The latest entry to Little Tokyo’s already saturated izakaya (Japanese gastropub) scene seems like a no-brainer for restaurateur Michael Cardenas, who also has stakes in Boa, Katana, Sushi Roku, and the Lazy Ox Canteen. Aburiya Toranoko is next door to the Lazy Ox, and both spots embody the restaurant style of the moment—casual, loud, ingredient driven, and adventurous. Unlike its neighbor, Toranoko tries to wrangle with the traditional as well, which is where it slumps. That sushi bar in the back? It’s fine, but we’d opt for perfectly charred sumiyaki skewers of various meaty bits (including skin, heart, and other organs) and veggies, the tempura tiger shrimp with a curry aioli, or the quick-cooked, miso-marinated beef tongue that takes on a whole new—and wholly wonderful—texture. Long communal tables and an even longer list of sake, beers, and cocktails add to the party vibe.
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