Kamameshi (order first, not on menu)
Foie gras on a stick
Kamameshi (order first, not on menu)
Whole aji all sashimi, because why ruin a perfectly good fish by cooking it?
Anything on the specials menu
Grilled salmon belly
Grilled hamachi belly
Grilled foie gras
Fried head and shell on shrimp
Portobello stuffed with ground chicken
That fish belly is where it’s at
Is the stoned wagyu in your last pic? The reason I ask is b/c I went to Raku once, and I thought everything was fanastic except for the very price ($70?) wagyu beef. The one I had was sliced pretty thin. It just didn’t have a lot of flavor. Perhaps I let it cook too long? (but it didn’t taste tough) Or maybe just too fatty even for me?
Yes, it was a filet so wasn’t fatty and very tender and it wasn’t cut particularly thin (1/4 inch?). The crispy potatoes and garlic on top were also delicious. be sure to take it off the stone before it overcooks.
are you thinking of the wagyu sukiyaki? here’s another pic:
Sukiyaki is basically a hotpot, right? My beef wasn’t cut nearly as thin as usual sukiyaki meat and was definitely served on a hot stone as you have pictured (incl the potatoes). And it was $70 (!!!) for maybe 5 pieces? Perhaps there’s a reason they haven’t brought it back. Your dish looks way better…
So, funny story from my last visit to Raku:
We ordered the whole-grilled Aji. It was very good.
We picked all the meat from the bones.
Then, we asked them to fry the bones (hone sembei).
So, they took the carcass back to the kitchen.
The funny part: when the bones came back out, they were delivered to the wrong table.
I just watched for a while as the couple thought they were receiving a dish of picked-clean fried fish carcass.
I flagged down the runner before he could bring the dish back to the kitchen.
best get 2 orders, 1 is not enough
Even better, 2 orders of each
Wait a second here… this is @J_L we’re talking about here… wouldn’t JL just order 2 of everything on the menu? Baller-style.
Oh and @J_L for the Kamameshi, save some of the rice, and ask them to make Onigiri for you… to eat on the spot (not take home). Also ask them for Nori on the side, and you’ll get the nicely formed Onigiri Rice Balls and then have crisped, crunchy Nori to wrap them fresh yourself when you eat it!
Must order from the sake list (if you don’t BYO):
Kokuryu Tokusen Ginjo to pair with the pristine sashimi
Tedorigawa Kinka Nama Daiginjo will pair with pretty much everything and will be very refreshing, but drink the Tokusen Ginjo first before the Kinka (Kinka has a far richer mouthfeel)
Tamagawa Tokubetsu Junmai (if you like it funky) for deep fried and grilled foods, it has a little bit of an aged feel, dry, and packs quite a bit of umami. If this is too much to handle (assuming they’re cool with giving you a taste), Kokuryu Junmai Ginjo is very solid. Or Kamoizumi Three Dots (best value and the bottle is 900 mL vs the standard 720 mL).
Catching up with our last 5 visits to Raku (and this might be a helpful list of dishes for @J_L’s upcoming visit). They were all excellent; their Yakitori & Kushiyaki skewers were just flawless. Salads, Sashimi and fish quality were through the roof; outstanding!
Mainly pictures with a few notes, since I’ve written about these dishes enough times above in this thread.
Asparagus with Bacon Skewers:
Perfectly grilled, lightly smoky, crisped Bacon.
Grilled Pig Ears:
Asajime Chicken Thigh (Skewer):
Consistently juicy, moist, lightly smoky. Outstanding!
Juicy Deep-Fried Asajime Chicken:
The slightly healthier, lighter version of Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken), but elevated. Crispy outer exterior, juicy tender interior. @TheCookie you’ve had this right?
Grilled Yellowtail Belly:
Teriyaki Kurobuta Pork Rib:
Asajime Chicken Breast Wrapped with Chicken Skin Skewers:
Portabello Mushroom Stuffed Asajime Ground Chicken:
Asajime Chicken Teba Wing Skewer:
American Kobe Beef Tendon Skewers (Oregon, USA):
Just so good!
Oyako Bowl (Asajime Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl):
This is such a nice, delicious way to finish off an evening: Luscious, tender Asajime Chicken morsels, mixed with Eggs and over an excellent quality Steamed Rice (cooked just right, with a nice mouthfeel).
On another visit…
I love that you can choose your own Sake cup. Cute.
Tama no Hikari - Junmai Daiginjo Sake (Kyoto, Japan):
While perhaps not as smooth as the top offerings on Raku’s Sake Menu, it went surprisingly well with most of the dishes this evening. It was well-rounded and had a crisp finish.
Raku’s Tofu (Half Order):
Their Housemade Tofu, refreshing, light as always.
