Some chefs that are so inextricably linked to specific foods that you wonder if they grew up cooking it their entire lives, eventually perfecting it in their professional cooking careers. Who thinks about Judy Rodgers without Roasted Chicken? Tomohiro Sakata’s yakitori’s is peerless. Scott Conant perfected spaghetti, and I’m pretty sure David Chang’s has cooked enough pork belly to feed a small country. These chefs struck something deep inside me and changed the way I saw a particular dish or ingredient– almost like a food epiphany.
When I first ate at Totoraku years ago, the experience was one of those moments. One dinner made me reconsider what I knew about beef. By the end of the meal, I was certain Totoraku was finest example of Japanese barbeque (yakiniku) outside of Japan.
There’s just one hitch though: it’s likely the hardest reservation in Los Angeles. The front door is locked; the phone number listed on the awning is a fake. Totoraku technically isn’t open to the public and one generally does need to be invited by Chef Kaz Oyama to attain reservation privileges or at least know a regular to get in. However, once you step inside, the door is locked behind you (kinda freaked me out the first time), and the magic begins.