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Hidden in the back corner of a strip mall in Las Vegas' Chinatown is Raku. The tiny izakaya style restaurant is the new favorite of many chefs and locals alike. The chef /owner, Mitsuo Endo, formerly of Megu in New York has created a menu of 70 or so dishes that run the gamut from raw kobe beef liver topped with slivers of garlic to bonito guts cured in salt to soba and rice bowls to robata cooked dishes. I'm slowly working my way through the menu. The only problem is, my 'list of must repeat' dishes is encroaching on my ability to pass them by and try new ones ;-) .


On my first visit, we dove right in and tried the raw kobe beef liver as our first dish. It had an interesting texture. And, the flavor seemed to have a hint of charcoal smoke, but that was overwhelmed by the raw garlic. Also on the first visit, a special, ika 2 ways, lightly grilled and sashimi. Excellent, sweet and tender ika sashimi resting against clear kelp seaweed made for a lovely presentation. The grilled tentacles and legs served a bit later in the meal, also tender and touch with charcoal smoke from the grill, soya and yuzu. Another favorite-the barely poached egg served in a deep bowl. The egg touched with a dark, deeply flavored dashi broth dotted with uni, ikura, slices of daikon, moutain yam and okra. Silky, glossy housemade tofu arrives under a woven basket cover. A selction of green tea salt, special soy sauce, green onions and bonito flakes are provided as condiments. Grlled sanama, served whole stretched across a plate. It's crispy skin intact, holding juicy flesh. Last night, octopus carpaccio. A circle formed of tender rounds of flesh atop a white miso sauce touched with soy. The rounds topped with diced tomato and bits of parsley. At the center of the circle, the little suction cups filled with dots of soy. Next, a gently grilled sea scallop bathed in a butter/soy sauce. Another new dish (for me) last night, fried mountain yam topped with uni and a grilled roasted Japanese pepper. The large ball of grated, perfectly fried yam topped with pieces of uni formed an island in a bowl of dark, smoky dashi dotted with ikura. Then, from the robata. A nicely cooked piece of salmon accompanied by a mound of grated daikon interspersed with ikura. A plate of grilled peppers. I absolutely love this place. It gets busy early and stays that way till closing at 3 am. So, be prepared to wait.

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  • 3 years later...

I raved about this place in the past and will now do so again. I had 6 nights in Las Vegas and came here twice. Once late on a Saturday night for a few snacks and Tuesday for a full blown omakase with beer and 5 different sakes. There are some who complain about the service and while it can get slow at times, the enthusiasm of the young female waitstaff is awesome as are their explanations of the dishes and the preferred strategy for eating them.


And I agree with Evelyn about having a tough time ordering new things without omitting a growing list of favorites. The tofu done two ways (fresh and fried) is an automatic. Also, the steamed fois gras egg custard topped with a slice of grilled duck. When we ordered we expressed our preference for the grilled liver over the raw but sure enough 6 slices of glistening raw liver show up with sliced garlic on top. The combination of the almost melting liver and crisp garlic with a hint of the chef's proprietary grean tea sea salt was fantastic. Although Raku hasn't made its reputation on sushi or sashimi, that doesn't mean it isn't also very good. Grouper sliced paper thin, we were advised to roll is around chili tinged ginger with sea salt. Bluefin tuna served with soy marinated seaweed. Had the hotpot for the first time which included a hacked grouper with a variety of mushrooms and cabbage. Delicious. When we were done, the waitress removes the pot and it returns 30 minutes later filled with rice and egg that was cooked in the leftover broth. The sorbet served at the end is the most intense fruit flavored sorbet I've ever had. Just a great eating experience that I don't believe any NY Japanese restaurant can come close to duplicating.

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