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Monday, October 24, 2011

Raku in Las Vegas, NV

One of my favorite spots in Vegas has got to be Raku.  It's located a couple miles off the strip in the Chinatown area of Vegas off Spring Mountain Road.  You know it's a good place to eat if Vegas chefs typically come here after work to enjoy some good food that someone else prepares for them.  What makes Raku so good?  It's got to be the fine ingredients they start off with.  Or maybe the grilled skewers that come out perfectly every time.  Maybe it's the super clean and amazingly cool restroom with the aquarium (no joke).  Whatever the reason, make reservations ahead of time (try to call a week in advance to get the time you want over weekends) and head over next time you're in Vegas.

The blue fin tuna was on special this time so of course I couldn't resist.  At $25 for the plate which also includes a grounded up version that they made that was mixed with some herbs.  Great value as this was probably one of the better sashimi slices I've had in my life.  You don't dip it in soy sauce, but instead, they have some sea plant premarinated in soy sauce so you eat the sashimi with it.  Such a great way to start off.

I have two favorites here.  Yes, I am allowed to have two favorites.  They are the pork cheek (pictured above) and the pork ear.  The pork cheeks are so amazingly tender.  They sear the cheeks to have a perfect crisp when you bite into it, but it's so succulent and rich when you get inside.  Highly, highly recommended.

The pork ear is really good too.  It has a wonderful bite from the sear on the skin, but also from the cartilage inside.  You pour over some sake and chili mixture over it and it gives it a delicious spice.  Very good, I could eat just this as the entire meal.

But I don't want to.  Because everything is so good.  This agedashi tofu is so amazing.  It's juicy and soft with a wonderful pork broth that you eat with it.  It has some salmon roe (unfortunately, I took the picture on the wrong side) that you can see behind the nori strips.  So good.  The greens are the perfect compliment to the tofu and the roe are little flavor balloons that explode when you bite into them.  The red paste that you see is a spice paste.  You mix it into your broth for a hint of spiciness.

Beef liver is not on everybody's list.  But I love me some liver.  Beef liver is horrible when overcooked, but this was definitely cooked perfectly.  This beef liver has a very, very slight liver flavor to it (which in my opinion is a good thing).  What it does have a lot of is a huge beef flavor and a very tender quality to it.  With just a bit of the sauce that it is glazed in, I instantly fell in love.

Duck breast is one of those things that I cannot ever say no to.  For me, the best duck breats must be cooked perfectly.  It cannot be overcooked and it must have a good sear.  Most places can accomplish this task easily.  However, what usually defines the duck breast is the sauce that it comes with.  The duck here had a soy balsamic reduction.  It was wonderful and almost perfect.  The soy just added to the umaminess of the duck.  Balsamic vinegar and duck is almost a match made in heavy.  The rich red meat of duck and balsamic vinegar can never go wrong.  Pairing the two flavors creates total perfection.

My only qualm with this is that they took out the duck skin.  I guess it makes it grill evenly since it's skewered and rotated frequently so that it doesn't burn.  I was a little sad about this.  Crispy duck skin is a gift that God gave me for being good in life.

Besides duck breast, foie gras or duck liver is my Achilles heel.  I go for it probably 90% of the time I see it on the menu.  And at Raku it did not disappoint.  Nice and rich, just enough soy for saltiness and you get the full flavor profile of the foie gras.  I would've taken a picture of the inside, but it was gone way too quickly.  We couldn't wait.

We ended with a green tea creme brulee that we split.  When I first saw it, I was disappointed, thinking that the ice cream was the "green tea" part.  But I was wrong.  I wish I got a picture of it, but the custard was also made of green tea.  It was cool to see a green custard like that.  This was also great.  It was also interesting to see them able to brulee (burn in French) the creme brulee and stack up the ice cream.  As you can see some of it melted.  But it was actually good as it leaked down to the creme brulee adding a watery texture to the velvety smooth custard.

Along with a few other items and some alcohol, a table of four was served amazing food that they will never forget for just under $200 after tax and tip.  Definitely must try this when you have the chance.

5030 Spring Mountain Road Ste 2
Las Vegas, NV 89146