Aburiya Toranoko Now Open in DTLA

sour bourbon smash


I went to the newly opened Aburiya Toranoko on Tuesday. They had been open for 5 days at that point. But it seemed like I had been waiting forever to go. Being a fan of Lazy Ox and Japanese food, I wanted to see what owner Michael Cardenas would do with Aburiya Toranoko.

While Toranoko and Lazy Ox are nowhere alike (one being Japanese and the other decided the genius of Chef Josef Centeno), they will be forever linked because they share a wall. DJ Jewelz described Lazy Ox as “rock” and Toranoko as “hip hop.” I agree. While there, there were jams I hadn’t heard since I was in…okay, they haven’t been heard by me in a long while.

Mini Gyutan - beef tongue

Fearing crowds, I made a reservation and off we went. We were early enough to partake in happy hour which they call the Roppongi Hour. We ordered the mini gyutan and all the rolls (spicy tuna, spicy albacore, spicy salmon) as well as a cold sake. The food items are $5 and the drinks are $3 at Happy Hour.

spicy tuna, spicy salmon and spicy albacore rolls

I generally liked the food though the rolls probably didn’t need as much mayo (but keep in mind I’m rather anti-mayo).

The menu is divided into vegetable, seafood, beef/pork/poultry, sumiyaki, oden, rice/noodle/soup and sushi sections. The back side of the menu was a huge wine and cocktail list. I remember when I first went to Lazy Ox (and when I first started blogging so excuse the poor pictures), I was impressed that owner Michael Cardenas was committed to having a place he wanted to eat at. As the part owner of many well-known restaurants such as BOA, Katana and Sushi Roku, it was more telling how he wanted a simple place he can relax at. You often saw him bussing a table or bring dishes. He’s such a humble guy.

Yanagita seafarms uni goma tofu

Nasu Dengaku baked in two ways, with white and red miso

Tiger shrimp tempura with curry aioli

We happily started ordering from the first four sections of the menu getting the eggplant with red and white miso along with the Yanagita seafarms uni goma tofu and tiger shrimp tempura. Having eggplant with miso is not a new item for us but trying it with red miso was different. I liked both and just couldn’t decide which I liked more. The white is a bit more mild and sweeter. My favorite thing of this round was the goma tofu with the uni. The tofu is not made from soybeans but rather, sesame. It’s more nutty and so much more dense. It was like a thick pudding and the uni only added another dimension to the dish. I have been a fan of curry aioli (all right, maybe I like mayo when they use the fancy word aioli for it) and the black tiger shrimp were so meaty. Loved that.

liver and heart sumiyaki

There were so many skewers to choose from but we decided to get the liver and heart. Both were cooked well and I enjoyed the liver a bit more.



Jidori fried chicken

Colorado black pork kakuni

We were winding down and decided to get the kakuni and fried chicken. The Colorado black pork had been braised in a sweet sauce, punctuated by the mustard on the side. I felt these pieces were a bit tough and could have been braised longer. My friend thought her piece was great though. As for the fried chicken, it’s a contender for fine gourmet fried chicken.

hamachi and Spanish mackerel

When I asked if my friend was full, she enthusiastically told me to order more. Little did I know I would actually have to eat the sushi by myself! We got hit by food coma and although the sushi was very fresh, I don’t think we needed it. I would love to come back and try more items with a bigger group. This is the kind of place I think nearby Izakaya Fu-ga should be more like. The vibe is cool and the drinks are very good (please put more whiskey drinks on!). I liked my Sour Bourbon Smash.

Desserts this evening were green tea and coffee flavored. Very much in line with the flavor profile of the restaurant but I have to shamefacedly say I went next door for my favorite rice pudding from Lazy Ox.

Aburiya Toranoko

243 S. San Pedro St.

Los Angeles, CA 90012

(213) 621-9500