Raku, Again (Los Angeles, December 2018)

There’s a lot of eating out our boys look forward to when we plan trips to Los Angeles—dim sum, Korean barbecue and soups—but on this trip for the first time there was a specific restaurant they wanted us to return to: Raku. They didn’t remember its name from our lunch in late 2017 but they were clear that they wanted to go back to what the older brat remembered as “the Japanese place with the grilled stuff” and the younger one as “the awesome restaurant”. Luckily, it was near the top of our lists as well and we hit them up for our first family meal out after I got to L.A from Delhi, on our way to the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

The restaurant was mostly empty when we got there right after opening time but by the time we left it was far busier than it had been on our last visit. This had the unexpected effect of making us place some impulse orders of things we saw people around us eating. As a result we spent quite a bit more money than we had on the previous outing; but we were not unhappy. Japanese food in Minnesota is of such a lower quality—it’s not just sushi that’s inferior—that it seems like a waste to not take the opportunity to eat more of what’s on offer at places like Raku when we can.

So what did we eat?

We got a large order of their poached egg with uni and ikura—a small portion of it was in the bento box last time and I knew I wanted much more of it. Speaking of the bento box, I had it last time, the missus got it this time and got it with the grilled sea bass. The boys split the pork cutlet lunch combination. Both their combo and the bento box came with large salads and miso soup (I helped them with their cutlet and also disposed of their salad and soup). The thinking was that we would in addition get a bunch of skewers and call it a day but I was seduced by the sight of the sashimi moriwase going to one neighbouring table and the missus by the fried whole shrimp going to another. So we got one order of each of those too. And then some skewers: the ground chicken, the chicken breast with skin, the chicken thigh, the duck with balsamic, the kurobuta pork cheek, the Kobe beef liver and the Kobe beef tendon. The bento and cutlet combination came with desserts as well—the same excellent brown sugar pudding we’d had last time.

Everything was very good. My favourite dish was probably the poached egg with uni and ikura, but the skewers were all excellent as well. The one superfluous dish was the fried shrimp—should have got a couple more skewers instead. For pictures of the food please launch the slideshow below. I should warn you that the pictures are not very good. In the fog of jet lag I forgot to take my camera and so took all the pictures on my phone and only realized later that the lens was smudged. Scroll down for cost and to see what’s coming next.

Well, as I said, we spent a lot more on this meal than at our last outing here. That lunch came to $92 with tax and tip; this one came to $170. We did eat a lot more at this meal and the boys basically ate an adult portion each. So about $42/head. That’s still a lot for lunch for us, but we made up for it by eating dinner at home. I should add that you can eat less excessively but no less excellently and still leave sated for $25/head. Oh yes, service was as pleasant and helpful as last time.

As good as the meal was, our visit to the Museum of Jurassic Technology was even better. I had not been in more than 20 years. The missus and the boys had never been. We were all entranced. I will not describe it because it is an experience everyone should walk into blind the first time but I recommend it highly if you ever visit Los Angeles (and if you live there and have not been).

Okay, I only have a couple of meals from that Los Angeles trip left to write up: a return to Lunasia for dim sum and an offal-tastic barbecue dinner at Ahgassi Gopchang. I will knock those out next week. Coming this weekend, finally/hopefully: my review of Priya Krishna’s cookbook, Indian (-ish).

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