Talking about Oto Oto will be a bit personal for me. I don't talk much about restaurants in my posts because I only want to feature the offerings as well as the ambiance. In terms of the actual flavors and whether I like it or not, I don't dive too into it because that is something I want you to be the judge of.
Oto Oto on the other hand... I've worked here in the past for 3 and a half years while finishing my college degree in Business Marketing. I haven't been back since leaving over 2 years ago. I think the reason was the clean break from the restaurant. I wanted to eat new things. Italian cuisines, French, American, and contemporary cuisines whatever that means. The spark for Japanese food just vanished. It wasn't that I stopped coming here only, I also stopped my Izakaya and Japanese food craze unless a friend or family member wants it.
This is why we came here tonight. My brother, David, was turning 30 that night so we wanted to have a nice dinner followed by a countdown. I made a gesture to eat at a place like Oto Oto "Izakaya-style" so we can drink and just snack on items. But turned out, he was really excited to go back to Oto Oto and eat all the food he loved when they used to visit me during and after work.
Without going into detail today, my true drinking habits started here. I've also learned a different side of Japanese cuisine I wasn't familiar with. Izakaya. I immediately fell in love. Not just by the food, but also by how the chefs work. The main chefs are from Japan to continue this restaurant group here in America. IF you have to know, I believe they have over 150 chains in Japan. Oto Oto Monrovia, is their flagship in the U.S.
The restaurant is louder and much livelier than your typical conservative sushi dining experience. The best way to describe the whole Izakaya experience, is to start with a drink, order a few appetizers, and then order more drinks. Continue. I like to start with beer or sake. And order little appetizers like chicken karaage:
My first time eating this was here. I ate at least one piece of this every day. And when I am super hungry, I would order this with a bowl of rice. I would squeeze the lemon all over the chicken and my rice so I'll have the lemon flavor throughout. This, by the way, is fantastic with beer.
So you cheers a little and snack a little. One of the next dishes are all my favorites to eat here while enjoying great company, with drinks.
Here is the chicken skin, chicken liver, and special heart which is the fatty membrane around the heart of the chicken (DELICIOUS). Everything was eaten with a dash of togarashi pepper.
Ankimo in ponzu. This is monkfish liver served in a bowl with ponzu, spicy grated daikon, seaweed, shredded cucumbers and minced green onions. I used to also eat this with rice. The flavor is mild yet creamy in texture.
Half shell oysters - 1 ordered with UNI - Sea Urchin (recommended). Served with spicy grated radish, minced onions and ponzu. Super fresh and clean.
Wagyu Carpaccio. I know these are all my favorite foods here, but you have to order this. Tender wagyu beef over mixed greens, sliced red onions, sprouts and minced green onions with a savory tataki sauce. Everyone at the table was happy about this.
Salmon cut roll. We always order this wherever we go.
Yellowtail belly. Just melts in your mouth. I eat this with a touch more of wasabi even though it's already added with a dash of soy sauce. Your eyes will roll back.
Dragon roll. Yes, unagi is good and we love avocados. But did you know they use real snow crab in all their rolls? Think again when you want to pass on their rolls. And hey, you are eventually going to need something to soak up all that alcohol.
For the next few years, I suffered with the syndrome to call this Spicy tuna at every restaurant. It is called spicy tuna pizza here at Oto, but a lot of other restaurants have the same concept with different names. I loved the seasoning of the spicy tuna.
More yakitori. Beef tongue and Pork calbi. Both are recommended.
They were sold out of their tebasaki karaage (fried chicken wings) so we ordered their chicken wings yakitori instead. I like this version, but the boys wanted fried.
Shiso gyoza. I knew what I wanted, but so did my brother. He made sure we ordered this even though we were extremely stuffed. His eyes rolled back after taking a bite. Served with citrus ponzu. If you love gyoza, you haven't loved it until you had it here. Made in house.
Limited quantity: Miso Marinated cod bones. Don't be fooled by the name, these are packed with flavor and meat. I've had this at other restaurants, but it just doesn't compare to here. It just tastes so fresh and not like it's been sitting in the fridge for a long time. The portions are also generous. Pairs fantastically with beer.
We also had a simple straightforward snow crab roll and ended our night with watermelon shaved ice.
If you plan on visiting let me know, I love it here.
OH and Happy Birthday again brother.