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Inside Raku, the Late-Night Japanese Izakaya of LA's Dreams

What are you waiting for, LA?

Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Maybe we didn't make a big enough impression the first time around, but this city should be going wild for the new Raku in West Hollywood. Why? Well, it's one of the most well-regarded Las Vegas restaurants that's not located on the Strip. It's been a fixture on Eater Vegas's 38, as well as part of the inaugural National 38. It's not every day that an iconic restaurant decides to replicate itself in another major city (maybe Animal opening in New York City would draw some more buzz).

Why is this rather low-key, but polished Japanese izakaya significant for Los Angeles? LA has had a very good izakaya scene for a long time, but the places were mainly in the South Bay (closer to Japanese companies) or in Little Tokyo. But Raku has planted its roots in the heart of West Hollywood along La Cienega Blvd, with a facade facing the likes of Fig & Olive and Koi, and flanking places like Mr. Nice Guy, Bagatelle, Nobu and Barton G. It doesn't have any celebrity flash or high-end appeal, but the cooking will be sure to dazzle those who come looking.

Raku is poised to be one of the most significant LA openings in 2015

The environs are understated, with a tinge of rustic coming from the wood-burning fireplace and polished panels. With an expansive, but inventive menu of izakaya fare, Raku is poised to be one of the most significant restaurant openings in 2015.

On the menu, indulge in the house-made tofu, which is especially fantastic in agedashi form. Start with the signature uni-mountain yam cold plate with soft poached egg, a pastiche of gooey (yet delectable) textures. Order off some expert-grilled yakitori or robata skewers, or delve into the chalkboard specials board, which tend to feature freshly grilled or sashimi-style fish. Finally, dip into the foie gras egg custard (mind-blowing) or a more filling plate of oyako don, mixing gently scrambled egg, onions, and chicken over pristine steamed rice. Everything's been fine tuned with founding chef Mitsuo Endo on site to oversee the opening.

The place is open from 6 p.m. to late Monday to Saturday, with the kitchen closing at 1 a.m. on weekdays and hopefully until 2 a.m. on Sundays. There's an expansive sake and Japanese beer collection to help wash down the food. Chefs coming off their shifts, night owls, and midnight food lovers finally have a place to collide in this part of town. Just get there soon, because once the word gets out, the tables might get impossible to nab, just like its Las Vegas sibling. Reservations available by calling 213-308-9393.

Raku West Hollywood
521 N. La Cienega Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90048

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