Posted on | October 19, 2008 | 5 Comments
Last Night we (finally) went to Raku, a Japanese Izakaya/Robatayaki that opened here in Vegas this summer. Yes, it’s only been open a few months, but I wish we hadn’t waited so long! This was one of the best Japanese restaurant meals I’ve ever had, and growing up in the Los Angeles Southbay, I think that’s saying a lot! We had read some pretty stellar reviews of the place, and were excited to hear that local chefs frequent it. And now I understand why.
The place itself is tucked away in the back corner of a strip mall. The interior is quite small, seating about 30 people. The decor is quite Japanese-y, simple and clean, with dark chocolate coloured walls, woods, and accent halogen lighting. The atmosphere is relaxed and casual, fine for either a nice meal, or to hang out and enjoy drinks. The service is very friendly and they are great at answering questions and giving recommendations. The menu is listed in both Japanese and English.
We arrived a little after 6pm, which was perfect. Although they had just opened for the day, we were already the third party in the restaurant, and by the time we left there were 3 parties waiting to be seated. This might be because people tend to take their time here, drinking and eating the small plates as they come out (usually one at a time). If you’re going with more than 2 people, I’d highly recommend you make a reservation, especially on the weekend. This place supposedly starts to really rock after midnight, accommodating the after hours crowd. The cost ranges depending on what you order. Because the plates are small, some are pretty cheap at $2.00, while others (such as those with Foie Gras or Kobe Beef) go up to $15.00. Not bad, but if you assume the average person can probably eat at least 4-5 dishes, and factor the cost of sake or beer (this is in essence, a BAR after all) it can add up pretty quickly, so be careful!
They have a nice selection of sake, from average to quite costly. We started out with one of the cheaper, but also the ‘chef’s recommended’, Tozai Nigori Sake, and it was quite something.. it had the sweetness of nigori sake, but was neither overly sweet or overly dry. It made for the perfect complement to the 12 (yes 12!) dishes that we subsequently shared.
We started out with the Soba Noodle Salad, consisting of cold green-tea soba, thin slices of daikon and carrots, topped with bonito flakes and nori. The seasoning tasted like a blend of sesame oil, shoyu, and maybe rice vinegar? I can’t be sure, but I am a noodle freak, and this dish was delicious. Next we had the Raku’s pickles. This dish consisted of radish, okra, cucumber, and what I believe was a mixture of daikon and kombu pickles. I loved the okra, and Adam the daikon/kombu, but really they were all fantastic! Then there was the Agedashi Tofu. This was a special, but I certainly hope it’s on the menu most of the time (or at least whenever we’re here) because it was simply incredible. The chef hand makes the tofu every morning, and this dish consists of a large piece of the tofu fried and served in a heavenly dashi broth with green onions, mushrooms, and salmon roe. You have to taste it to believe it! Next, we had the Asparagus Wrapped with Bacon. At only $2.00, it’s a steal, although you only get three half pieces of asparagus. I’d recommend ordering one per person. It’s a simple dish, but the flavor from the grill just did something to it I can’t explain.. it was SO tasty! Next was the Kobe Beef Outside Skirt with Garlic. Oh. My. Gawd. I could have eaten 10 of these. The Kobe consisted of small skewered melt-in-your-mouth cubes, grilled to perfection, juicy and pink of the inside. Slices of fried garlic topped it. I can’t think of a more perfect dish, honestly. Simple, but so good, it made me want to cry (seriously!) Next we had the Juicy Deep Fried Chicken. This reminded me a lot taste-wise of sesame chicken you can often get at Ramen-Yas, except it was 10X better than any I’ve ever had. It’s served sliced, and each slice is a piece of juicy on the inside, crispy on the outside, tasty and out of this world goodness. Following that was the Tsukune Grilled Ground Chicken, which looked like an odd shaped meatball on a stick, but the flavors were quite good. The Grilled Rice Balls (musubi) were excellent, as was the Yummy Miso Soup. Upon being in food heaven, we opted to order two more dishes.. the Green Hot Chili Peppers (shisitos) and the Potato with Corn. Sadly, they were out of the Potato with Corn (next time!) The shisito peppers made up for this, because they were simply delicious. Not hot at all, they’re actually sweet; which I think the grilling brings out of them. They were served simply with seasoned bonito flakes.
Although we were quite stuffed from the ridiculous amount of food we ordered and consumed (the waiter joked.. either you two are really hungry or the food is really good!) we HAD to try the watermelon sorbet. And of course at the waitress’s persuasion (although it didn’t take much to persuade us!) we tried the special strawberry sorbet as well. I loved both. The watermelon sorbet reminded me a lot of a hawaiian shave-ice, although Adam thought it was a bit too sweet. The strawberry sorbet had more of a traditional sorbet texture, with chunks of strawberry and condensed milk on top. Yum!
(2/09 Update: We have since revisted Raku 3 times. We’ve ordered some of our favorites, as well as some new dishes. I have not been disappointed with any!)
Tomato Wrapped in Bacon:
Enoki Mushrooms wrapped in Bacon:
Hand Rolled Rice (with Mackerel and Natto)
Kobe Beef with Garlic:
Green Hot Chili Peppers:
Chocolate Souffle with Green Tea Ice Cream:
5030 Spring Mountain Rd. @2, Las Vegas, NV 89146
Hours: 6PM – 3AM Monday through Saturday