim at moo deung san in Seoul, Korea) but to have it all in one place is awesome!

I had some great company and the 7 of us (including a couple of girls who didn't drink much) polished off a tremendous amount of wine including champagne, reisling, rose, merlot, cab sauv, bordeaux, and finally...a port.

Sure the price is a little high but you're really getting top quality meat here. I believe chef Oyama-san simply throws out a lot of meat that he deems unworthy. I also don't think he necessarily makes a lot of money here so treat this as the awesome experience that it is and give them a proper "itadakimasu" when you start your mean because you are humbly receiving...

And in the end? I GOT HIS CARD! I'm in.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank Cashflow888
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
A TripAdvisor reviewer on Facebook
Reviewed May 17, 2008

All I can say is wow, it lived up to all the hype. Who'd have thought raw liver could taste so good. Best tomatoes ever. Beef just melts in your mouth. Can't wait to go back.

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