Neighborhood: One in Dupont, one in Bethesda
Needing to kill time in Dupont and wanting a quick lunch, I headed towards always-seemingly-busy Raku.
I've actually been to both Raku locations, though obviously have frequented the Dupont one more often. What's more, my last dinner at Raku wasn't a particularly good memory, though it had nothing to do with the meal and everything to do with the immense amount of tequila I drank afterwards. Still, the residual memories of the Dupont location's decor are pretty clear: a fairly buzzy patio that always seems to be full on summer nights, with the inside that resembles a forcibly modernized Japanese house. Paper umbrellas hang upside down from the ceiling, and the motif of bamboo and paper windows abound. To one side is a light wood bar, where I sat on this occasion, that has the feel of a covered patio; what two-tops there are inside are lined around the bar on the edge of the dining area and continue around the restaurant
On this occasion, I valued expediency over food desire, so I went off the bar menu with dishes I could order, nosh, and pay for in under an hour. This led me to the sushi and the appetizers.
First came a tuna tartare, served with some greens, a lemon basil sauce, and thin slices of baguette. The tartare itself was interesting, perhaps not the freshest, but the inclusion of peanuts was definitely intriguing. There was some additional tang from the sauce, but nothing to call home about, and the baguettes were in that halfway point between stale and "we-tried-to-toast-it-to-hide-it." Overall, it was a dish lacking in a flavor punch from any direction.
Next came my dish of sushi, two pieces of chu toro (fatty tuna), my newest sushi addiction, and a roll from the specials menu, soft shell crab with ginger, cucumber, shiso, and a yuzu curry aioli. The toro followed the trend from the other tuna: definitely could have been fresher, and not as flavorful as other toro that I've had. The crab was also fairly interesting, but like the tartare before it, lacked a strong flavor despite multiple possibilities. The aioli was tasty but mostly flat (come on, if it's a curry and the color of wasabi, I want it to hit me in the face), and there was not enough ginger to give the otherwise fair crab a kick.
The food was fine and pleasant, but if you're looking for potent Asian flavors, there are plenty of better places.
Food Rating: ** (out of 5)
Date Rating: 2.5 Hearts (out of 5)
Dress Code: Casual
Bar Rating: Suits Scene
Cost: $$ (out of 5) ($25-$50 for two)
Pairing: Have a dog? Bring your pup to the recently created dog park at 17th and S and let him play with others.