Raku Las Vegas

As a kid, I loved visiting Las Vegas to watch all the free shows, admire the hotel buildings, and dine at the buffets. After I turned 21, I visited a few times to partake in the free alcohol and casino tables. A few years ago, I basically lost all interest to return to Vegas. Then I started my food blog, and a new reason emerged for me to visit: all the restaurants.

It seems every big name chef feels the need to make a claim in Las Vegas, and it’s a food lover’s dream to be able to get so many great dining places all in one concentrated spot. So when I got a great deal to stay at Encore Hotel Suites (I’ll do a review of this eventually too), I jumped at the opportunity to cram in a quick weekend getaway to Vegas, with an itinerary that involved almost exclusively just eating.

First up was Raku, after receiving recommendations from some of my favorite food bloggers. Raku is a Japanese grill restaurant located off the main strip in Chinatown.  Our flight into Vegas got in quite late, but luckily this place is open until 3 am.

The restaurant is quite small, seating only about 50 people, so reservations are definitely recommended. They have a menu of various grill items, a board full of daily specials (which run out towards the end of the night, so try not to come too late if possible), and a long list of alcohol as well.


Raku Tofu

We got a half order of this, split with a half order of the warm Agedashi tofu. This was a great way to start the meal. The chilled tofu tasted very fresh. With each dish, the servers instructed us on the components and how to eat it. For this one, we were told to add some of the matcha green tea salt for seasoning.

I’ve never seen matcha salt, I love the pretty green, though couldn’t really taste the tea flavor in the salt. I preferred just eating the tofu with the shredded bonito and crushed garlic.


Bluefin Tuna

Flourless chocolate cake in less than 2 minutes. And you can plate it so no one even knows it was made in a mug with a microwave.

I mentioned in my Flourless Nutella Mug Cake post that I got the idea for that recipe from a flourless chocolate mug cake recipe. So of course I had to check out the original. Unlike all the other mug cakes I’ve made, these cook up into almost perfect cylinders so you can pop it out and it looks very fancy.

Smashburger Hillcrest

Smashburger is continuing it’s domination over San Diego (and America. Smashburger was #1 on Forbes’ list of America’s Most promising companies), opening it’s 9th location earlier this month in Hillcrest.

FH and I had a chance to attend the grand opening party. This one was a little different from previous grand opening parties. The previous ones were open to media invitees as well as some members of the general public that were invited through raffles and giveaways. This party was open to everyone as long as they RSVPed in time.

In addition, previously the whole menu was up for sampling, with all meals being complimentary. While diners dined, employees also passed along samples of their famous Haagen Dazs shakes. For this party, customers were limited to one free entree each, and then had to pay for any remaining sides or drinks.

This grand opening party was also the first one that I went to which was attended by Smashburger founder Tom Ryan.  Also in attendance was San Diegan and retired NBA player Bill Walton.

FH opted to try the Avocado Club chicken sandwich, mixing it up from the usual burger.

There are two options for the chicken: grilled or crispy. To be healthier, he chose the grilled. While the chicken breast was moist, we both wished it was thicker. This chicken breast seemed perfect for a fried crispy version, but not so much on its own just grilled. The rest of the burger was fine. The chicken sandwich was topped with slices of fresh avocado and bacon strips. I just wish there was more protein on the sandwich.