Raku in Las Vegas serves authentic Robatayaki food. The only thing better than dinner at Ruku is to end the meal with dessert at nearby Sweets Raku.
We celebrated our eigth anniversary at Raku in Las Vegas. The dinner had it all. The romance, the atmosphere, the food…
The strip mall !?
The shuffling and bustling of cars on a meandering search for parking spaces on a Friday evening at Seoul Plaza greeted us as we arrived at our anniversary dinner. We wondered if we had allowed ourselves enough time to find a space and still arrive on time for our 8:00 reservation. A moment of panic set in. Could we find a parking spot at all? Would we miss our coveted reservation at the small but popular restaurant? An air of nervousness filled our rental car.
You see, despite its Korean name and suburban atmosphere, this strip mall two miles off the strip features two of the best Japanese restaurants in the country – Raku and Sweets RakuAburiya Raku and Raku Sweets.
Dinner at Raku in Las Vegas
Helmed by Chef Mitsuo Endo, Raku is a Robatayaki restaurant featuring meats and vegetables grilled to precision. The centuries old cooking method involves a large stone grill made popular on Japanese fishing boats on the northern island of Hokkaido. In recent years, the style has grown more popular throughout Japan. However, Raku’s menu features more than just grilled food.
How much more? We’re talking 10+ small courses served over three hours. And then there’s the extensive wine and sake list. We opted for a nice bottle of sake since it was our anniversary after all.
Our marathon of a meal started with a soft, silky dome of house made tofu with a texture that evoked fresh ricotta from Italy. We were encouraged to cut the tofu by hand and sprinkle special Japanese green sea salt on the delicate curds before eating every luxurious mouthful.
The tofu course was followed by one of the most formidable plates of sashimi we’ve eaten on this side of the Pacific Ocean. While many high-end Japanese eateries import their fish from Tokyo’s famous Tsukuji Market, Raku goes the extra mile to import fish from smaller purveyors in Southern Japan. Hey, it was our anniversary, so we splurged and ordered off the higher priced omakase menu which allowed us to sample a unique cornucopia of fresh fish including bluefin tuna, kampachi amberjack and shima aji striped jack. As an added touch, fresh chrysanthemum acted as a colorful palette cleaner.
Tasting Tip: Raku offers two levels of omakase menus. With a difference of just $25 between the two, we recommend the higher priced option since it features the restaurant’s freshest, most creative dishes.
The wonder of great Japanese cuisine is in the precision. Grill chefs in Japan cook with the skill of microsurgeons serving up a number of successive courses cooked to perfection.
And perfection followed. We loved the amazing, melt in your mouth Maryland soft shell crabs sourced from Baltimore. We marveled over the specially grilled tomatoes that somehow managed to remain plump and explosive despite their browned bacon wrapping. And we pretty much inhaled the jarringly rich, melt in your mouth, slow grilled beef tendon.
The courses kept coming in rapid succession: Crunchy flash fried snapper with delicate flesh and crunchy edible bones, lightly salted langoustines from Scotland that had no need for butter, skewers of duck and kobe beef and a finale of grilled foie gras. Confession: the delicate, creamy foie may have been the weakest course – a testament of how good Raku’s food is.
As we savored each small plate in our small private room, we toasted our eight years (!) of marriage as each course arrived, a tradition that we started last year at Volvér in Philadelphia and plan to continue in the future.
Raku is located at 5030 W Spring Mountain Rd #2, Las Vegas, NV 89146, United States.
We opted to only have savory courses during the omakase meal because we wanted to save room for…
Dessert at Sweets Raku
Located steps away in the same shopping center, Sweets Raku is a quirky restaurant that needs no name on the door, just a large silver spoon. The inside has stark white walls, much like a test kitchen, but there our dozens of bursts of color in the small, clean space, like the cheerful tea tins on the wall that line the front entrance.
Desserts at Sweets Raku can be ordered as a multi-course affair for $19 or on an a la carte basis. As an added treat, the menus are edible.
We sat at the bar so that we could get a front row view of the mastery created by Chef Mio Ogaswara. Born and trained in Japan, Chef Ogaswara is a magician with a piping bag, and watching her prepare the Sunset dessert was worth the price of admission.
The Mt. Exotic highlighted our dessert choices – a mango cream cake with raspberries, mango and chocolate. Chef Ogasawara extruded the spaghetti-like mango ice cream topping in front of our eager eyes.
Bursting at the seams, we were so done with food. But then the chef surprised us with a few final sweet bites – chocolate truffles and macarons, a perfect ending to a perfect anniversary dinner. How could we say no?
Sweets Raku is located at 5040 W Spring Mountain Rd #3, Las Vegas, NV 89146, United States.
The only bad thing about our anniversary dinner at Raku is that the gauntlet has been thrown so forcefully that it will be difficult to exceed, much less match, the experience for next year’s anniversary dinner. Luckily, this is a challenge that we are happy to accept.