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.
5030 Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89146
Dining date: 5/6/15
Raku used to be sort of an off-strip “hidden gem” that locals knew of in Chinatown. It’s grown considerably in exposure to become very well known with locals and tourists alike seeking a great dining experience outside of a hotel resort.
I’ve been to Raku twice and had excellent meals. However it’s been a little while and after three years, I finally returned with my dad. The menu is very much the same as I remembered with a large variety of small plates (hot and cold) and yakitori. A chalkboard displays a list of the day’s specials. Initially intending to order a chef’s choice omakase, we decided to go a la carte and choose exactly what we wanted to eat. We ended up ordering three of the daily specials (the first three dishes in this post) as well as a handful of small plates and skewers.
3455 Overland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Dining date: 2/18/15
I recently revisited West LA’s n/naka. To me, it’s still one of the more unique meals in LA. It’s Niki Nakayama’s modernized interpretation of a kaiseki meal – hyper seasonal, local, intricate food following a traditional progression. LA’s full of great Japanese cuisine but even in the high-end space, it’s primarily sushi-based. n/naka’s multi-course small-plate meal and focus on service really find a great blend between Japanese cuisine/sensibilities and Western ‘fine dining.’
The modern kaiseki runs $165 with a vegetarian option for $150 – both are thirteen courses.
521 W 7th St
Los Angeles, CA 90014
Dining date: 10/2/14
I first dined at Q two months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. This return visit came quicker than expected as Q was the last-minute choice for a special occasion meal in the downtown area.
Sushi Zo still gets the majority of buzz of high-end downtown sushi options, though Q is right up there and deserves strong consideration. The quality of the fish is superb and the precision is exacting, plus I think Q has one of the most beautiful sushi bars in town (I love the lightbulbs). It’s very quiet and rather tranquil, transporting one away from the busy downtown streets just outside the doors.
424 E 2nd St
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Dining date: 9/13/14
A couple of weeks ago, b.o.s. announced it would close its doors on Sept. 27th. I was very disappointed to hear the news, but knew it wasn’t exactly packing the tables despite mostly positive reviews. Its nose-to-tail concept seemed like it could be a good fit in the area, but I’m not sure it ever caught on with the local crowd. Its closure just seems way too soon. I visited almost a year ago, soon after the restaurant opened, and enjoyed my meal there. I wanted to stop in at least one more time to see what’s changed.
During my first visit, we dined at the omakase-only bar. On this subsequent one, we sat in the dining room and had the full a la carte menu to choose from. To me, the menu is just as interesting as before with a mix of “exotic” like tongue, heart, brain, and intestines but also some more typical beefy items like oxtails, short ribs, and a handful of steak options.
129 N La Cienega Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Dining date: 8/7/14
Nobu Matsuhisa’s massive empire currently stretches 5 continents with over 30 restaurants; he’s easily one of the most successful high-end chef/restaurateurs today. However, it all began here in 1987, where Matsuhisa would establish a name for himself and where he met some powerful partners that helped him expand the brand worldwide. Almost thirty years later, Matsuhisa is still going strong on La Cienega’s restaurant row.
I was first introduced to Matsuhisa’s food at the original Nobu in New York many years ago and loved it. I’d frequented his restaurants in LA when I first moved here (and Las Vegas too), but it’d been many years since this latest visit.