Fantastic Japanese Tapas (Izakaya) hits West Hollywood - Aburiya RAKU - pictures


#221

I am late as hell on this

But in Tustin, Habuya is a Okinawan restaurant, perhaps the only in Greater area


#222

Going to Raku tonight. Has anyone been lately, and what are some of the highlights not to miss?


#223

Foie gras chawanmushi with udon/soba/whatever


#224

sashimi moriawase, agedashi tofu, fish belly, collar, cheeks, ears, tendon, intestines, thighs, breasts, wing, grilled foie gras, tsukune, kamameshi


#225

Hi @beam,

Nice! :slight_smile: What @Ns1 and @PorkyBelly said are good.

  • Sashimi - Either a specific fresh fish of the day, or ask for the combination (the chef will give you a variety).
  • Foie Gras Chawanmushi (Steamed Egg Custard)
  • Most of their Skewers (these are nicely sized to order a bunch and share): Kobe Beef Tendon, Pig Ears, Chicken Thigh, Chicken Breast, Intestines, Wing, Tsukune (Meatball), Grilled Foie Gras, Ken2 Salad, Kurobuta Pork Belly, and many other things. :smile:

For Sake recommendations the above posts still stand - they are as excellent as before.

Have fun!


#226

My mini-report and the highlights of Raku from Saturday night


Sashimi moriawase

Ebi sashimi, and then soup from the heads.

Rockfish before…

Rockfish after - we also had part of it used for sashimi.

Green tea soba with “live” uni

I must say that we enjoyed the food tremendously, and it was much better than our first visit in June 2016. Above are the photos of the outstanding dishes.
We also had agedashi tofu and foie gras chawanmushi were were great. Ikura don was ok. Sardine salad was not remarkable.
We sat at the bar and got to watch the whole preparation, but I do not think you gain much as the interactions with chefs were minimal.
The sake selection is wonderful and they have a few beer choices as well!
They have $30 corkage with 2 bottles maximum which was prefect for the 2 of us, but could be a problem for a larger group if one is not a sake/beer drinker.
Somehow the atmosphere in this restaurant is not quite comfortable for me, maybe it is because the service is a bit standoffish or somewhat weird vibe I get from the Maitre D’ guy when I bring my own wine. I would certainly go back anyway, maybe he will warm up to me :slight_smile:


#227

Hi @beam,

Thanks for the report back! :slight_smile: Glad you had a great time, Raku is definitely excellent. :slight_smile:

Re: Bar, I would agree. Normally you think it’d be great to interact with the chef at the bar, but in Raku’s case, because their dishes can be prepared at multiple stations (steaming, stewed, fried, roasted, raw / sashimi, etc.), it’s not really a direct interaction type of place. Dining at the tables with your guests / friends / family is our favorite way to go. :slight_smile:

The Rockfish looks delicious (as do your other pics). :slight_smile:


#228

Glad you enjoyed it @beam, thanks for the report.

for salads i like the ken2.

Sounds like we were sitting next to each other, i was the orange gonad looking guy eating this:


#229

Were you the one talking to Chef Matt about I-naba tempura specialists in Torrance?


#230

Yep


#231

Small world…
Wish I knew it was you… we could have talked some more!


#232

When you encounter one of these weirdos, high probability a FTC regular or lurker :laughing:


#233

I should have known you were one of us when you knew about i-naba.


#234

evidently “sergio” and “i-naba” = secret FTC handshake.


#235

After an incredible amount of bizarre snafus with Ink and Animal tonight, I ended up at Raku, a restaurant that is by far the #1 most hyped spot on FTC.

Amuse bouche. The chef sent out some kind of assortment of vinegar-y vegetables that was not on the menu, and which I am unable to recall exactly. It was a pleasantly vinegary way to kick off a meal.

The Sashimi Platter was pretty solid. I think I have learned that I am more into sushi than sashimi, though. The fatty tuna was absurdly good. All of this fish seemed quite fresh and pleasant to eat. Hard to complain about anything on the plate really.

Oyaji Tofu is Raku’s cold tofu, but with a spicy chile-garlic sauce versus the green onions. It was pretty nice. They definitely make some really good tofu here, but the flavors here weren’t really special enough for me to order it again.

Tsukune was so recommended that I had to get some, and indeed, these may have been the best thing of the night. Juicy, and well-grilled, singing with flavor, and quite large. Really pleasant, although, I must say, not as good as the version Kokekokoro used to do; since they’re gone now, I guess these are probably the reigning champs, though.

