I was in Vegas in September for a convention, following a week spent backpacking in the Grand Canyon.  After days in the remote desert wearing the same t shirt with no proper showers, it was difficult to adjust to the glitz and excess of the city.  A full day spent schmoozing with my fellow convention goers turned out to be exhausting, and the idea of cocktails, followed by dinner, followed by more cocktails, was daunting, to say the least.

Relief came in the form of dinner with Misha, who picked a restaurant appropriately off the beaten path but still stunning.  In a city so self conscious of the number of Michelin stars each resort has it’s refreshing to find a place like Raku.

squid sashimi

The best tactic at Raku is the order off the specials board for the day.  Just get a whole mess of things and be completely shocked at the non-Vegas prices.  I think the most expensive thing we ordered was a “steamed egg custard with foie gras” for a whopping $9.00.  It was so worth it.

steamed egg custard with foie gras

Our dishes ranged from earnestly Japanese (sea urchin, squid, agedashi tofu) to whimsical and possibly adventurous…

pig ear

fried crabs

These tiny fried river crabs are no bigger than an inch and crispy all the way through.  Though I’ve tried to find them since, other variations on fried river crabs have been chewy, with thin fins and covered in batter.

agedashi tofu

Possibly the crowning dish of the night was Raku’s agedashi tofu.  No mushy batter dipped in a meager pool of dashi here.  Raku’s dashi is rich and studded with tiny mushrooms.  The huge piece of tofu is swaddled in a firm and flavorful batter, and instead of a few shavings of bonito, Raku tops their tofu with a glistening pile of ikura.

Don’t skip dessert.  We had both the “fluffy” cheesecake and the brown sugar “bubbly” pudding and were ready to come to blows over the scraps.  Raku is a true gem among Vegas restaurants.