Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Aburiya Raku, Las Vegas
On my second night in Las Vegas, I had a great late night dinner at Japanese Robata grill and restaurant, Aburiya Raku, located just west of the city's Chinatown area.
We started with a series of cold dishes before sampling items from the grill. First was a bowl with poached egg, mountain yam, nameko mushrooms, okra, sea urchin & salmon roe. This was a wonderful slimy bowl of briny, eggy, fatty goodness. All the components blended so well together.
We ordered a serving of Raku's housemade tofu. They offered to split the portion into a cold portion which arrived first and a hot portion for later. The cold tofu was reminiscent of fresh mozzarella in texture and in it's clean flavor. At the table, you had the option of toppings for the tofu including: green tea Hokkaido sea salt with shitake & seaweed; yagenbori shichimi, a blend of seven kinds of chile powders, koregusu, an oil with Okinawa chili, Awamori, and island peppers; and a soy sauce deuced with plum. The tofu also came with bonito, onion, & shredded daikon.
I found myself using the green tea salt the most.
That evening, there were some specials. We first got the kampachi, or amberjack, sashimi. It's a mild white fish with a good flavor to it.
We also got a small salad of hotaru ika, or firefly squid, sunomono style.
Out last cold started was the Kobe beef liver sashimi. It was sliced thin with a very thin slice of garlic on top. The texture reminded me of tuna sashimi, and raw, the liver does not have a strong "offal" flavor. It's much cleaner tasting.
We got the second half of our housemade tofu "agedashi" style. It's lightly fried and served in a dashi broth with salmon roe and onions. It was good, but I did prefer the tofu straight up simply because it was so fresh.
We started our grill items with vegetables. First up was roasted tomatoes. They immediately blew me away. With this as a start, I could taste the flavor imparted by their Japanese charcoal smoke throughout the flesh and skin of each tomato. It was remarkable.
The following bacon wrapped asparagus was a little underwhelming to me after the tomato. The bacon hid the smoke flavor I think.
I liked their shishito peppers. It's one of my favorite items to get at izakayas. Eating them is a bit like Russian roulette. Some are very mild, but every so often, you get one that is really spicy.
The directed flamed Japanese eggplant was just alright. The texture of the eggplant was soft and pleasant, but it seems to be very bland, hidden away in the forest of bonito.
Next up were our meat skewers. My tablemates ordered the apple marinated lamb chop and the duck with balsamic soy sauce. The lamb was wonderful. It was soft, juicy, and packed with flavor.
I found the duck not as memorable. The sauce was good, but the meat was alright. I think the flaming dried it out a little.
Raku has two options for Kobe beef from their grill. The first we tried was the Kobe beef skirt steak with a thin piece of garlic. The beef prepared this way was great.
I also had the Kobe filet topped with fresh wasabi. This was less fatty than the skirt, and with the kick of the wasabi, reminded me of pit beef with horseradish.
We ordered one chicken item, the tsukune- ground chicken sausage. It was light, juicy and delicious. I do prefer my tsukune with a little cartilage, but unfortunately, Raku's did not have any. It was still quite good.
I got my cartilage fix with the next course, the pig ear. This was awesome- fatty with a little bite of the cartilage on some pieces.
I also really loved the Kurobata pork cheek. I was in piggy heaven. The pork was so rich, it felt like eating 1 centimeter thick chunks of bacon.
My favorite of the robatayaki was the Kobe beef tendon. I got two large chunks. They were incredible, and each chunk had different flavors. The first piece I had was very smoky, savory and meaty, whereas the second piece was more juicy and sweet. The flavor contrast blew me away.
For dessert, we ordered two "sorbets". They were more like slushies, but both were very good. The first was tangerine which was pleasantly sweet with a little tang. My favorite was the strawberry. Maybe this was because it was topped with condensed milk.
5030 Spring Mountain Road # 2
Las Vegas, NV