Taste of Tokyo
A sophisticated, upscale Japanese eatery unlike any other debuts in Encino.
Written byTiffany Shinn
It’s a bold move. Most wouldn’t dare to open another Japanese restaurant in the Valley, where the Boulevard has more than earned the title of “sushi row.”
But newcomer Gyoro Gyoro Izakaya Japonaise enters the market with a high end, urbane establishment you’re more likely to find in Japan’s opulent Ginza district—or among the glitzy restaurants opening in Las Vegas hotels. That, along with its contemporary menu, makes it a noteworthy stand-out among the plethora of other Japanese eateries that dot the Boulevard.
Hailing from Tokyo’s third largest restaurant operation, Ramla, Inc., this marks the company’s third U.S. branch, with the first two California locations in Monrovia and West Covina (both opened under the name Oto-Oto Izakaya Japonaise).
Located on the second story of the Encino Courtyard shopping center, the build-out is grand. The spacious interior is outfitted with silk stone counters. A glass-enclosed kitchen is viewable from 360 degrees. Sliding doors contain sound. A wall is mounted with a stunning slab of glimmering black onyx, while another is adorned with a color-shifting mural of koi.
What’s most impressive, though, is the expansive outdoor deck that adjoins the restaurant bar. Housed under a tin roof with deep dimensions—the first of its kind in the Valley—the patio is lined with deep, comfy seating, heaters and a fire pit.
This is not the aesthetic of your neighborhood sushi joint—unless, of course, that joint is nearly 6,300 square feet and custom-designed. This is a sleek, modern establishment, channeling Tokyo, circa 2013.
The food also reflects modern Japan, with a focus on izakaya shared plates and a robata menu, where all things are skewered and grilled over charcoal. (We’re told the chefs were all brought in from Tokyo). With more than 300 items to choose from, start with the edamame doused in truffle oil and practice the art of Zen by restraining from devouring the lot in seconds.
Plump, fist-sized gyoza is laced with shiso leaves, and the exceptional wagyu sushi features a seared sliver of Japan-imported beef draped over a nugget of rice. Lobster tail is delicately charred and beautifully understated. Pork belly is served with a soft-boiled egg and a dollop of mustard heat. The beef tongue stew successfully mixes comforting flavors with the exotic.
Despite surprisingly reasonable prices, Gyoro Gyoro remains mindful of ingredients and technique. Scallops are imported from Hokkaido, Japan, and sauces are created from scratch. Dishes are further complemented by a thoughtful collection of craft beers, including the rare Hitachino Nest red ale on tap and an extensive sake, shochu and wine list.
They’re roadside attractions.