Once-popular five-year-old Japanese restaurant Aburiya Raku (often known simply as Raku) has quietly closed. While the restaurant’s website and phone continue to detail takeout hours, the business itself has formally shuttered, with new plans for a different concept to arrive next week.
Per signage found inside the still-closed restaurant space, as well as a text message sent out by a former Raku staff member, the new restaurant at Raku’s address on La Cienega will be called Gozen Japanese Sake Bistro. Gozen will work a more familiar Japanese omakase menu and (as the name implies) will focus heavily on a variety of different craft sakes, a far departure from the robust and ever-changing izakaya menu originally found at Aburiya Raku.
Raku first landed in Los Angeles back in 2015 as an offshoot of the popular original Las Vegas location. It almost immediately racked up accolades from diners (including many fellow chefs) and food critics, including the late Jonathan Gold, who considered the restaurant to be among the best izakayas in all of LA. The restaurant was awarded a Bib Gourmand in last year’s Michelin Guide.
La Cienega, long famed as Restaurant Row, has struggled mightily during the coronavirus pandemic. Some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants, like Somni and the Bazaar, have closed permanently nearby, while many others — including a whole run of H.Wood Group properties — have remained largely dormant the entire time, or have switched to ghost kitchen menus to stay alive. Popular celebrity spot the Nice Guy has reopened with a robust outdoor seating setup along the narrow sidewalk, and this month the similarly celebrated Angler started up again at the Beverly Center, but times are far for certain for most restaurants as the COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the nation and the world.