21 January 2011

Dinner at Raku, Edina MN

The bitter cold weather we’re having motivated us to find a place to eat on Saturday night relatively close to home. The intersection of 50th and France in Edina (nominally ‘downtown’ Edina) has been attracting a lot of new eateries. That’s our ‘hood so that’s where we decided to go.

We picked Raku, which bills itself as a ‘modern Japanese restaurant.’ I made the reservation through Open Table. For the first time ever, that was a bit of a problem. When we checked in, promptly at 7:30, the hostess didn’t have us on the list. However, she checked a second list and there we were. RakuEdina (1024x765)

The interior of Raku is almost like three different venues. There’s the sushi bar with a row of seats and behind them, a row of booths next to the windows. There’s a bar with several seats in a semi-circle and several tables. And there’s a more formal dining area. We had a short wait, about five minutes, before a table opened up. But it was one of the booths by the sushi bar. That wasn’t the ambiance we wanted, and we weren’t in a rush. So we let someone else take that booth. We headed over to the bar to have a cocktail while we waited for a table in the dining room.

Raku has a very cool list of specialty cocktails. We both ordered a sake-tini. It was made with a muddled slice of cucumber and served with a slice of cucumber as a garnish. The bartender made quite a show of preparing the drink, and he was fun to watch. It took about a half hour for a table to open up. But we enjoyed watching the bartender and chatting with other diners.

(While we were sitting at the bar, a local media celeb came in with a small entourage. She was intrigued by our cocktails, and when we told her how good they were, she also ordered one.)

So far, so good. When we were seated at our table in the dining room, we were confronted with four menus – a cocktail menu like we’d seen at the bar, a list of sake flights, a list of specials, and a regular dinner menu. Here’s where we could have used a helpful server to explain some of the specials and choices. Unfortunately, we didn’t have one.

Our server rushed by just as we were starting to look at the different menus. She wanted to know if we were ready to order. Well, we weren’t. I ordered a flight of sake. Linda continued to sip her cocktail.

Raku has a very diverse menu. They have a wide selection of sushi, sashimi, and rolled items. They also have a nice selection of traditional Japanese dishes. Linda doesn’t like sushi. I do, but consequently, we don’t often eat at sushi restaurants. So I could have used some help and guidance on what to order. Unfortunately, we didn’t get it.

While we were waiting for our table, Linda saw another diner being served a wonderful looking bowl of soup. She spied it on the menu – seafood soup with shrimp, scallops, fish, crab, tofu, and noodles. She also got two pieces of shrimp tempura. (I thought they came with the soup. But the menu online doesn’t show that, so maybe Linda ordered them separately.) She thought it was very good. The shrimp tempura was especially tasty.

There were a couple of items on the nightly special list that looked good. Here’s where some advice from the server would have been helpful. But since she seemed to be too busy to advise me, I ended up order a Raku sushi entrée off the menu. It was the marine sushi with several pieces of sushi and a spicy tuna roll.

I mentioned that I ordered a sake flight. The server brought it after taking our dinner orders. It was three small servings of different kinds of sake. It was really enjoyable sipping them and noting the different flavors in each kind. I shared it with Linda. She normally doesn’t like sake, but she did like sipping these.

My entrée came with a choice of soup or salad. The soup was miso, and I like miso soup. But I decided to have the salad instead. The ginger dressing was very tasty, but overall, the salad was just ok.

So like I said, we weren’t in a rush. I ate my salad. We sipped the sake. But after a while, we realized that it was taking an awfully long time for our food to arrive. Pretty soon, our server rushed over. The sushi chef was backed up on orders. She apologized and brought us a complementary order of edema me. We’re not particularly fond of edema me. But it was a nice gesture.

Finally our food arrived. I’ve already said that Linda liked hers. My sushi was beautiful and very good. I also liked the spicy tuna roll. But it was a huge plate and could easily have been split between two people. I ate it all anyway.

By the time we’d gotten served and finished our meals, it was about 10 p.m. By now, the pace was definitely slowing down, and there were several open tables. But our server was nowhere to be seen. She finally rushed by with our check.

Here’s my bottom line on Raku – great bar, entertaining bartender, comfortable dining room, good food, but unreliable, inattentive, unhelpful service.

Our displeasure with the service notwithstanding, we agreed we’d still come back. Raku has a particularly interesting lunch special – soup or salad, an appetizer, and an entrée for $16. The rest of the lunch menu also looks interesting, including a box lunch (I assume bento box) for $10.

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