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Jan 22, 2012 03:43 PM

Recent dinner at Raku - food as good as usual, but I'm not sure about the service...

A friend was in town for a convention, and had one chance to leave the strip and see the rest of Las Vegas. She wanted something fairly light, doesn't eat much in the way of carbs and is not big on very spicy cuisines. So I decided it was a perfect excuse to revisit Raku - I figured we could eat as little (or as it turned out:-) as much as we wanted. And the food was delicious, but I must admit that there were some service issues that soured it a bit for me...especially after I had hyped the place to my friend.

For starters, when I made the reservation they told me I could have 7pm (I had asked for 7:30) but "only if you can be out in 90 minutes. We have someone else at the table at 8:30"). OK, I made the reservation at the relative last minute (24 hours in advance) so I decided to let that slide (even though I really am not fond of restaurants who play the "we need to use the table" ploy). But it WAS annoying when she repeated before I hung up: "OK, we have you at a table for two at 7pm Friday, out by 8:30" More annoying perhaps was the fact that at least two tables near us were empty the entire time we were there (slightly more than the alloted 90 minutes:-) So being that emphatic may not have been necessary.

But on to the meal. We arrived promplty at 7pm and were seated at a nice table. And proceeded to sit for some time with nothing offered but water. Just when I was thinking of asking, the waitress finally showed with our menus and took our drink order. A few minutes later she returned with a tray of sake cups so that we could choose our favorite; a nice touch that greatly impressed my friend. Unfortunately, the actual sake didn't arrive until a good 25 to 30 minutes later, after we had been served much of our food and asked about the missing drink. In fact, asking for the sake was in itself a problem.....the waitress kept walking past us and NEVER stopped to ask if we needed anything, we practically had to tackle her to get it....

But back again to the meal: the food also took some time to come out (after the sake cups). Cold dishes were first, followed by hot. Everything was delicious, as I mentioned earlier. We were both particularly taken with the crispy asparagus, the lamb chops, and a special of manila clams in broth. I had also ordered tofu in a half-and-half cold and hot-spicy order. I am not a tofu fan but at Raku it is special. My friend is not into tofu...she tried it and admitted the texture is great but only took one bite. Of course, there was plenty left. I was ok with this, because my husband was due to get back from a driving trip out of town around midnight, and I figured the leftovers would make a great "welcome home" snack for him (he loves tofu in all forms). And thus we come to the final service gaffe straw: when I unpacked the neatly wrapped package for him later that evening I discovered that only the cold tofu had made it home...even though there was MORE hot/spicy tofu left over and I specifically asked for both......I felt very badly as I had been telling my husband as I unwrapped it that he was going to LOVE the spicy stuff.....

I just didn't feel the love this trip. I love the food, but sort of felt like maybe my business wasn't all that appreciated . The table of six sitting next to us was getting a lot more solicitous service...I would hate to think it was all related to the size of the bill....I am glad no one said anything to us regarding the fact that we went over our 8:30 that probably wouldn't have happened if the service had been timely.....

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  1. Wow! They must be so busy they believe they can treat customers with disdain. I have seen this level of "service" in Strip restaurants (most recently at Payard & Serendipity) where the vast majority of their customers are tourists and will likely never return anyway! Hopefully it was just an off night; but given the combination of service shortfalls, I doubt it.....

    1. I think I posted this on the board, but the last time I tried to get a weekend evening reservation at Raku, I was informed I could only if our group shared a set menu at two price points. But it was described as "omakase," with two possible price points. As this was a heterogeneous group (of six), I knew a set menu wouldn't work for us. It was not a matter of price (I informed him that based on previous experiences, we would easily spend more than the set menus). The response was unfailingly polite but I thought it's a strange policy. I've been there with groups of six and eight before and never encountered this.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Dave Feldman

        Just a thought...I made a reservation exactly 30 days in advance for the Kaiseli dinner..They offer it in 10 or 15 courses. As I'm going with my girlfriend, I asked which I we should have, and he told me the 10 course would be more than enough. They were totally cordial about taking the reservation for a Saturday night....and when I received the email confirmation, they told us to leave at least three hours for the meal. So I had no problem at all with them.

        One more thought on this....I sent in a reservation for e exactly thirty days at midnight. Three days later I received the reply that they were already booked and they'd let me know if they ad any cancellations....wouldn't you think I shouldn't have gotten in based on the time of my email? You think I didn't because they might have two groups of four...and decided maybe they would spend more money? Something's up somewhere there....oh well...

        One last word on Raku- I was there in August. Sat at the bar on a walk in and had one of the greatest Japanese food I've ever had...and the service was wonderful.....Can't wait to be back there in three weeks!!

        1. re: sockster

          I thought there might have been confusion about this but they were not asking us to have the kaiseki dinner.

          I've never had any problems once I'm inside Raku.

          I can't come up with too many benign explanations for your problems booking e, though.

      2. Based on the latest round of reviews for Raku, I would love to see a few more killer Izakiyas pop up on the strip. Wouldn't you think that late night crazy good drinking food would be a hit in a few of the resorts/hotels? Perhaps a few ambitious LA or NY restauranteurs can figure something out.

        3 Replies
        1. re: danieli10

          Rightly so, Raku has become too popular. I am having a hard time getting a table at my preferred time now versus, say, a year or two ago. Some kind of competition off strip would be healthy. It will benefit all of us.

          1. re: selfportrait93

            I'm not sure I'd classify Raku as an izakaya, but there certainly are several that are popular in LV. Ichiza is usually hopping, and the lower-key Kyara has a nice menu:

            I've wondered whether an izakaya would work on the Strip. Part of the charm of izakayas are the relatively low price-points.

            1. re: Dave Feldman

              Nice, Dave. Thanks for the heads up.
              It's a little farther of a drive but worth a try.