Tuesday, November 30, 2004


Torafuku is run by the Four Seeds Corporation of Tokyo and it's a fancy place geared at the expatriate crowd. Choice of Japanese or English menu at the door, shouted salutation from the open kitchen, Calpico water at an outrageous $3 on the drinks menu. Prices seem affordable but portions are very dainty. It's good value considering the quality.

For a place specializing in rice the menu has many sections. Sizzling plates, salads, things on skewers, sushi and sashimi. Fans of spicy tuna or Rainbow rolls will delight in the "California All-Stars" section. Oh dear. Most interestingly, under the Rice dishes were a few items earmarked "traditional" with a note warning off all but the "very adventurous". Like a red flag to any self-respecting chowhound.

I ate:
Gohan set. Rice with miso soup, pickles and a amuse-sized portion of saba (mackerel). The rice was very good but the difference between this and the best rice from my Japanese friend's fuzzy logic rice cooker -takes twice as long as regular, but done just right! - was subtle. The grains were very fat and fluffy and it seemed kinda translucent but the taste wasn't a revelation. It was improved by a liberal shake of the dashi/nori/sesame mix tableside.

Saba marinated in fermented rice bran. From the "traditional" section, this cost $9 and when it arrived I felt initially that I had wasted my money - note the nom de cuisine. However, the six thin slices of saba interleaved with daikon rectangles were quite delicious, extremely salty like the waitress warned but each containing enough flavour for 10 cafeteria teriyaki chicken bowls. I was reminded of the jamon iberico de bellota that I smuggled back from Barcelona - fortune favours the bold, or should I say the "very adventurous". Mmm... fermented rice bran.

Shiokara - "homemade squid legs". Raw tendrils of good and chewy squid in a cold, thick brown sauce that also tasted fermented and was very toothsome, almost like uni. From the "traditional" menu, a tiny portion but recommended.

Onigiri (rice ball) with spicy cod roe. Here the rice seemed tastier than in the Gohan set, eating it out of hand wrapped in the nori rectangle was satisfying and I savoured the nutty flavour highlighted by the dab of cod roe in the middle that tasted of the sea. I like to order onigiri and perhaps this one was extra good coming from the touted "kamado" oven that Torafuku boasts.

I'm no expert but Torafuku seems like a worthwhile addition to the Japanese restaurant kaleidoscope, it is just West of the Westside Pavilion and not far from Sawtelle. At least some of the clientele know what they like, the two Japanese cats sharing the counter with me discussed their salad at length with the chef and had it adjusted twice.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your restaurant review seems "cheap" restaurant oriented. Funny, but no offence, if you can't tell the difference between the rice at Torafuku to the "fuzzy" rice cooker, you may not have no business going there. I am a Japanese with the best rice to worst rice experience. I have a $250 rice cooker the best in industry, with Akita Komachi, so far, the best sold in US. But that rice, is not reproduceable with any of the rice cooker I have tested. And if you liked the rice ball which has a touch of salt, I doubt you can tell what the rice "should taste" like.

8:06 PM  
Blogger Simon said...

Hey Anonymous,

Where is the love? I make no promise of expertise, just an honest opinion from a dude who really enjoys discovering new restaurants and learning about different cuisines. I hope you liked the rest of my website better than this page.

Simon aka Low End Theory

10:34 PM  
Anonymous One woman's opinion said...

I love this place. Went there on Friday night and had uni over yuba. To me, this dish epitomized very refined Japanese cooking. The uni was slightly sweet over the cold and fresh yuba. Every tofu dish I've ever had there has been to die for.

7:04 PM  
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