(Specials) Komochi Iidako (Braised Baby Octopus with Roe):
Hirame (Halibut) Sashimi:
Excellent knifework, beautiful plating, the Halibut was delicate and very fresh.
Aji (Spanish Mackerel) Sashimi:
The Aji had that inherent delicious oiliness, vibrant. Phenomenal.
As @beefnoguy has pointed out, the care and attention to detail not only with the Sashimi itself but also the condiments (Wasabi, Pickled Chrysanthemum, Ginger (in this case), Daikon, Kaiware, etc. is stellar).
Grilled Asparagus Skewers:
Grilled Okra Skewers:
Grilled Eringi Mushroom:
Kobe Beef Outside Skirt Steak with Garlic:
(Off Menu) Kamameshi (Iron Pot Rice with Salmon and Salmon Roe):
The best way to finish off an evening at Raku might very well be their Off Menu / Secret Menu dish: Kamameshi. Be sure to order this early on (as they take an iron pot and literally cook this dish to order, making the Steamed Rice topped with Salmon and Salmon Roe to order (30 - 40 min)).
And it’s totally worth it.
The Steamed Rice (made to order) is perfectly cooked. It has a nice mouthfeel, you can taste the individual grains, it’s not overcooked (not mushy or mealy), and the pairing with Salmon and Ikura (Salmon Roe) with some Nori is just happiness in a bowl!
If you have some of the Kamameshi Rice leftover, ask them to make it into Onigiri (Rice Balls) to enjoy another way (@PorkyBelly I remembered to take photos this time of this finisher for you).
They are great on their own, but ask them for a side of Nori (Seaweed) and you’ll get some crisp wonderful sheets of Nori to wrap your own Onigiri, at which point you eat immediately:
And you get the magic combination: Fresh, made-to-order Kamameshi (Iron Pot Rice) with Salmon and Salmon Roe, crisped Nori Seaweed Wrappers and the best Onigiri (Rice Balls) around town!
On another visit…
We’re greeted by the fresh Fish flown in for this evening’s service:
They were all excellent but the Handmade Yuba (Handmade Tofu Skin) was the highlight. Silky, delicate, outstanding!
Poached Egg with Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe:
This dish has come a long way since its Grand Opening jitters. It is one of the highlights of the meal now, with a perfectly Poached Chicken Egg, mixed with Sea Urchin and Salmon Roe. It’s velvety, silky, buttery (without dairy) and just delicious.
Okunomatsu - Juhachidai Ihei - Daiginjo Shizukuzake (Fukushima, Japan):
Seriously one of the best Sake I have ever tried, it still remains my favorite on Raku’s extensive Sake menu (but I haven’t tried Dassai Beyond yet (nor will I be able to anytime soon)). When you’ve had a great Sake, you can tell immediately. Okunomatsu Juhachidai Ihei is like the first time you enjoyed an Omakase meal at Mori Sushi, it’s just that sublime. Delicate, lightly floral, but incredibly smooth with a quick, clean finish, everyone at the table kept admiring the bottle after every “Kanpai” to remember its name.
@beefnoguy you need to give me some more recommendations from Okunomatsu Brewery and which restaurants carry them please!
Ken2 Salad (Arugula Salad, Chicken Breast, Pine Nuts, Grilled Corn, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Fried Chicken Skin, Wakame Seaweed):
I love the crispy Fried Chicken Skin as well as everything else in this Salad!
Shima Aji (Striped Jack) Sashimi:
Asajime Chicken Thigh Skewers:
(Specials) Aohata (Yellow Grouper) Sashimi:
Wow! We loved the Aohata Sashimi on this evening. The light torching of the skin was brilliant in enhancing the flavors.
Grilled Asparagus Skewers:
Grilled Yellowtail Belly:
Foie Gras with Glazed Soy-based Sauce:
Grilled Pork Ears:
Beef Liver Sashimi:
On this visit, two of our offal-loving friends joined us and insisted on this dish again. It is… special. To be fair, it’s pretty impressive how inoffensive this can taste with the fresh Baby Ginger slivers, Raku’s House-blended Shoyu (Soy Sauce) and lots of Sake! Both of our offal-loving friends loved this dish.
Tsukune-Grilled Asajime Ground Chicken:
Make sure you add the Onsen Tamago (Poached Egg) with your order of their Tsukune. It just adds this luxuriousness to each bite.
Grilled Pork Intestine Skewer:
So, so good, and I don’t even like Intestine normally.
Grilled Beef Tendon Skewer:
(Specials) Gyutan (Beef Tongue) Tataki:
(Specials) Bakudan (Chicken Egg, Natto, Takuan (Pickled Vegetables), Daikon Oroshi):
I hate Natto, but this is a phenomenal dish (maybe because you can’t taste the Natto after you mix it all up together).
