Totoraku: The Secret Beef Restaurant Experience

— by Caroline on Crack

Totoraku Secret Beef restaurant by Caroline on Crack

This beef is on fyah!

Thanks to this blog, I’ve been able to get in places that not many folks may have access to. And out of all these places I have to say that the “secret beef” restaurant in West L.A. not only had the most interesting name (it also goes by Totoraku) but was where I had the most fun dining experience.

Nondescript exterior of Totoraku by Caroline on Crack

Totoraku’s nondescript exterior.

I was first told about it at this FoodDigger blogger dinner I went to a couple of months ago. “Have you ever been to secret beef? You have to go!” was what the other bloggers were telling me. In all honesty, its hushed specialness was lost on me. Apparently you have to be invited by chef Kaz Oyama or at least know someone who knows him to get in. Otherwise you’re SOL as the restaurant is not open to the public. In fact, once you check in with the chef’s wife at the door and sit down at your reserved table, she locks the front door.

Fortunately, I was invited to join this group of 12 for dinner there thanks to our connection, Professor Hamao of USC. Other bloggers present were Gourmet Pigs, Potential Gold, kevinEats, and Food Destination. Sorry if you were there and I forgot to include your blog. I was drunk. Yes, I got pretty drunk. But I wasn’t the only one.

BYOB by Caroline on Crack


You see, each of us were charged with bringing a lovely (read: expensive) bottle of wine to share with the group. At first we thought that maybe we didn’t have enough to go around so we made sure to pour a little in each glass so that everyone would get a taste. And ohhh, did everyone get a taste. By the end of the night, there was a lot of slurring and laughing. Don’t worry, we didn’t drive home immediately after. But each wine choice was exquisite, complementing every course. I think we had four white wines and seven reds.

In any case, at the beginning of the meal, I took notes of all the different plates of food placed before us…toward the end of the night? Scribbles. But I will say that each dish was admired and enjoyed. I ate things I never thought I would. I’m no Jonathan Gold. There was hard-boiled quail egg topped with caviar, tender beef tongue, king crab gelatin and beef throat sashimi to name but a few. Actually, kevinEats did a wayyy better job of taking notes about each course.

Beef Sashimi by Caroline on Crack

That’s right, Beef Sashimi.

I have to say that I was pretty surprised by how tasty those exotic bites were. I remember the beef tongue my mom prepared when I was a kid (the one and only time I tried it) and how I got creeped out by its chewiness. Not so here. It was so tender and delectable, even after we threw it on the portable barbecue.

Everything was a feast for the senses. The smells, texture, presentation. This is a restaurant for the serious diner. Only problem is that it costs about $180 a person and that doesn’t include the bottle of wine you bring yourself! I don’t know if I’d go again. For me, it was one of those things that you put on your bucket list. And now that I did it, I’m done. That’s mostly due to the price more than anything. But I did have a ton of fun, enjoying a wonderfully prepared meal with others who appreciate what great care went into it as well. I think I’ll frame the chef’s business card, though.

BTW, if you’re invited for the first time, good luck finding the place on your own. The store front is nondescript. If no one tells you what landmarks to look out for (the McDonald’s drive-thru exit across the street, the Teriyaki House sign), you’ll instinctively dismiss it. Oh, and make sure to offer the chef some of your wine. It’s just good manners/tradition.

Drinking wine and bbqing by Caroline on Crack

What better way to spend an evening?

Lots and lots of drinking by Caroline on Crack

Lots and lots of drinking.

Totoraku secret beef experience by Caroline on Crack

Totoraku secret beef experience.

Totoraku by Caroline on Crack

Beef dish #25. Kidding, sort of.

Seafood by Caroline on Crack


Golden ticket to a future Totoraku visit by Caroline on Crack

I’ve got the golden ticket!

More pictures of Totoraku.

10610 W Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90064 (map)