Monday, October 1, 2012

Raku – Edina, MN

Trash and I had some business-y things to discuss so we thought we’d check out this sushi place in the 50th and France area. Raku is labeled “Modern” Japanese cuisine, and I was curious what that really entails. The 50th & France area of Edina is known for housing some pricey restaurants and clothing boutiques and this is no different. But there ways around busting your wallet to eat here.

The menu has some delicious items on it and it was difficult to decide on something simple. On the back page is the much less expensive lunch menu, which also allows you to get two rolls for $9 or three rolls for $12. That’s a pretty realistic price for sushi rolls. Obviously, these aren’t the fancy specialty rolls, but they do have the standards. On top of this, they have a separate menu with specials for the day. It was a tough decision deciding between the lunch combination and the daily special, so I went with both. Hahaha. I got an eel and avocado roll and a spicy crunchy salmon roll from the combo menu and then I got a “Megatron” from the specials. Yes, Megatron – as in Transformers.

The lunch meals come with soup or salad, and both Trash and I opted for soup.

As Trash and I chatted, we both began to notice weird things about the restaurant itself. There’s some sort of weird circus-like perspective issue going on here. The scale is a little wonky here. The bar is too big. The light above the tables is too small (for the space). The step out front is too tall. The tables are too narrow. And the chopsticks are too short. Not majorly off, but just enough to make you question if it is you or are things list slightly too small or large. Really weird, but since we both pointed it out, we decided it wasn’t us – it was them.

And speaking of the table, it’s made of rocks encased in some sort of fancy resin. So you feel like you’re eating on rock beach. Very cool idea and was tactfully done. We loved it.

The salads came out in very modern bowls shaped like ceramic papazan chairs. It was a simple spinach/lettuce salad with a slice of tomato and cucumber in it, but the ginger dressing was one of the better ones I’ve had. It really made this salad. So far, we were off to a good start.

The first set of sushi rolls came out and, despite our fear that their perspective would be off and they’d look like burritos or pencils, they looked really good. The perfect size, actually. Trash got two Philly rolls and an avocado roll. She liked her rolls, but she didn’t rave about them. Basically they were better than average, but not mind-blowing. Fresh ingredients, but nothing that made them pop. No fancy sauces or anything out of the ordinary. Just good sushi.

I liked my eel & avocado roll just fine. Tasty and fresh without a lot of flash or fanfare. The spicy crunchy salmon roll was much better though. It had plenty of “spicy” and the "crunchy" made the texture of this thing pretty awesome. I really liked this one, especially for the price. I’ll be back for this one.

Now, I get to describe to you the weirdest sushi roll I’ve ever seen, heard about, or eaten. I ordered the Megatron with a mental picture in my head based on the Transformers cartoon from the 80’s. I didn’t even go to the 2000’s version of CGI vomit, because I’m old school like that. I was really hoping it would be capable of changing from a sushi robot into a sushi 18-wheeler. Or maybe a sushi robot into a sukiyaki robot, even. But I wasn’t ready for what they put on my table.
First I’ll point out the obvious things. You’ll notice tempura shrimp sticking out both ends of the roll. My mind immediately conjured some horrific science-experiment-turned-bad-movie about a killer two-bodied shrimp. Then you’ll notice some sliced cucumbers and avocado inside the roll. Not weird yet. Fake crab meat sticks: normally weird, but in sushi, fairly standard. Orange fish eggs: again, normally weird, but in sushi, fairly standard. Then, not necessarily weird, but more intriguing: the super-thin sliced steak with sea salt on the top of the roll that had been torched (like with a kitchen blow torch). Additionally, equally intriguing but not quite weird: the eel and scallion sauce drizzled artistically over the top of the whole roll. And the coup de grace… there were American cheese slices rolled into the entire thing. It’s difficult to see, but I tried to take a photo to point it out. Wow! That’s thinking outside the traditional roll on this one.

Trash is a vegetarian, so she was absolutely horrified on about 16 different levels when she saw this thing. She hoped it wasn’t cheese, but maybe some bright orange-fleshed fish she was unfamiliar with. If she had peeled the cheese out of its clear cellophane wrapper herself, she would have not believed anyone would put Kraft singles on sushi. This HAPPENED, people.

I took a hesitant first bite and was actually surprised at the rainbow of flavors this roll contained. I could taste both cucumber and avocado. I could taste the steak and the shrimp (especially the yummy fried bits). And I could also taste the “torched” part – it was its own flavor. And then I could taste the cheese. I won’t say the combination didn’t work – because it sort of/almost did. It was way off the weird scale, but I didn’t hate it. It was just like my head couldn’t accept what it was eating. But by the end, I was eating it like my mom packed this into my Japanese school lunch every day when I was child. It was surprisingly good. Hell, I didn’t even know Japanese restaurants kept Kraft singles in their storerooms at all, let alone used them in sushi. What else would they pair American cheese with? I’m actually wondering this question now. If you want to freak out your friends, order a sushi roll and then have the chef slap some Kraft singles in it. Don’t be a white-bread sushi eater. Get crazy. The chefs at Raku CLEARLY have gone off the deep end. But I’ll thank them for it!

Top 5 things about Raku
1. Spicy crunchy salmon roll
2. Ginger salad dressing
3. Eel & Avocado roll
4. Cool resin rock table
5. Magatron roll?

Bottom 5 things
1. Carnival-like perspective shift
2. It isn’t cheap unless you go at lunch
3. I think some splashes of unique sauces might add some “pop” to these rolls
4. The plain avocado roll looked boring to me
5. Megatron roll?


Trash said...

My food was... good? Not great, but good. But Chad's??? Unreal.

lee said...

my fav buffet tried this crap. it wascalleda brunswick roll. seaweed wrapper, mashed potatoes instead of rice, overcooked slices of stew beef and fresh carrots and a row of english peas. so glad i only got one piece and it was part of the buffet. NEVER AGAIN

Anonymous said...

I love it when sushi chefs try unique pairings. Even if it doesn't work 100% it's still better than having spicy tuna. Again.