And add it to some crispy Nori (Seaweed):
Onigiri (Rice Balls):
A follow-up visit a few weeks later…
(Specials) Kinmedai (Golden Eye Snapper) Sashimi (Chiba, Japan):
Amuse Bouche - Konyakku:
This was a surprise on this evening as we sat down, it seemed the kitchen was trying out a potentially new dish handing out this little Amuse Bouche to all the tables around us. Made from Konyakku it was slippery, silky and refreshing.
Tedorigawa Kinka - “Gold Blossom” - Nama Daiginjo Sake (Ishikawa, Japan):
Always a safe bet (@TheCookie), Tedorigawa Kinka is one of the best values on Raku’s Sake Menu, while delivering excellent floral, sweet, but clean finishing Sake.
(Specials) Goma Tofu (with Uni and Caviar):
Grilled Intestine Skewers:
(Specials) Spot Prawns (Santa Barbara, U.S.A.):
Takana Inari (Fried Tofu Pouch Stuffed with Rice Mixed with Japanese Mustard Greens):
Fresh, Housemade Inari (Fried Tofu Pouches), perfectly balanced with Rice and Takana (Housemade Japanese Mustard Greens). Simple, homely, delicious.
And on a more recent visit…
We started with the most important decision of the night: Choosing our drinking vessel.
BORN - Muroka Nama Genshu - Special Junmai Daiginjo Sake (Fukui, Japan):
Unfortunately this bottle is not on the menu. It was a limited release Sake that we picked up a few weeks earlier. Thanks to @beefnoguy @J_L and others, we’ve fallen in love with BORN’s line of Sake (although I’m still not baller enough to try “Dreams Come True” (one day perhaps…)).
This limited release Muroka Nama Genshu was just gorgeous! It starts off bold and really lively and floral, and you think it might overpower your palate for a second, but then it just finishes shockingly crisp and clean! This was wonderful and I hope everyone gets a chance to try this before it’s gone for the season. This was great.
(Specials) Mizudako Tamago (Water Octopus Eggs(!)) - Hokkaido, Japan:
And for the first time on the specials board, we saw them offer Mizudako Tamago. As in, not just “Water Octopus” from Hokkaido, Japan, but Water Octopus Eggs! This was a real treat and something we hadn’t tried before.
The plating was stunning. The taste was very light, slippery, silky and lightly briny. Everyone at the table felt it was fine, but nothing earth-shattering. Still a nice dish to try every once in a while.
Popeye Salad (Spinach Salad with Sauteed Mushrooms, Bacon, Cashew Nuts):
Shima Aji (Striped Jack) - Ehime, Japan:
Grilled Okra Skewers:
Grilled Asajime Chicken Thigh Skewers:
Nasu - Grilled Eggplant:
Enoki Mushroom Wrapped with Bacon Skewers:
(Specials) Chi Ayu (Baby Sweet Fish) - Ehime, Japan:
We hadn’t tried Chiayu (Baby Sweet Fish) before, but Raku just flew some in from Ehime, Japan. They were perfectly fried, lightly crispy and so delicious! Must order.
(Specials) Soft Shell Crab (East Coast, U.S.A.):
Another perfectly fried dish, the Soft Shell Crab was sweet, beautifully briny (in a good way) and another must order if you see it on the menu.
Grilled American Kobe Beef Tendon Skewer:
(Specials) Scallop (East Coast, U.S.A.):
As a nice way to finish off the meal, we suddenly thought of the Specials Board, and then this regular menu dish…
Ikura (Salmon Roe) Bowl:
And then you add…
(Specials) Uni Sashimi (Hokkaido, Japan):
And combining the two, we were all able to have an “Uni & Ikura (Salmon Roe) Bowl” of awesomeness!
The Hokkaido Uni was sweet, lightly briny (in a good way) and creamy, and when eaten with some of the Ikura - the Salmon Roe being so fresh and bright and popping in your mouth - with the perfectly Steamed Rice, it was one of the best bites this year!
(Off Menu) Orange + Strawberry Dessert:
The kitchen was experimenting with creating a new Dessert to add to the menu, and sent this unnamed Dessert out to all the tables to try and give feedback. It reminded me almost of the taste of a good Crepe Suzette, there was citrus / Orange flavors along with Strawberries in a fragrant Citrus Sauce. There was a crispy pastry layer in there as well.
It was quite tasty even in this early test phase, and hopefully they add it to the menu.
Aburiya Raku remains as consistently awesome as always. They are running on all cylinders, consistently delivering fantastic Izakaya small plates, the best Sashimi in the city (so pristine, bright, fantastic), our favorite Yakitori / Kushiyaki skewers with just the right amount of delicate smokiness, along with random interesting specials that appear nightly.