Softshell Crab

Really nice crab, maybe slightly gummy batter, but still pretty good. The arugula was really fresh and perfectly dressed on the side. Fine enough.

Agedashi Tofu was excellent. The crisp skin and warm tofu worked way better somehow. They soaked up the vibrant mushroom sauce and made for an incredibly addictive bite with the ikura, seaweed, green onions, and hot sauce smeared on the side of the bowl. This was for sure better than Kinjiro’s version for me (the umami punch was notable here whereas it seems barely noticable at Kinjiro).

"Kobe" Stone Steak was almost certainly not Kobe beef. The Hennesy glaze done tableside didn’t cook the meat into oblivion, and it was pleasantly soft, with a nice meat-tartness, but there is just no way it was Kobe at $38 for 6 oz. shrugs I enjoyed my $26 Aspen Ridge skirt at Salazar last night more in terms of flavor. The potatoes were ok and it was a cool show, though. Edit: this kind of false marketing should be a severe strike against any restaurant though; upon further reflection, I really consider this a huge miss. Was it kind of “ok steak”? Yeah, but I encourage everyone to demand more than mediocrity from steak sold as fake Kobe. Although, admittely, everyone has their preferences.

My friend got a personal skewer of “Kobe” filet with wasabi that he thought was awful as it was unusually tough, and destroyed by the wasabi placed directly onto each piece lol

Well, redeeming the badly marketed steak, was the Foie Gras Skewer, which turned out to be as awesome as everyone said. I typically don’t even enjoy grilled foie gras, but this is an incredible version. Truly foie cooked just perfectly.

The Foie Gras Custard was also really addictive. I think, as old member Porthos mentioned, it was topped with a piece of duck as opposed to foie? Sort of odd… but in terms of the savor and butteriness in what is basically a chawanmushi, it was quite light and addictive. However, I think I would prefer the hedonistic bold version of this at Kinjiro more, as that version displays the foie more prominently, and it has a better texture to the custard to me.

Asajime Fried Chicken this is really clean-fried chicken that displays the crispy skin and juicy meat in a pleasant enough way. The spinach is really fresh and coated in a zippy vinaigrette. The spinach with the chicken really makes the dish, which is what the waitress told us. Quite nice.

Cold Green Tea Soba and Egg mostly had to be taken to go because of how full we were, but since I have almost not experience with soba these tasted shockingly good to me. They seemed quite toothsome, had a nice chew, and a present green tea flavor as well as just a general umami kind of profile that was simple but really addictive. If these are horrible soba, I really need to explore soba more because apparently even shit soba is pretty good stuff.

The Fluffy Cheesecake might’ve been my favorite thing of the night. Damn. Perfect texture, and just a touch of berries. Fuck. We should’ve ordered 3 of them; is there a better cheesecake than this in LA? If so, I’ve yet to find it.

My friend drank a bottle of Voss water as a non-alcoholic, and I am not enough of a sake fiend to justify the $256 on the vaunted junmai daiginjo by myself…but Perfect Snow is one of my favorite sakes, and at $17 a bottle a splendid bargain. It served me well in this meal.

At the end of this, I think it was about $140/person not counting the water and the sake, after tax and tip.

I’m not sure how to feel about this meal. I guess it was 13 dishes (“kobe” filet picture missing), a couple of high points for sure, a couple of low points, a lot of what felt fairly mediocre. I felt it was overhyped for the price. At $140/person on food alone my expectations are pretty high. Almost every dish should taste incredible. For me, I would rather spend the money at Shibumi, where I don’t think I ever approach $140 just on food, and every single thing I’ve eaten there has been above average or mind-blowing. Maybe it comes down to preferences that I don’t fully understand about myself yet, but that’s pretty much how I feel. Not a bad meal, but just not really worth the money given the other options in the city (to me).

It is nice that they’re open a solid hour later than everyone else in WeHo, though, so that’s a big plus if you’re in need of a decent place to eat after 10 PM in that part of town. With the stark paucity of options, I guess it’s technically the best restaurant in WeHo from 10 PM to 11 PM every night.

I am somewhat mystified by people’s constant return to this place after finally making it, even if they make the best agedashi tofu and cheesecake in town. I guess to be fair if we skipped the forgettable crab and “Kobe” it would’ve only been about $100/person which would’ve seemed a little more palatable. But I personally dislike going to places where I need to curate my ordering according to trashy upsells and poor execution/quality on high-priced items as opposed to being able to just trust in a kitchen to deliver me something amazing because they put it on their menu. I suppose that is a personal shortcoming, though.

