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