I have known for some time that I needed to get to Raku, a small, dark Japanese restaurant in a forgotten mini-strip mall on the north side of Spring Mountain Road just past Decatur. I finally tried to get there a couple weeks ago, a disappointing event well chronicled in one of my previous posts. I finally got in the door last night.
Have you ever gone to a movie, show, or meal that you so badly wanted to be amazing, after hearing everyone rave about it, and had it live up to every last bit of praise you heard before and even surpass your own lofty expectations? For me there are Braveheart, Avenue Q, and now, Raku which all fit that mold.
I am by no means an expert on Japanese food or restaurants so I cannot say first hand that this is a truly authentic Japanese restaurant. I can, however, say that at one point during my visit there were ten guests in the restaurant and only three of us were not native Japanese speakers. Among the guests was the sushi chef who has probably made me more sushi than anyone else, and later, purported frequent Raku diner and praise-singer Chef Paul Bartolotta came in to partake.
I tried to order a good mix of the more "mundane" dishes and the more "bizarre" dishes. Among the "mundane" were a delicate house-made tofu, a nice-but-didn't-knock-my-socks-off oysters three ways, a perfectly grilled salmon served with roe, and a tasty grilled rice ball. The "bizarre" were Kobe beef liver sashimi which, not surprisingly, tasted like liver, a strange-to-me-although-not-really-that-strange dried tatami sardine salad, and a delightfully tender perfectly grilled Kurobota pork cheek.
This is a place that I could go to every day, and never tire of the food. The service is very friendly, although only one of the two servers understood at least half of what I said. Any previous complaints I had read about food taking too long have either been rectified, or those people are just too impatient.
Raku will probably survive in its current location because it is a destination kind of place where location can help but won't really hurt, but I need everyone to go there and tell them they need to move to the East side of town or at least open a second outlet there so I can get there more frequently.
Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.