Add in friendly service, a relaxed atmosphere and interesting Sake menu and late hours, and Raku is simply our favorite Izakaya in the city.
521 N. La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90048
Tel: (213) 308-9393
Always brilliant, @Chowseeker1999! Thanks so much for helping me with the selections in Vegas. I look forward to visiting the WeHo location soon.
Great report, @Chowseeker1999.
The liver sashimi is a must-order for us.
To add to your description: The liver sashimi comes with paper-thin slices of garlic, shaved strands of ginger, sesame oil, and salt.
- My favorite way to enjoy: top liver sashimi with slice of garlic, dip slightly into sesame oil, sprinkle with salt, deposit in face. Use ginger shavings as palate cleanser.
A gripe: on a scale from terrible to outstanding, I would have ranked our service poor on our last visit.
We had an issue with making a reservation. I don’t want to go into details, get recognized, and get a bad rep at the restaurant so I won’t go into details. But it was not good…
Unfriendly initial greeting (we had a reservation and were on-time). Manager seemed too focused on his POS/seating chart and had an air of self-importance.
Poor service at table: drink glasses were left dry for too long, dishes not cleared in timely manner, unsatisfactory service from waitress (spotty greetings, thank-yous, no smiles). Note: the waitress that was serving some tables near us was very good.
That being said, this is probably the best izakaya in Los Angeles. So, we will have to endure the manager and unsteady service.
Thanks @attran99. Hope you get to try the L.A. location soon and try some of the Kushiyaki / Yakitori skewers and more dishes.
Legendary reporting as always!
Just some random comments
It’s great you repeat on sake you have had before. It’s a nice way to develop your sake tasting senses and notice any variations between each brewing year and batch (ignoring how the sake was transported over from Japan and its handling/storage conditions). Sake should be more or less uniform but more interesting are the nama sake that do taste different each year (or each batch for that matter).
Tama No Hikari - the Junmai Daiginjo you had was brewed with Bizen Omachi rice, which adds earthiness to its profile, but it also depends on the brewing technique and the source and type of water (soft or hard water). Generally because I like more richer mouth feel experiences with sake (and lingering finishes, much like how wine drinkers seek that in a profile), Omachi rice sakes are something I like in general, and they seem to be a bit more popular in Japan with sake breweries making multiple versions of the same type of sake but with different rice. This bottle is still a bit too light for me, but I would easily pick this over Dassai 50, and it would be an affordable option to go with some kaiseki type dishes.
Born Muroka Nama Genshu Junmai Daiginjo - I had this once, and yes I had mentioned a while ago that this would be fun to have at Raku, and a good gateway drug to unpasteurized, unfiltered, undiluted sake. Mutual Trading unfortunately didn’t do a stellar job at translating some of the wording on the bottle that actually helps to explain why it’s so delicious. Two things: The bottle cap area sticker that says Nakadori (中取り) and the other blue sticker saying 旨口 (umaguchi).
The internet explains Nakadori better than I can: “After fermentation, sale is pressed. There are different methods of pressing, which will yield different tasting sake. Arabashiri is the first one third of the sake yield, which run off under the pull of gravity alone when pressing with a fune or wooden box. Nakadori is the “middle” yield of the sake. It is the next third of the sake yield after arabashiri. This is often considered the best.” I’ve had one other sake that was Nakadori, and unfortunately it was way too sweet and fruity for my liking, but I have to say from memory Born strikes a good balance here with the savory and the fruitiness.
Umaguchi, describes the profile of the sake being more umami rich.
Add to the fact the alcohol content is at least 19%, you have a smooth refreshing and extremely easy to like “dangerous” sake. And it is super tasty with the savory soy sauce / tare that touches a number of their grilled goodness.
True Sake lists/labels the Tedorigawa Kinka as an Arabashiri Nama Daiginjo, though I haven’t quite seen any other references to verify this.
I’m not familiar with Okunomatsu (particularly the Shizuku Daiginjo you had) nor have I seen it much around even in Northern California on menus, although I may have tasted their Junmai some years ago from an already opened bottle and it did not impress. You might find their lower end bottles at either Nijiya, Marukai, or Mitsuwa to try first. I don’t see them breaking much ground in the US.
Great notes, @beefnoguy.
@Chowseeker1999 To add to the sake pressing method conversation:
- The Okunomatsu that you had was made using the Shizuku method. As opposed to the Arabashiri method where the sake is pressed under the weight of all of the bags in the fune, each moromi-filled bag is hung and the sake drips from the bag only under the weight of its own gravity. This usually results in the characteristics that you described:
This method only produces a small amount of sake and is therefore usually very expensive.
The most widely available product from Okunomatsu is this Tokubetsu Junmai:
The only other product that is regularly available in the US is this Ginjo: