The culmination of my week in Los Angeles was truly a special, memorable event; I was introduced to the “secret Japanese beef restaurant.” What can I tell you about it? Well, I don’t know where it is because I was driven there and I didn’t pay attention to street signs or addresses. How does one get in? You have to be brought by someone who already has a relationship with the chef. When you arrive at the door, you knock and are only let in if you have pre-arranged the evening’s reservation. From the outside, all one sees is the façade of an ugly strip mall with the restaurant’s windows heavily draped to indicate a restaurant otherwise closed. Pics on eG.
There is no menu. You are served what the chef prepares. There is no wine list. You have to bring what you want to drink.
We started with a lovely Marie Stuart Champagne to accompany the platter of bites which were presented:
1. Tomato and cheese skewers
2. Quail egg and caviar
3. King crab with okra
4. Prosciutto and melon
5. Asparagus and walnuts
6. Salmon-stuffed with avocado and sprouts
7. Sundried tofu with tuna
8. Sautéed live clam with haricot vert
9. Shiitake mushrooms with new Caledonia shrimp and celery heart
How does one adequately describe the bounty of flavors offered in these little morsels? I started with the tomato/cheese skewer and was delighted with the freshness of the tomatoes. The quail egg and caviar immediately brought a rich, salty counter to the clean tomato. The okra provided a clear, gelatinous glue that bound the crab bites together. The asparagus with walnuts was a favorite of mine; almost Turkish in its sentiments. I continued down the plate, having these momentary delights with each individual bite.
1. Beef throat with soy, garlic, and miyoga – thus began the parade of beef dishes. This one was served sliced with appropriate accompaniments and it was only as we were finishing the dish that I remembered to shoot the picture.
2. Beef tartare with quail egg, shaved Japanese apple, sprouts, pinenuts, and cucumbers. The dish was brought out composed and layered. We mixed the dish together ourselves and dove in… What a stunning mélange of flavors! Most tartares are prepared with more classic ingredients of shallots, capers, cornichons, etc, but the influx of Asian flavors demonstrated a subtle elegance.
In preparation for the hefty part of the evening, the charcoal grill was placed in the middle of the table. We also had three sauces; a soy, a sweet, and lemon juice. When each platter of prepared meat was served, we were instructed with which each sauce the meats should be eaten.
3. Beef tongue was the first platter of meat offered for our grilling pleasure. In experimenting with grilling times, my first slice was grilled briefly and eaten rare which we all ultimately decided was the best (versus a longer grilling time which made the tongue a bit more tough).
4. Filet mignon with an assortment of vegetables; matsutake mushrooms, bell peppers, onions, and peppers. I have to admit – when I order steak in a restaurant, I tend towards the rib-eye or porterhouse but if all filets were like this one, I would certainly be a convert. So amazingly tender.
To help clear our palate between the meat courses, two courses were added:
5. Crudité of vegetables with a spicy miso dip and 6. Momotaru tomatoes
7. Outside Rib-Eye. The brilliance of the chef is his mastery of butchering. This had been hinted at with the earlier beef courses but was emphasized between these next two. With the outside, we were instructed to eat with no sauce.
8. Inside Rib-Eye. And with this, we were told to consume with the sweet sauce. Much discussion ensued about the differences between the Inside and Outside rib-eyes and how one would be able to order this from another butcher. Not likely, we determined… It is something this particular chef knows how to do and specializes in.
9. Short Rib. Tender, rich and remarkably different from the tongue, filet, or rib-eyes.
10. Skirt steak. Did I say I was getting full? I could barely handle this final savory course and honestly didn’t enjoy it as much as the first round of courses.
11. Assorted ice creams; lychee sorbet, espresso ice cream, white chocolate/raspberry ice cream, pistachio ice cream, and blueberry sorbet. A nice, refreshing finish to an amazing meal and an amazing week.