Chef Mike Tran’s newest restaurant opens Tuesday, October 1. Toukei Izakaya, his take on a Japanese pub, is ready to serve the dining public.
Located in the same Chinatown shopping center as his restaurants Mein, Ohn Korean Eatery, Night Market Thai, and Ishin Udon (9630 Clarewood Dr.), Toukei features an enhanced design compared to Tran’s other restaurants. Careful attention was paid to the metal signs hanging above the dining room; they’ve been weathered to give the restaurant an older, more lived-in feel.
Up front, an intimate bar showcases a dedicated tap for Japanese-style highballs made with Suntory Toki whisky. Beyond that, the dining room features all booth seating, each with a view of the open kitchen and its custom-built, wood-burning grill.
Sep 26, 2019 at 1:38pm PDT
Inspired by multiple trips to Japan taken by Tran, his business partner Jack Tran, and frequent collaborator Rikesh Patel, the menu covers a wide range of dishes found in traditional izakayas. The chefs provided CultureMap with an almost-final copy of the menu as well as the opportunity to taste a few dishes.
Dinner at Toukei will likely begin with selections from the extensive selection of snacks that are designed to be paired with a cocktail or two; they include both cold dishes such as soy-braised snails, cold smoked duck, and potato salad as well as hot dishes such as fried chicken skin, stir-fried bean sprouts, and gyoza.
Although Toukei isn’t explicitly a sushi restaurant, it does offer a number of raw fish preparations, including half a dozen sashimi options, two different ceviches, and hamachi crudo. From there, diners will want to consider more than a dozen different skewers: everything from chicken thigh and chicken heart to beef short rib and whole prawn.
Patrons could make a meal out of the small plates, or they could save room for some combination of larger grill items — miso-marinated black cod, lamb chops, yellowtail collar, etc. — or for a bowl of ramen. While Tran would probably do just fine serving Tiger Den’s broth, he’s created a new seafood and pork stock that serves as the soup’s base. Thick noodles help soak up each drop.
Highballs, made with either Japanese whisky or shochu, anchor the cocktail program. The space also features dozens of lockers filled with an extensive selection of both Japanese whisky and Scotch. Selections run the gamut price-wise, with gems like Yamazaki 18 and Hibiki 21 sprinkled in among more regular fare.
Like Ohn, Toukei will be open until 2 am, and its kitchen will serve food until 1:30 am.
Since 2015, Tran has been transforming the shopping center with food he likes to eat from Japan, Korea, and China. With the opening of Toukei, the project is complete, but Tran's work isn't done. He's still working on a Vietnamese pub that will replace shuttered poke restaurant Laki Fish to Tiger Den — and probably another trick or two.