Hey all you fans of Lazy Ox Canteen, just wait until you hear what owner Michael Cardenas has up his sleeve. Known as the commando behind IDG (Innovative Dining Group) that runs places like Sushi Roku and Delphine, Cardenas' opening of Lazy Ox marked a departure from the scene-y restaurants for which he is known. Almost a polar opposite to the aforementioned, Lazy Ox represents a neighborhood canteen, cool, casual, serving carefully sourced craft beer and wine with a rockstar chef, Josef Centeno, in the open kitchen churning out extra seasonal, rustic, globally-influenced small plates. Keep this model in mind, it will come into play later.
Anyway, a couple months back Eater spotted signage for Cardenas' next concept, Toranoko, a new Japanese restaurant located next door to The Ox, referenced here and there. However, through the grapevine Eater heard that Cardenas was actually in the process of opening several new eateries, so this is just one of the group. According to him, “aburiya Toranoko” should open in late December/early January.
Aboard this project comes a slew of heavy hitters all hailing from the Nobu Matsuhisa empire, a brand that Cardenas himself helped establish many years ago. So, here are the team players: Chef/Partner, Hisa Kawabe, a 15 year veteran of Nobu Matsuhisa domain will produce the food along with Taku Sugawara a 16 year NM alum. Tommy Tomioka, an 18 year NM player will serve as GM, and finally Kurtis Wells of Hatfield's takes over mixology duities. Cardenas says that the food philosophy will be "on the same wave-length of the Lazy Ox...down home 'real' Japanese cuisine, with no fluff, affordable pricing, none pretentious, anti-Beverly Hills vibes, utilizing small Japanese veggie growers in Santa Barbara and San Diego and our seafood friends from Oregon, Santa Barbara, and East Coast."
Sample menu items include:
kurage (jellyfish) sunomono
karasumi (Japanese-style bottarga)
kumamoto style “tonsoku” or pig feet in spicy miso
motsu nabe or simmered tripe stew
house made “tofu”
house made soba selection
daily selection of sushi/sashimi
NICE. Cardenas continues on to say, "We will emphasize the importance of housemade Japanese cuisine with umami or layers of deep flavors carefully using the dashi and konbu."
So that's the deal with Toranoko. Cardenas is working on two other projects at the moment one of which will manifest itself as a Peruvian concept with Lazy Ox's sous chef, Mario Orellana, a former partner of Mo-Chica. For anyone that is familiar with San Francisco Peruvian eatery La Mar, that's what Cardenas is going for here, he's currently finalizing his partnership deal and looking for a location in downtown or on Abbot Kinney. He describes the menu as "wild and edgy...but something that nobody is doing." Again it's all about the food here, "no fluff."
·Michael Cardenas To Open Toranoko Plus More?! [~ELA~]