Aburiya Raku (Los Angeles, December 2017)

One of our favourite meals on our last trip to Los Angeles was at Kinjiro in Little Tokyo. We’d planned to return on this trip as well but prices at Kinjiro have shot up dramatically since our last visit (see the comments on that review) and that dimmed our fervour. Instead, we opted to get our non-sushi heavy Japanese fix at Aburiya Raku in West Hollywood. This branch of the famed Las Vegas izakaya opened a couple of years ago and has received very strong reviews from Los Angeles foodies. Unlike Kinjiro, they’re also open for lunch. And when I saw pictures of their lunch bento box, I was sold. It turns out that you can also order things from their regular menu at lunch, and as these figure lots of grilled meat dishes, we took our boys along. And they may have liked their meal even more than we did. The younger brat keeps asking when we’re going back to “the awesome restaurant”. So there you have it: Aburiya Raku is approved by Jonathan Gold and our six year old. Here’s why. 

Aburiya Raku is located on La Cienega just short of Melrose. We were worried about what this might mean for parking but there were plenty of meters available close-by. What the situation is at dinner, especially on weekends, I’m not sure. At lunch, you also do not need reservations. The restaurant was not deserted but there were only five tables occupied in the whole time that we were there. It’s a very different story at dinner, I’m told. It’s an attractive space. There are two dining areas and a large counter in the main space and also a large, uncovered patio. There’s a lot of wood everywhere. The smaller interior dining area is where they were seating most people at lunch and that’s where we were. There’s also an attractive sake display—their sake list is apparently very good and very fairly priced, but I can’t afford to get interested in yet another category of spirits.

We wanted to try a number of different things and our server was very good at heading us off on what would have been redundancies. For example, we were going to order the Raku tofu, the seaweed salad, the poached egg with uni etc., and the deep fried asparagus from the regular menu, and he pointed out that the first would come with both the other things we were looking at and that the rest were included in the bento box. We ended up getting one bento box (with grilled chicken thigh), a grilled salmon combination and several skewers of grilled meats and fish. Both the bento box and the fish combinations come with miso soup (excellent), and a salad with a generous portion of the Raku tofu (also excellent) as well as dessert—brown sugar pudding from their regular menu (also excellent).

For more on the food see the captions in the slideshow below. Scroll down for price and thoughts on value etc.

Service was very good. The one minor issue was that it was not always possible to catch our server’s description of the components of the bento box. This was partly an accent issue and largely probably an issue of his not realizing that we wanted more rather than less detail but I didn’t feel comfortable pressing him to repeat himself more than once. This will not be an issue for most sane diners, who will probably be more focused on just eating the damned food.

As for price, the bento box is a screaming deal for $26 (remember it includes the soup, salad and dessert) and at $13, the salmon combination is even more of a screaming deal. The skewers are all very reasonably priced too. Our total came to $92 with tax and tip or just about $31/head (if you count the boys as one adult eating). True, we didn’t drink any alcohol but that’s still a very good value in this city for Japanese food of this quality (and portions were not small). We will certainly be back on our next trip (hopefully, their prices will not shoot up as well) and look forward to trying more of their grilled menu then.

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