RAKU Rocks!

Paul Bartolotta goes there. Rick Moonen goes there. Joe Isidori and David Varley just went, and uber-wine guys Jaime Smith and Ken Fredrickson can’t stay away. In fact every chef and foodie in town is making a pilgrimage these days to an obscure corner of a run-down strip mall that houses this tiny, 30-seat sanctuary of serious Japanese robatayaki cooking.

Raku has only been open two months, but it is probably the single most exciting off-Strip restaurant to open in the past two years. And in terms of finely-tuned food, nothing off the Strip can match it.

Chef/owner Mitsuo Endo hails from Megu in New York (the restaurant where we first experienced edamame beans served with the pod still attached to its tree), along with other Japanese delicacies that added up to one of the most expensive meals of our lifetime – around $600 for two if memory serves).

Here you’ll find the tariff much more reasonable. The menu is simplicity itself, and your meal as small or large as you want to make it. We didn’t try the meat guts or Bonito guts pickled in salt, but the Tsukune (grilled ground chicken on a skewer), butter sauteed scallop, bite-size foie gras bowl, pork ear, corn stuffed with potato, whole (headless) Hokke fish (a Japanese mackeral), skewered tomatoes, and meltingly tender kobe beef skewers were so good that most of us were speechless. These are only about half of the plates we tried – but from the portabella (with ground chicken) to the pork cheek – every dish was flawless.

Equally compelling are soy sauces and tofu made in-house, and a wine/sake/sochu list that’s small, well-priced, and perfectly matched to the menu. Some say the Japanese put a finer point on their cuisine than anyone (even the French), and a tour around Endo’s cooking, with its small plates perfection, will give you an idea what they’re talking about.


5030 W. Spring Mountain Rd. #2

Las Vegas, NV 89146

702.367.3511 (although this number seems to be on FAX mode until late afternoon)

Open for dinner only, 6pm-3am, every night except Sunday

13 thoughts on “RAKU Rocks!

  1. Hey John,

    I am happy to hear that you enjoyed Raku! It has definitely become one of my favorite places to go!

  2. Why don’t all these great little restaurants in obscure strip malls come together and make a unique restaurant district?
    Maybe I will turn developer and try and create an area with Raku, Rosemary’s, Settebello, Lotus…any other suggestions for my new restaurant row?

  3. Michele,
    Count me in! It would be great to be in a location other than just another strip mall. Problem seems to be here in LV that there just are not many options. Major retail centers (boca park etc.) will really only deal with you if you are a chain and there just does not seem to be that quaint, trendy restaurant area that most major cities have.
    The one area that has that potential is downtown but it is still pretty risky which way that area is going to go and if people will go down there.
    For me you give my a baseball stadium and a major league team and I would go downtown at least 20 times a year!
    John, great site. Hope the foodie nation of LV rallies around and makes it a success.


  4. Michele,

    I’m with the national online directory specializing in promoting unique, often upscale, establishments in an effort to increase their online exposure. Our focus is primarily individually owned places such as rm Seafood, Rosemary’s and Settebello and, just yesterday, I visited Raku’s kind owners inviting their fun concept to be featured on our site as well!
    So, I’m thinking when you build your delectable district of great places to dine, chances are you’ll find some ideal additions by browsing our site for those non-chain joints we all love ~ it sounds as though you dig what we dig! As all the listings are complimentary, I’m happy to help endorse the dining district free of charge when you get going.

    BTW, if you’d like an incentive to try a few of our “Unique to Las Vegas” features, maybe purchasing a $25-valued dining certificate for just $10 might be of interest to you? If so, simply browse the site and, for an additional 50% off your total purchases, enter this promo code: VEGAS {exp 12/31/08}

    Happy Dining!

    Celeste B.
    Restaurant Consultant & Creative

  5. John — great call on Raku, we went last night and enjoyed it. Be sure to ask about their specials, we had a great seaweed dish and some tasty chicken knees that weren’t on the menu.

    Brad — can’t wait to see you over on the west side somewhere. I’d imagine you’ve got some real estate folks in your dedicated following that would be more than willing to help you out…

  6. Had the pleasure of eating at Raku over Memorial day weekend.

    The agedashi tofu is fantastic. The tofu was light and airy – like a souffle. A must have.

    The grilled meats were tasty, thought the kobe beef seemed to lack the fatty content it is known for.

    The whole mackerel (a special) was particularly good. The house soy sauce enhanced it.

    The novel presentation of the corn and potato was reason enough to order it, but the caramelizaiton of the corn on the grill made it a real treat.

    Also novel were pig ear and pork belly, but not necessarily worth a second order on returning.

    And after stuffing ourselves and sampling sake, the bill was $60 per person.

  7. After all this talk I hear from friends and co-workers, we went to Raku last night…. It was AWEFUL!
    Walked in and the AC was broke first of all, so that kinda sucked but the waitress gave us frozen oshi-bori’s so that cooled us down.
    Waited about 10 minutes at a table and a waitress came and explained the beverage specials and I ordered a Sake flight. 10 minutes later another waitress came and explained the food specials, when then ordered shortly after that. 10 minutes later I had to order my sake again because she forgot my order.
    We started of with Blue Fin sashimi which was very good and fresh, nothing special though. Then had the pork cheeks which where tasty.
    Then we got the crispy pig ear which didn’t have much flavor. I had to add some of the chili oil just to make it taste like something.
    Then we got the green tea soba noodles. They were under hot section but came out ice cold? Confused but not terrible, just not very good though either, again not much flavor going on.
    Then we come to the ONE thing I went there for, their famous tofu… “it’s the best”, “it is so amazing”, “out of this world” these are all things I heard from friends. But I wouldn’t know because WE NEVER GOT IT. I ordered the fried tofu special and waited and waited. We heard another table ask about their tofu dish they hadn’t gotten yet. After 30 minutes the host came over and asked if there was anything else and I said yes, I ordered the fried tofu. She checked on it and said it would be 1 minute. 15 minutes later I got up and paid the check. She said sorry and that the waitress had forgotten to order it. But come on, she went check on it and 15 minutes later couldn’t get fried tofu out??
    I might check it out again, BIG MAYBE. But I don’t think my fiancé will go near the place again.

  8. One of my favorite restaurants. I love the authenticity and simplicity of Raku’s dishes. Fresh sashimi!

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