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Jun 29, 2009 04:44 PM

Trip Report: Raku, Cathay House, Sen of Japan

First off, thanks chowhounds for your various reviews & input that helped build this list of to-eats. These restaurants were solid.

After nearly four hours on the road from OC, we went directly to Raku. Even though we had reservations, we waited 5-10 minutes for our table for four. The service was friendly and even. It wasn't quick, but there were only two servers/wait staff for 30 people...that's a bit tough when you're close to capacity. Here's what we had:
- ika (sashimi)
- fresh tofu (which was warm and a little on the soft side)
- oyako donburi (we ordered a bite sized)
- conch (fresh and crunchy)
- bacon wrapped enoki (one of my favourites)
- oden w/daikon & konbu & egg
- onigiri two ways
- yaki ika (tare was good...reminded me of yaki ika from a festival in Japan)
- chicken thigh
- chicken wing/tebasaki
- kobe beef w/garlic (tender & tasty)
- green tea creme brulee (favourite of the group)
- chocolate molten cake
Quite solid. Though it doesn't compare to Torihei in Torrance (a near-perfect izakaya/oden restaurant), it was good (not great). All told, for food & $25 pitcher of beer, it was $140 with tax (pre tip).

We were hosted at Cathay House. First and foremost, WOW. What a beautiful interior. I'm used to dim sum places being a bit greasy looking; this was clean and not very greasy. Though I'll go on a semi-regular basis and I've been to many, I still wouldn't consider myself an expert. On a scale of 1 to 5, I'd give myself a 3.5. That said, they had a great sticky rice, baos and Hong Kong style pan-fried noodles. The other dishes we had were really good. So good, that I'd like to return. The meal for four with tax, $53. We're definitely returning on our next trip.

We made reservations for four a week out in advance. Normally, a group of four isn't seated at the counter, but since we were there early, they accommodated us. Everything was VERY good. I was impressed...and wished that we had such a sushi-ya in *our* neighbourhood. They had all the usuals--mirugai, sake, hamachi, buri, hirame no engawa, amaebi, tamago, ikura--and a couple surprises: soft shell crab and dang, I forgot the name of the fish. The thing about the soft shell crab was that it wasn't tiny; it was quite big. We had a few other dishes, but I didn't keep track. =( We also split a couple desserts, a chocolate cake and I can't remember the other. The desserts were presented in a cute lacquered bento box. The food, one large beer, after tax was $175. And FWIW, Andre Agassi is a regular here.

We'll definitely return to Cathay House & Sen--because they held their own. Not so sure about Raku, b/c while I liked it, it didn't knock my socks off and I'd prefer to try new chowish places. Thanks guys for pointing these places out! =)

Cathay House Restaurant
5300 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89146

Aburiya Raku
5030 Spring Mountain Rd, Las Vegas, NV 89146

Sen of Japan
8480 W Desert Inn Rd F1, Las Vegas, NV

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  1. An update. A friend wanted to go to Raku, but we couldn't secure reservations for our meal at a decent time, we opted for Sen. Since we had sushi here the last time, we opted for the $55 omakase which consists of three cold small plates and 2 hot tapas. Initially, we were going to order two omakases, but our delightful server recommended that we split one omakase and order additional items from their menu. As it turned out, this was the perfect suggestion.

    The omakase included yellowtail sashimi in ponzu(?) with a sheet of daikon rolled into a cone, sashimi salad, sashimi-like slices of prime rib, grilled black cod in sweet miso, a five-piece sushi platter (+2 tekka maki).

    Additionally, we had soft shell crab ($19) that was not-too, but perfectly, briny. We also ordered grilled calamari served with baby peppers from the menu. The calamari ($11) was surprisingly and delightfully *soft*. It was not chewy at all, as it is often served. The presentation was amazing as well: the calamari looked raw, but upon closer inspection, a slight golden char was noticeable. And if squid can ever be melt-in-your mouth (as doubtful as that is), this came close.

    Dessert is included in the omakase. You have a choice of molten chocolate cake or house-made ice cream w/almond & yuzu cake. We opted for the later which camed topped with a mountain peach (my first encounter). Splitting a large beer, our tab for two (w/tax, pre-tip was $98. Service throughout was exceedingly professional, polite and friendly without being overly intrusive. And both pleasing and impressive was that the staff remembered us from our last encounter three months ago.

    This experience has cemented it as one of my new favourite places. If you're ever in the mood for Japanese, and you can't get into Raku, Sen would be a great alternative.