[Las Vegas, NV] Raku

Aburiya Raku is a Japanese restaurant located in a Chinatown strip mall not too far west of the Strip. An aburiya is apparently a restaurant that specializes in charcoal grilling, and Raku has many robata grilled items on the menu. They also have an omakase dinner for $75 or $100. According to my server the $100 omakase is about the same size as the $75 one but with more premium items. I went for the pricier omakase.


Tofu Salad

This consisted of slices of their house made tofu, along with tomato slices, on top of a bed of seaweed with a generous sprinkling of some baby sardines on top. This was really good. The tofu was soft and fresh, was instructed to add a little of the green tea salt and/or soy sauce to it, and they definitely enhanced the flavor. Looked (and tasted) a little like a Caprese salad, with an extra little salty crunch from the sardines. Tomatoes were ripe and sweet.


Sashimi
Kanpachi, Shima Aji, Bluefin Tuna, Seaweed Noodle, Microgreens

A few fish from the specials board. Very good, fresh fish. My favorite was the slightly fatty tuna which I think was chutoro. Instead of ginger there was pickled chrysanthemum as a palate cleanser, which was interesting. Sweet and not as strong as ginger.


Cherry Tomato Skewer
Tomatoes off the grill.


Alaskan King Crab
This was grilled, and had a bit of smokiness from the grill.


Yuba Skin
In a soy sauce broth and topped with a little wasabi.


Kurobuta Pork Cheek Skewer

This was delicious, my favorite skewer of the meal. Cooked so that there was still a bit of pink left inside and slightly crispy on the outside, lightly sauced and dripping with fat, this was fatty meaty goodness.


Wagyu Ribeye Cap Skewer

The outside part of a ribeye steak, ribeye cap is one of my favorite cuts of beef. This was really good too. Topped with a little line of wasabi. A little chewy.


Negitoro Don

Excellent, simple chopped fatty tuna with some chives and wasabi, over a layer of seaweed and rice.


Fluffy Cheesecake

Very nice dessert. One of the lightest most ethereal cheesecakes I’ve tasted. It had a little bit of raspberry sauce on the side.


In retrospect, while everything was delicious, I think I probably should have just ordered a la carte instead of omakase and tried more of their skewers. For example, I’m sure king crab is expensive but I don’t think that I’m that big of a fan of it.

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I went back to Raku on a recent trip to Vegas. Walked in on a weeknight at about 11pm and there were a good number of seats available. They are open late, until 3am most days. This time I ordered a la carte.


Raku’s Tofu (Half) ($3.50)
Had a half order of some of their excellent house made tofu. Served with chives, grated ginger, and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Was instructed to first try it by itself and then try it with some of their green tea salt and soy sauce and the condiments on the side. Delicious.

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Poached Egg with Uni and Ikura ($9)
Uni, ikura, and okra, with nagaimo and poached egg. And a few mushrooms. Was instructed to mix it up. The nagaimo or mountain yam bits were crunchy, with a texture similar to water chestnut, and also gave the dish a slightly slimy consistency along with maybe the okra. Interesting mix of textures and flavors. I think I like these things more separate than mixed up though.


Fried Ice Fish ($8.50)
Perfectly fried crispy little fish with a lemon wedge. Even the bones and head were soft. Delicious.


Kobe Beef Tendon ($3.50)
Fantastic. Soft and gelatinous interior, but not falling apart. Nice lightly sauced exterior, could really taste the charcoal from the grill.


Agedashi Tofu (Half) ($7.50)
More of their tofu, only agedashi style. Slightly crispy fried exterior. The interior was similar to the cold tofu, only warmer. Served in a soy based sauce with a few matsutake mushrooms and topped with ikura, nori, and chives, with a dab of smoky hot sauce on one side of the plate. Very good.


Foie Gras with Glazed Soy Based Sauce ($17.50)
Great! Very rich piece of foie. Like the beef tendon skewer it had a nice slightly smoky flavor from the charcoal. Some of the fat had rendered from it forming a pool underneath. Topped with a slice of fried black garlic.


Cold Udon Noodle with Foie Gras Egg Custard Soup ($18.50)
Finished with the udon. Was instructed to eat the custard on the bottom of the sauce first (I think). Nice smooth creamy custard. I think the sauce and/or custard were infused with foie, which gave it a distinctive rich savory sweet taste. There was a piece of duck in there too. I then dipped the udon into the sauce tsukemen style. The udon noodles had a nice texture, springy and al dente, and were topped with a mound of crushed ice to keep them cold.


Also had a cup of Kamoizumi Shusen Junmai Ginjo “Three Dots.” I’m not much of a sake drinker but this was quite nice.

Didn’t have room for dessert. I thought everything was great with maybe the exception of the egg/uni/ikura dish, which was good but not mind blowing. I think a la carte is the way to go here.

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I went back again to Raku for a light dinner before a flight home. I got there right before they opened at 6 and snagged a seat at the bar.

Free Appetizer
This was a cold dish consisting of a leafy green vegetable, maybe spinach, in a vinegary sauce with some thin mushrooms, topped with some bonito flakes. A nice palate cleanser.


Yellowtail Carpaccio ($12)
Very nice almost melt in your mouth sashimi. Half of the pieces were dotted with a yuzu based sauce and the other half with I think wasabi. It was served with a spoon filled with some sauce that tasted like a thick soy sauce with a bit of a miso taste. You could dip the pieces in the spoon or drizzle it over the fish. Little peppery greens on the side.


