When the lights go out on The Las Vegas Strip, where do the chefs and restaurant staff go to eat?

Raku, it is.

We tend to to think that people working in the restaurant industry generally have pretty high standards and discerning tastes when it comes to food in restaurants. Before our visit, we held pretty high standards for Raku and were not in the least disappointed. Raku has what it takes to be a gem in Japanese cuisine. It opens up the world of Japanese cuisine to people who understand that Japanese cuisine is not all about sushi. In fact, no, Japanese don't eat sushi everyday.

Do yourself a favor and order off the daily specials menu. In fact, order the specials and the items on the regular menu which are darn good as well. The specials are written on a portable blackboard which the server brings to the table and then describing each special in detail. On the night we were there, the list of items on special was impressive in number. As the night went on, some of the specials were sold out and T noticed that some new specials were then added onto the blackboard.

Bai gai, Japanese sea snails

Such beautiful snail shells! Our server told us that the snails are first cooked for 7-8 hrs until tender and then steamed to order.

Seigo, Japanese sea bass

Seigo, Japanese sea bass

Seigo, Japanese sea bass

How the fish specials work is that we choose one type of fish from several options on the list (our pick was Seigo, a type of Japanese sea bass). Each order is for a whole fish. We then choose 2 out of 3 methods of preparation: sashimi, grilled, fried. Based on our chosen method of sashimi and grilled, half the fish was delicately sliced into sashimi and the other half was grilled to perfection (head and tail included). Now, when fish is grilled, no skin is wasted as it is always grilled together as well. At Raku, no skin should be wasted as well when preparing sashimi. The portion of the fish that is used for sashimi is first skinned and then the skin is grilled. The resulting curled and charred skin is a palate teaser in itself because of it's delightful taste in mini bite sizes (how much skin can you get out of half a fish, anyway?).

Kushi, Kobe beef tongue

We have no qualms in eating beef tongue but the best part for anyone who is wary of this might like to know that the texture of this Kobe beef tongue in no way feels like it is, well, tongue. Take out the word tongue and tell someone it is Kobe beef and it could be believable. The yakitori stick is drizzled with sauce that is intensely flavored with beef that even just a little smear on the beef tongue renders it perfect.

Kakuni, pork belly

The pork belly is braised until very tender that finishing the entire dish (meat and fat included) should not elicit any guilt. We normally don't include fats from meats in our diet but will make an exception for this.

Raku tofu

Its namesake Raku tofu is a must-order item on the regular menu. The Japanese take their tofu seriously as evidenced by restaurants in Japan which focuses its cuisine solely on different interpretations of tofu. At Raku, tofu is made fresh in-house everyday and the texture is the best we have ever had to date. Unlike any other we've had, the tofu is very, very creamy in texture. It isn't firm nor is it soft. It is creamy and rich in texture. The Raku tofu is served pure as it is with a side of shredded fresh ginger, scallions, and bonito flakes. It is meant to be enjoyed with sprinkles of green tea salt made with mushroom and seaweed. Drizzle lightly with soy sauce and savor the purity of the tofu.

Agedashi tofu
If you can't get enough of tofu, get an order of the agedashi tofu. Alternately, Raku allows a half order of Raku tofu and a half order of the agedashi tofu. The housemade tofu is slightly fried on the outside and sits in a bowl with dashi broth. Salmon roe, tiny mushrooms, seaweed, and scallions accompany the tofu. A tiny smear of Japanese chilli paste sits on the side of the bowl.

Juicy deep fried chicken

The name Juicy Deep Fried Chicken on the menu does not lie. It is really what it says it is. And better. This is Raku's take on karaage (deep fried chicken cutlets). The chicken is unbelievably moist and fried until it just crosses over the line from rare to cooked. When overcooked, chicken can be quite a pain to eat. I don't know how the Raku chefs timed it that well, but this is sure some juice pieces of chicken.

Oden, fish cakes

Select several types of fish cakes such as hanpen (cotton soft fish cake), chikuwa (hollow tube fish cake), and satsuma age (fried minced fish). Non-fish items include daikon (radish), pork intestine, beef tendon, and bean curd skin with mochi. Extremely popular in winter and considered as comfort food during the cold season, the items are served in warm dashi broth.

If you are visiting Las Vegas from out of town and have no access to a car, hop into a cab from your hotel or on The Strip. Raku is just a short ride away. When you are finished with dinner, call for a cab to take you back. No hassle. Be sure to make reservations.

5030 Spring Mountain Rd
Las Vegas, NV 89146

2012 James Beard Nominee for Best Chef in the Southwest, Mitsuo Endo
2011 James Beard Nominee for Best Chef in the Southwest, Mitsuo Endo
2009 James Beard Nominee for Best New Restaurant

No comments:

Post a Comment