Anyone know of an Izakaya similar to Raku in Japan?
Here's a strange question, we just came back from Vegas and had our minds blown by Raku (Thanks to all the Hounds that pointed us in that direction, it was awesome!) Now, we're on our way to Kyoto, Osaka and Tokyo over Christmas/New Years and are looking for a similarly unique take on Izakaya cuisine in the motherland. Anyone who has any information, it's greatly appreciated. And anyone who's lucky enough to live in/be visiting Vegas, do yourself a favor and get thee to Raku!!!
Wow, robatayaki, oden, noodles and kaiseki - that must be a nightmare for the kitchen.
I had a look at Raku's website, and think you might like the atmosphere of these two places:
Ushi no Yotare, in Shinjuku, is somewhere I have taken visitors in the past as an alternative to Gonpachi, which they tried to get me to take them to. It has an English webpage, too.
Okajouki, in Nakano, is my go-to irori place when the weather starts closing in - I'm actually heading there this Sunday. However, I'm not sure how you will go without some knowledge of Japanese.
re: Robb S
Prices? Not so scary. We were well fed and watered for around ¥5,500 pp. Fish dishes(shioyaki etc...) were around ¥1,000 or less, meat & poultry (roast beef, tongue, buta misotsuke, torinegi etc..) were between ¥400-1,200 and veggies were priced from ¥200. There are 2 course menus priced around ¥4,500 (one with meat, one solely fish & veg), which might be a good option for those not comfortable ordering in Japanese.
The sake list had a dozen or so standard brands (Ichinokura, Shimeharitsuru, Suigei, Kokuryu, and the ubiquitious Hakkaisan) - all honjozo or junmai. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to complain about either.
The staff were accommodating, and the ambience certainly ticked all the right boxes for the visitors. A great option if your guests have a hankering for that 'ye olde Japan' imagery they see in the movies.
Good choice! Robatayaki are up-grade izakaya, so you will find some good japanese food. The difficulty will be to find one on new year !
You may have a chance on December 31st (if you try to reserve!) at the Robatayaki-Ro in IIdabashi (menu available in english also) in Kagurazaka street on your left, 1st floor.
From January 02nd, try the up-scale izakaya Honnoji, in the omotesando street in the 4Floor of the Gyre bldg (Chanel on 1st floor)
The menu won`t be in english, they offer choices like half dried fish toro-hokei, shio-niku-jaga(potato-meat ragout), horenso piri itame (spicy spinach saute), maitake tempura (mushroom tempura),..this is a good start, and prices are for each item around 600.-yens to 900.-yens...
Among charcoal-grill specialists in Tokyo, I can heartily recommend Torimikura Chaya in Aoyama - they do fantastic grilled chicken and game birds.
Hakobune (the Ginza Chuo-dori branch) does good grilled meat and fish, but all seating is in private rooms, so there's not much in the way of atmosphere. (Their Shimbashi branch, on the other hand, has a bit too much atmosphere.)
For fish, Himonoya (Takadanobaba, Meguro and elsewhere) specializes in fish that's dried overnight and then grilled. I've had some great fish there, although a few of the more unusual items might not appeal to everyone. Prices are quite reasonable too.
Tetsugen Nikusho (Shibuya/Aoyama) is another charcoal-grill specialist, and they serve ten different kinds of meat there. Highly recommended.
I looked at the Raku menu online. Most items are standard izakaya, robatayaki, and oden offerings. I recommend doing the requisite search through the Japan board archives for existing recommendations for these three category of restaurants in those cities. Most quality places in Japan will focus on one of those genre though, not necessarily serve all three. Keep in mind also that most non-chain restaurants are closed for much of the New Year's holidays. It might be a tough time to dine out without research and booking in advance.
Like most izakayas, Raku does have an extensive list of specials, with a focus on cooked fish preparations. These specials are what make Raku especially exciting. I feel like in my previous post, I undersold what Raku accomplishes. It may seem all over the place by offering kaiseki meals, too, but what's nice is that Raku does well when it tries to get more ambitious.
I think you would do better on the Japan board then here, Pinot. The Hounds there can provide more specific recommendations. I have not been to Japan, but Raku is not dissimilar in kind to izakaya places I've tried in Los Angeles and New York, but the execution is far better than most.