Then had a few things from the robata grill:

Asajime Chicken Breast w/Chicken Skin ($3)
Chunks of chicken breast with chicken skin. The breast meat wasn’t super tender but was juicy and flavorful. Crispy fatty skin. This skewer like the others had a nice smokiness from the charcoal.

Scallop ($9.50)
My server informed me that this was up from the normal price of $7 because the scallops were larger that day. A scallop served in its shell with a bit of sauce made from soy sauce and butter, with a few chopped chives. Very good. Pretty presentation. The soy and butter went really well together and complemented the sweetness of the scallop well. Maybe not the best value for a single scallop though.

Iberico Pork ($10.50)
Off the specials menu. Delicious fatty pork shoulder that was full of porky flavor.

Asajime Chicken Thigh Steak ($10)
Delicious. Crispy skin and tender meat. Lightly salted and served with a slice of Meyer lemon and a sweetish soy sauce for dipping.

Another enjoyable meal from Raku. Prices are pretty reasonable here for the high quality of food that they serve.

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Great review, love Raku.

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This is going to sound a little stupid but have they ever charged the $7 price as listed on the menu? For the last three years that I can recall (I went there once each year lol), they’ve always charged me above due to the scallop being larger that day. I love that buttered scallop, but I’m a little leery of that now.

Haha that’s interesting. This was the only time I’ve ordered it so I wouldn’t know. They mentioned the different price and confirmed that I still wanted it when I ordered. Three options in this case:

  1. They really do get larger than usual scallops often.
  2. The price is actually $9.50 but they didn’t want to change the menus.
  3. We are being bamboozled.

Thanks, me too. I wish they would open one up here in SF! There’s already one down in LA.

I’m sorry, but I would gladly pay even ten whole dollars for the chance to eat a scallop at Raku, perhaps my favorite restaurant in the world. I had a few skewers for lunch today locally in NJ and I would have traded all of it for a bite of a steak with garlic skewer.

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Ha, no disrespect to Raku, I just found it odd that every time I went it was never the menu price. Their buttered scallop is indeed very delicious and I would be more than happy to have it open a NorCal location. And I don’t feel like I’m being bamboozled so much since they did mention it right at the beginning of my meal about the price change.

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Another trip to Vegas and another dinner at Raku.

Started with a complimentary cold appetizer made with Taiwanese spinach, mushrooms, and katsuobushi dressed with a light dashi sauce.

I splurged a bit this visit and ordered some items off the specials board.

Medai Kobujime ($30)
A sashimi of what was described as “Japanese butterfish.” I looked up kobujime and it is a way of adding flavor by wrapping in kombu seaweed. Very tasty sashimi. I think the kombu marinade gave it a more savory umami flavor. Served with freshly grated wasabi, crunchy clear shirataki noodles, and chrysanthemum.

Wagyu Kushi ($20)
I believe this was wagyu from Japan and not the US. Grilled skewer with some wasabi on top. I don’t know if this was worth $20 a skewer but it was delicious. Meltingly fatty and tender. The wasabi opened up the sinuses to better taste the meat.

And also some things off the regular menu.

Oyaji Tofu ($8.50)
Raku’s house made tofu with a chili sauce, chopped chives, and preserved mustard greens. Delicious! I mixed everything up together. The chili sauce, while quite red, was not very spicy which I guess is to be expected as it is Japanese. It tasted a bit like Lao Gan Ma spicy chili crisp. the preserved mustard greens added some sour crunchy pickle-ness.

Crispy Asparagus Okaki ($5)
Very nicely executed. Fresh asparagus encrusted with a savory and cripy fried okaki (Japanese rice cracker) coating.

Foie Gras with Glazed Soy Based Sauce ($18.50)
It’s banned in California again so I got my foie fix here. Delicious. The glaze/sauce was slightly sweet. Topped with a little piece of black fermented garlic.

Kurobuta Pork Cheek ($4.25)
Delicious and fatty pork. Was a bit like the Wagyu Kushi actually in terms of fattiness.

Tsukune Grilled Ground Asajime Chicken ($4)
Very nice ground chicken skewer. Lightly coated and like the other grilled meats had a nice smokiness from the binchotan charcoal.

Takana Inari ($4)
To finish, a couple of inari with pickles. Inari are sushi rice wrapped in tofu wrappers. This one had some tasty pickles (apparently takana are pickled mustard greens) mixed in with the rice.

Another delicious meal at Raku. Everything was very good, but the highlight for me this time was probably the oyaji tofu.


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I went to Sweets Raku on another night this trip. Sweets Raku is a sister dessert restaurant to Raku located in the same strip mall. It’s quite small, just a few tables and a L-shaped counter where you can watch the chefs prepare the desserts. They have a few savory items on the menu but the focus of Sweets Raku is dessert.

They had a “dessert set” available which consists of a smaller first dessert (choice between two that night) and a dessert from the regular menu for $18. I had this and chose a coconut panna cotta in a mango sauce as the first dessert and the “Mars” dessert as the main dessert.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Mango Sauce
This was very nice. A coconut flavored panna cotta in a mango sauce, served in a coupe. Tasted light and tropical.

Mars
Very impressive presentation in which a flaming mug of brandy is poured on top which melts the white chocolate shell. Had little crispy bits on the bottom and was filled with a chocolate yuzu creamy filling. I enjoyed this but not as much as the coconut panna cotta. Was a little too boozy for me.

You can also add a wine pairing for $7, which I had. It was a glass of a very nice Sauternes.

Some pictures of the menu and more pictures:

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold