521 N La Cienega Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90048
Dining date: 10/3/15
Raku is one of the year’s most exciting restaurant openings for me; I never expected to see this place in Los Angeles. I’ve enjoyed the restaurant a handful of times since it opened in Las Vegas’ Chinatown 2008. In its early stages, it was a fairly unassuming ‘locals spot’ in a Chinatown strip mall. The restaurant steadily gathered a very devoted following and national acclaim, following up with a Raku Sweets concept in 2013 and this second location of Raku that opened just last month.
The menu at this West Hollywood location is virtually identical to the original, with a long list of menu items and a chalkboard of daily specials. We ordered up a couple of daily specials (bluefin tuna sashimi, iberico pork skewers), a few old favorites and some new dishes.
Bluefin Tuna Sashimi
The slices of bluefin were very tender and flavorful, though one of the pieces was a little stringy.
They make their tofu fresh in-house and it was just as I remembered: silky smooth in a flavorful dashi broth.
Poached Egg with Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe
I’m not sure all of these flavors came together as expected. Dashi was the most prominent flavor while the sea urchin and egg flavors were pretty subtle. Maybe the egg was supposed to be runny, but it had the texture of a thick custard and didn’t incorporate with the rest of the dish.
Steamed Foie Gras Egg Custard
A mild foie gras flavor came through in this custard, but maybe less pronounced than I remember. The dish was very rich but not overly so. A juicy piece of duck breast sat on top to complete the dish.
Juicy Deep Fried Chicken
Chicken was fried with a crispy skin and juicy dark meat. A bed of dressed baby spinach provided a welcome acidic component to the chicken.
Oyako Don – Chicken and Egg
The oyako don was simple and satisfying, both a little sweet and savory.
We also ordered an assortment of skewered meats from the robata grill.
Duck with Balsamic Soy Sauce
Chicken Teba Wing
Kobe Beef Filet with Wasabi
Kobe Beef Liver
Kobe Beef Outside Skirt with Garlic
Chicken Breast wrapped with Chicken Skin
Tsukune-Grilled Ground Chicken
Highlights from the skewers included the juicy and flavorful iberico pork, tender duck breast in a balsamic glaze, and the garlic skirt steak. None of them disappointed save for the Kobe filet – it was tender as expected but had a flavor characteristic of old beef. Not impressed at $14 a skewer.
Raku overall was a good meal, though not without some ups and downs. Food-wise, I thought it was pretty similar to what I had experienced in Vegas. It’s early, but service still needs a fair amount of work to complete the experience.