5030 Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89146
Dining date: 3/29/11
Raku is one of the off-Strip Las Vegas restaurants I hear most about. Forget off-strip, the rave reviews I’ve been hearing about this place eclipse most of the restaurants on the Strip. Raku’s charcoal-grilled robata is one of the restaurant’s specialties, but they also offer a variety of fresh fish and an assortment of cold and hot plates. Before going in, I asked around for recommendations and the answers I got spanned the whole menu. Clearly, the restaurant does a lot of things well.
We ordered a bunch of things in no particular order, but started with an amuse from the kitchen.
Taiwanese spinach, enoki mushrooms, shitake mushrooms, bonito flakes
Light and refreshing, this was a nice start to the meal.
Bluefin Tuna Sashimi
The restaurant has a chalkboard of daily specials, and this was one of them. Oh my goodness…this was fantastic. Exceptionally flavored and really tender, this was so good. Easily better than much of the toro (and this wasn’t toro) I’ve had in other restaurants; it briefly reminded me of Urasawa.
This homemade tofu was very good – soft and delicate with a subtle but present soy flavor. Prepared agedashi style, the umami-rich broth was also very good.
Crispy Fried Shrimp
The shrimp here were crispy as advertised and moist on the inside. Nothing special really, but good. I’m never really sure if I’m supposed to eat these sort of things in its entirety, shell-on; but we did in this case.
Crispy Asparagus Okaki
Another crispy dish, I enjoyed the contrasting tenderness of the asparagus with the crispy rice cracker breading. There was a nuttiness to the breading, which I thought also went well with the vegetable.
Juicy Deep Fried Chicken
This was a little bit unique as it seemed to be chicken that was rolled up, then fried and cut. Juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside – no complaints here.
The fish was good here, but the bluefin spoiled me a bit as it didn’t seem as special. Still, the wasabi and yuzukosho did a nice job of brightening up the yellowtail in this dish.
Fish of the Day – Yellowback Seabream
This was one of the fish of the day, served whole. It was a pretty small dish with only about 8 chunks of white flesh. It was very good though, with a crispy exterior from the deep frying.
Steamed Foie Gras Egg Custard
The custard was silky smooth with a fairly subtle foie gras flavor. Very comforting. The piece of duck breast on top was pretty good too.
We proceeded with a number of robata-grilled dishes.
Butter Sautéed Scallop with Soy Sauce
The scallop (served in its shell) was cooked well, but I thought the butter was a little overpowering here.
This was the first piece where I could really get a sense of the charcoal grill flavor. There was a smoky char on the chicken, and it was moist and flavorful. Really simple and really good.
Kobe Beef Filet with Wasabi
Again, a good smoky flavor from the grill paired with some really flavorful tenderloin. Surprisingly juicy and flavorful. I liked the fresh wasabi as well, countering the rich meat. Delicious!
Kurobuta Pork Cheek
I was surprised to find this rather chewy, kind of like a chicken gizzard. Maybe I just haven’t really had cheek in this type of preparation. It was well-marbled, and the porky flavor was present.
Kobe Beef Tendon
Not my favorite. I never really like the tendon though, and this was like a big blob of gooey tendon. So meltingly tender, I wasn’t sure if I was biting into fat or tendon. I think this was probably a very good preparation, but it’s not my thing.
Duck with Balsamic Soy Sauce
An interesting dish here – the duck was prepared well, and the balsamic soy and fresh onions did a good job of cutting through some of the richness.
Apple Marinated Lamb Chop
Tender and juicy, this was a damn good lamb chop. I’m not sure if I got any apple flavor though, but I didn’t mind.
Kobe Beef Outside Skirt with Garlic
Really good. Exceedingly tender and flavorful, with a nice garlic touch.
I had high expectations for Raku and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, it exceeded them. After dining at places from Joel Robuchon and Jose Andres, it was nice to get something rather simple with clean, familiar flavors. Almost like a detox, if you will. The raw fish preparations (ooh the bluefin!) and the robata-grilled items stood out most to me, but it was a well-rounded meal.