RAKU Kaiseki Dinner

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ELV takes a certain amount of pride in having put Aburiya Raku on the map. We were hardly the first foodies in town to discover it — that distinction belongs to chefs like David Varley, Adam Sobel, Rick Moonen, Paul Bartolotta and Larry Forgione — the fellows who first brought it to our attention about a month after it opened. But we were the first media outlet to trumpet its greatness, and have been its biggest cheerleader over the past two and a half years.

The name means “Charcoal house Enjoyment”, and that’s what we were privileged to do two weeks ago during an unveiling of Mitsuo Endo’s autumn kaiseki dinner.

With this special menu, Endo-San is taking things to a whole new level by bringing in raw ingredients from Japan for a multi-course, pristine extravaganza (a contradiction in terms that somehow fits) of a classic Japanese formal meal combined with his very modern sensibilities and cooking.

As of this writing, we are planning a course by course examination of our four hour meal for the Las Vegas Weekly, so we shan’t bite the hand that feeds us by revealing too much. But the pictures above give you a proper idea of the nature of this event — fifteen courses over four hours with sake matched to every course. Highlights of the meal included everything from the Ayu Nanbantsuke (a sweet, marinated smelt) that began the tasting, to true Japanese Kobe beef flamed on a hot stone with cognac..

In between, we encountered a whole Sawagani crab — that ELV and The Food Gal® polished off with relish, but that Alexandra Epstein (or Alexandra #2 as we refer to her) had to be coaxed into eating. There was also a foie gras egg custard, cooked and served inside the egg that strangely-yet-deliciously channeled Alain Passard’s seminal foie gras custard with maple syrup served the same way at his L’Arpège in Gay* Paree, along with such stunners as the best sashimi we’ve had outside of Bar Masa, and an Ebishinjo (shrimp) soufflé cosseting a piece of uni (sea urchin) that was an umami depth charge of the first magnitude.

About the only thing the girls turned their noses up at was the soft shell turtle Sunomono — chunks of the amphibian resting inside a greenish gelatin-like mass drawn from the turtle’s shell. The reason the gals couldn’t stomach Yertle was because, as ELV pointed out at the time, “…this is a dish that separates the men from the boys.”

To read more about our adventures in Trionychidae eating, you’ll have to wait for the Weekly article, but suffice it to say, from the the Dobinmushi soup of pike eel, chicken, shrimp and ginko nuts, to the peppery, almost port-like Mirin-aged sake that ended the meal, this was one of the most extraordinary eating experiences of ELV’s life. We predict it will soon achieve exalted, insider status with Asian gourmets of all stripes, and if you have the time, and the money, and the curiousity, you will not want to miss it.

Arrangements for the kaiseki dinner must be made days in advance by calling the restaurant. Depending upon the number and type of courses you arrange, prices run between (approximately) $75-$150/person — quite a bargain when you consider Bar Masa costs twice as much.


5030 West Spring Mountain Road

Las Vegas, NV 89146-8705




* As in, frolicsome, excited and full of mirth.