I also sort of wonder how this meal woud’ve gone if we ordered omakase?

Ironically, this meal has made me look forward to trying Shibumi’s omakase more than anything else lol


#236

Hi @Aesthete,

Thanks for the report back. Yah that Kobe steak is a gimmick more than anything; we ordered it once and felt it wasn’t worth ordering any more (I wrote about it above). If you drop that (which had a hefty price tag), your bill is much less.

I’m not sure why you think it’s the most hyped place on FTC? People who post about it, enjoy it. If you didn’t, that’s unfortunate and you have a right to post about it.

You mentioned you enjoyed the Agedashi Tofu, the Green Tea Soba (which you said was “shockingly good”), the Fluffy Cheesecake (which is definitely incredible! One of our favorites as well :slight_smile:), Asajime Fried Chicken, Foie Gras Skewer, the Foie Gras Custard (Chawanmushi) which you said was “really addictive”, Tsukune which you said was “really pleasant” (but you said you liked the version at Koke more, fair enough), the Sashimi Platter you didn’t hate and admitted you like Sushi more than Sashimi, but said the “fatty tuna was absurdly good,” and you enjoyed Kikusui Perfect Snow Sake (which we agree is a wonderful Sake as well and a bargain at $17) ;)…

So how did you end up saying your meal only had “a couple high points… a couple low points… a lot of what felt fairly mediocre”? :confused: Huh?!

And you’re saying you’re “mystified by people’s constant return”. Just read what you wrote yourself in your review above.

Raku’s Yakitori and Kushiyaki skewers are some of the best in town, and you didn’t order much of that menu (and it’s the cheapest section of the menu), which is documented by various posts from people in this thread and others.

I agree with you that I would love it if all kitchens delivered great quality for every item on their menu, but most restaurants have their hit-or-miss dishes that are sadly on the menu. Not everything hits 100% on most menus in town.

Even your favorite Bestia is littered with average / mediocre dishes (documented in other threads) IMHO, our visits to Hatchet Hall had some bad dishes, along with the fantastic Pork Chop, and Repulique has quite a few mediocre / so-so dishes, with their astronomical prices.

So why are you surprised if not everything hits it out of the park every time for every item on a menu? I wish it did for every restaurant we visit, but it’s sadly a common occurrence.


#237

Understanding @aesthete 101

When he says this:

Amuse bouche = pleasantly vinegary way to kick off a meal.
Sashimi Platter = pretty solid
Oyaji Tofu = It was pretty nice…but the flavors here weren’t really special enough for me to order it again.
Tsukune = Really pleasant
Softshell Crab = Really nice crab…Fine enough.
Agedashi Tofu = excellent.
Kobe Stone Steak = The potatoes were ok and it was a cool show.
Foie Gras Skewer = awesome
Foie Gras Custard = also realyl addictive
Asajime Fried Chicken = Quite nice.
Cold Green Tea Soba and Egg = tasted shockingly good to me
Fluffy Cheesecake = is there a better cheesecake than this in LA? If so, I’ve yet to find it.

what he really means is this:

a couple of high points for sure, a couple of low points, a lot of what felt fairly mediocre


#238

The Aesthete Whisperer


#239

I mean if you want to selectively copy/paste to misrepresent views, it’s fairly easy to do so. To give another version:

Amuse = It was a pleasantly vinegary way to kick off a meal.
Sashimi = Hard to complain about
Oyaji = the flavors here weren’t really special enough for me to order it again.
Tsukune = not as good as the version Kokekokoro used to do.
Softshell Crab = slightly gummy batter
Agedashi Tofu = excellent
"Kobe" Stone Steak = badly marketed steak
"Kobe" filet = awful
Foie Gras Skewer = awesome
Foie Gras Custard = I would prefer the hedonistic bold version of this at Kinjiro
Asajime Fried Chicken = quite nice
Cold Green Tea Soba and Egg = pretty good stuff
Fluffy Cheesecake = best cheesecake in LA

A handful of highs do not make for an overall excellent restaurant to me. For sure when I am spending $140 on just food in that area of LA, I can have dinners where nearly every dish is in the “amazing” category or leans towards it (EP, Animal, Ink, Angelini Osteria, Republique, Odys & Penelope, Chi Spacca…all places close by to Raku where $140 has produced meals filled with incredible food where no single dish even dips into merely “solid” levels; in such a context, I don’t find it acceptable for a restaurant to settle for mediocrity in any form).

