excellent dinner at Abriya Raku, a Japanese restaurant which then seemed to be a hidden treasure. Located in a small, Asian shopping center off the Strip, it was highly unlikely you would just stumble upon Raku. The area was filled with dozens of Asian restaurants, from Korean to Chinese, Thai to Japanese. You had to actively seek out Raku, but that meant someone had to tell you about it. You needed inside information, which I received from a few Las Vegas residents who raved about its cuisine. Based on those recommendations, I dined there and was thoroughly impressed.
Times have changed and Raku is now getting plenty of publicity. For example, it is currently #1 on Eater's 38 Essential Las Vegas Restaurants. You no longer need special insider information to know about this restaurant. However, I worried a little whether the restaurant had changed since my prior visit, whether all that publicity might have had a negative effect on this former hidden treasure. Despite my worries, I knew I still had to dine there again, hoping to recapture some of my previous joy.
On my trip to Vegas a couple weeks ago, I tried to make plans to dine at Raku and quickly noticed one change, that it was tougher to get a reservation there, even on a Tuesday evening. So if you want to dine there, I highly recommend making reservations as far ahead of time as possible. Fortunately, the five of us were able to get a table on a Thursday evening, and they sat us in a small private room that only had two tables.
I certainly enjoyed the intimacy of this room and I'm pleased to report that our dinner at Raku was as good, if not better, than my prior visit. The quality of their food has not diminished in the least, and their Sake list has exapnded. All of my friends were impressed with the cuisine, especially considering its affordability. Service was excellent and I continue to give Raku my highest recommendation. Fame has not diminished Raku in the least.
We began with the Nyukon "Into Your Soul" Tokubetsu Honjozo ($52/24 oz), which can retail for around $30 so the markup is less than twice the retail, making it a very good value. Produced by the Musashino Shuzo, which is located in the Niigata Prefecture, they use Gohyakumangoku rice for this Sake which has been polished down to 60%, so it would technically qualify as a Ginjo though they do not label it as such. The taste was dry and clean, with subtle peach and melon flavors, and hints of herbs. Smooth and easy drinking, this was delicious and would appeal to Sake lovers as well as those new to Sake. It went well with our initial dishes, from tofu to seafood. A great starting point for the evening.
Above, is one of their homemade Tofu dishes, accompanied by a spicy side. I'm not a fan of Tofu but I actually enjoyed this dish. The tofu was creamy and clean rather than rubbery, and the spicy side went well atop a piece of the tasty tofu. So even if you dislike tofu, I'd suggest you give it a try at Raku. They have a few different Tofu dishes and they are worth exploring.
Raku is one of the best Japanese restaurants in Las Vegas, and also one of the most affordable. If you check out their menu, you will find most items cost under $10, so that even if you go with a group, your bill will still be very reasonable. In addition, their Sake is very reasonably priced, avoiding the outrageous markups that are very too common everywhere else. On the Strip, the Japanese restaurants are generally much more expensive, and it can be hard to find more than a couple items on their menus under $10.
With an excellent Sake list, great service, and a nice diversity of delicious dishes, Raku continues to earn my highest recommendation. If you are traveling to Vegas, make sure to dine at Raku, but just make your reservations as early as possible. Raku is hidden no more, but success hasn't gone to their heads.