Raku Kaiseki No More
I just called Raku to make a reservation in May for the 15 course Kaiseki and was disappointed to learn they are no longer offering it.
They did offer me a 100pp omakase that I reluctantly accepted.
I've been to Raku once before and ordered almost everything on the menu and really enjoyed it and was looking forward to trying the Kaiseki. From my understanding the kaiseki dinner consisted of mostly off-menu items. My questions are, is the omakase just a selection of items off of the regular menu? Is it worth it? Would I be better off ordering a la carte? Or should I try someplace else?
Just a guess, but... You'll probably be just as happy with the omakase as you would have been with the kaiseki. Few places only do omakase items directly from the menu. There's likely to be a couple of menu highlights here and there, but the better portion of it will be original items based on what looks best to the chef that day. And at a place like Raku, renowned for their kaiseki, I think odds are pretty good that the omakase will bear quite a few similarities to the kaiseki you wanted.
From what I know of Japanese cuisine, I think this is something like a French fine dining restaurant switching from a traditional (read: very old-school) 14-course service à la russe to a dégustation menu à la Joël Robuchon or Guy Savoy.
Another thought: Keep the reservation. Call back a week or two before you arrive. They may have had enough of an outcry by then that they will offer the kaiseki again.
I asked about omakase option last time I went in Mar and was told it is simply composed of chef's selection of dishes from the daily specials board and the regular menu. It is not a replacement for kaiseki, where nearly every item (if not all) were off-menu. If you are already familiar with Raku food, I suggest you order what you like a la carte instead.
When I had their kaiseki in Feb, it was already down to weekends only and for just 1 party per night. I guess it wasn't profitable or too time consuming for the chefs to continue offering it.
If you are open to sushi/sashimi, Kabuto is in the same plaza and offers a fantastic omakase.
This is sad news :(
Does that mean the kaiseki room is open to regular diners too, or is it reserved for omakase?
Raku is #2 on my list in Las Vegas (behind Lotus) and I have had the 15 course Kaiseki on two separate occasions. And I can honestly say that they were two of my least favorite dining experiences there. They were by no means bad rather quite good. But most of my meals at Raku are better than quite good, generally excellent. My two experiences were that there were a couple of items (3-5 if I remember correctly) on the Kaiseki that were not offered on the special or regular menu. But what I found was that of the 15 dishes I probably loved 8ish, liked 4ish and was ish on the remaining.
Finally the duration was a bit staggering. We never left short of 3 hours and 45 minutes.
I'm not LVI, nor do I play him on TV, and agree with everything he says (we even have the same two fave restaurants in LV, in the same order). I've just found it's best to order ala carte and ask the waitresses about what is special that evening. Take the specials seriously; they are often the same dishes featured on the omakase.
Sorry it took me two days to reply. I always ordered a la carte before the omakase was offered. When they offered the 10-15 course Kaiseki I tried it once, went another two or three times ordering a la carte then tried the tasting again. As I said, each time it was fine but what I found was that of the 15 courses, I was thrilled with ~10 of the dishes. When I order a al carte I get what I want, tailoring to my desires.
I also agree with Dave Feldman (he is far to handsome to play me on TV) that the specials are just that...special. One word of caution however, if you are budget conscience, make sure to ask the prices as some of the dishes can get up there in price.