I attempted to give my views on both the good and the bad, but if you MUST simplify, well there you go. To me, it was not a great meal, no matter how much I loved the cheesecake, agedashi, and foie gras; 3-4 great dishes out of 13 isn’t enough for me to feel meal was overall great. I should’ve marked them down far more for selling that fake Kobe as well. That’s the kind of thing that shouldn’t be acceptable in a restaurant of decent caliber, even if one of the steaks tastes inoffensive, the principle of upselling mediocrity with buzz words should be dealt with more harshly. Despite the pricing complaints, I would’ve been happier if they served a $160-$200 special of actual Kobe, or just called it wagyu, or something. Is it my fault for being an idiot diner? I suppose one could say that, but I prefer to dine at places that don’t even try to dupe their diners in such ways. Especially at Raku, a place that goes out of its way to make its own tofu, it seems like one might be easily fooled into thinking it might actually be a special of Kobe if that’s what they’re claiming.

Was it the worst meal I’ve ever had? Not by a long shot, fortunately, but, for my preferences, I can eat much more enjoyable meals in the same area for the same or less money. Who knows, maybe I’ll pop in for a cheesecake and a foie skewer from time to time, though.

I think it’s probably a well-known fact that my standards are extremely high, but for the other readers out there who share them, the report, which gives a different perspective, seems valuable to me. Obviously, all of the die-hard fanboys won’t agree and will keep going to this place every day/week like always, but there are people who just read the reviews and don’t comment; those people might get some useful information from a different perspective.


#240

I guess probably because of racism/favoritism. About the only way I can explain it. I have a far higher ratio of hits to misses at places like Animal, Republique, Bestia, Hatchet Hall, Shibumi, etc… I can only assume this is because I am white, and other FTCers probably aren’t, or they just don’t go as often as I do, and are being unfairly given bad food, while I get elevated food at the places. (Sounds crazy, but sometimes I wonder if it’s true to be honest).

Or could just be vastly different preferences in how food should taste. The highs are higher at the places I like, and even the “misses” are usually still above average to me at most of them. Also, it probably helps that I can send back anything that falls even into mediocre levels at Bestia, Hatchet Hall, Shibumi, etc… I tend to care less when place take such dishes off of my check since everywhere is bound to fall short on something (even at Saison, a fish, curry, yogurt dish I had left me scratching my head somewhat; but of course the fact that the other 16 dishes were on the “best thing I’ve ever tasted” levels of awesome, it’s easier to be forgiving lol). My thresholds may just be higher. To attempt to quantify it, for me a dish might as well be a miss if it’s a solid 5/10 or 6/10. That just means they’re good, fine food, but not exciting or amazing in any way. Dishes at Bestia, Shibumi, Hatchet Hall, Animal, etc… almost never seem to dip into this level for me. Sometimes they take too much risk and fall steeply to a 3-4/10, and are then removed from my bill, but typically everything is in the 8/9/10/10 range. When the “bad” stuff is still above average, that’s what makes a place sufficiently good enough to return to for me.

I guess I also oversold the highs of my Raku meal unfortunately. I wanted to put some positive things in, but I can’t really build meals that are enjoyable to me around foie gras skewers and fluffy cheesecake. These dishes should have been exemplary flourishes that played foil to even better, larger dishes. Just not how I want to eat: a bunch of just ok dishes punctuated by a bite of something really good every so often. If I go to other places, I know I will either love everything, or be able to send it back (see my most recent meal at Hatchet Hall for a simple example).

There is also the possibility that I just hate Japanese food… I really love Shibumi, and it seems like all of the other people that like places like Raku dislike Shibumi; but for those readers out there who may share my preferences, perhaps a differentiating voice will be of some use. You know even the Supreme Court has justices to give dissenting opinions. The places I love get trashed all the time, so idk why people are so up in arms about a single dissenting view on a place, but anyway, there is some more of my personal calculus for coming to the conclusions about my experience.

Edit: I will also add that the price differential is an issue. Aside from Republique, just on food, I typically spend about half of what Raku costs at Animal, Ink, EP, Bestia, Shibumi, Hatchet Hall, Odys & Penelope, etc… to me, if you’re spending 2x the money, things better be 2x as good, not have a higher rate of misses. Other people may feel differently.