Raku Plus Izakaya -- Japanese Tapas

Nestled in the urban landscape of Little Tokyo in Los Angeles, is a little place called Raku. The elegant interior designed in wood, circles and curved lines, makes this little izakaya a haven from the outside hustle and bustle.

I joined a Meetup group called L.A. Asian Foodies well over a year ago, and due to the busy life that I have, I had never once attended a foodie event. Well, those days are over. Babysitters are procured and my children are well cared for while I set out on this new adventure of exploring Los Angeles' best Asian cuisine.

It was a small table of four. I met Sunny, the joyous and bubbly blogger of Tasty Chronicles. She's definitely a food adventurer. She and Louis, the organizer of the dinner, told my husband and I about their recent adventures in eating squirmy baby octopus sashimi in Koreatown. They described eating the tiny squirming octopus, and how one suctioned itself upon Louis' tongue.

We all ordered from the gracious waitress. Given our lateness to the table, Sunny and Louis had already ordered some of their dishes. I was impressed by the graceful ambiance, in an understated and comfortable setting. Jars of pickled fruits, perhaps umeboshi plums, were displayed on the counter.

My Japanese husband ordered for me in his native tongue, after I attempted to consult him on the menu in my own elementary Japanese. He was explaining to the waitress that I was mostly vegetarian, but fish was just fine. He ordered my favorites: nasu miso, kinpira renkon with gobo root, mizuna salad, jikasei tofu. The menu was plentiful with all sorts of tempting dishes. I had to control myself, being very hungry at that moment. The waitress suggested a few other dishes: seasoned rice wrapped in sesame leaf, and mixed vegetable rice. We also had one of our favorite cold sake: Onigoroshi, "Demon Slayer." It is a very balanced junmai sake, light and gentle, despite its name.

First came the jikasei tofu.

Creamy. Cold and flavorful. This is a sublime starter.

Then, the other dishes arrived...

Kinpira renkon (lotus root) and gobo root (burdock) stir fried in sesame oil. I am just crazy for both lotus and gobo root, so this is a favorite little dish.

Nasu Miso. Another favorite dish. Eggplant with a sweet and salty flavor. The eggplant melts on your tongue with each taste-- sweet with a wonderful quality and texture.

This tasting was a delicious surprise. Seasoned Rice wrapped in Sesame Leaf. The sesame leaf was very pungent, with a spicy flavor. Similar in concept to the Mediterranean dolmas, these were fabulous. A little bit salty in finishing, but I suspect that shoyu was used for the moist pan-warmed leaf. The aroma of sesame filled my senses: spice, salt and earthy warm rice.

Mizuna Salad. Refreshing mizuna dressed in light yuzu, topped with finely sliced red onion, kizami nori and fried tofu crisps.

Tempura Squash Blossoms stuffed with Crab. These were delightful. Squash Blossoms stuffed with fresh creamy crab. It tasted pillowy with the crabmeat, airy, and almost a tofu-like texture. Exceptionally good.

Dipping the tempura squash blossom...

I couldn't get enough of this dish. It was heavenly good.

Yellowtail Carpaccio.

Mixed Vegetable Rice.

Raku Plus Izakaya Restaurant

424 E. 2nd St., Los Angeles, CA 90012

Phone: +1 (213) 625-1751
mail: rakuplusizakaya@gmail.com