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Aburiya Raku

PHOTOS: Holly Liss

Turns out what happens in Vegas really does need to stay in Vegas.

Aburiya Raku, the late night izakaya institution, has made the trip from the Nevada desert to West Hollywood, opening on La Cienega’s glitzy restaurant row. Anyone even remotely familiar with the Vegas staple should have seen this as the first of many bad signs.

Why? Raku’s Vegas location is in a tiny strip mall in Chinatown, away from the lights of The Strip and providing an authentic (and quite raucous) place for late night eaters to experience something uniquely Las Vegas. La Cienega, on the other hand, is generally a cultureless boulevard solely catering to the nearby robot housewives of Beverly Hills and their trust fund teenage children. Nothing real happens here, parking is horrible, and the crowd flat-out sucks. This is the wrong location for Aburiya Raku.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any better inside. The space is small, cramped, and devoid of anything that would resemble fun. THIS IS AN IZAKAYA – FUN IS THE WHOLE POINT. Where is the energy? The camaraderie? The who-gives-a-f*ck-we’re-ordering-more-sake way of life? Not here. The service is also mediocre to poor, with a restaurant staff completely overwhelmed in every facet of the place.

Now, is some of the food still good? Sure. Is it also overpriced? Yes. If you come looking for that Kobe beef with wasabi you love so much from Vegas, you will find it. And yet, what’s the point when the energy is so horrid and uninviting? You might as well go around the corner to Robata JINYA, eat just as solid food that’s far less expensive, and actually feel welcome. We can’t think of one reason why you would go to Aburiya Raku, unless perhaps you wanted to have an angry dinner with coworkers you truly hate. There are plenty of people in there already doing just that. Go join them.

Aburiya Raku had the chance to make something just as special as its Vegas outpost, but instead delivered what LA has plenty of – bland, poorly-run spaces full of horrible people trying to be something they’re not.

Too bad, because we loved who Raku was too.

Food Rundown

Kobe Beef With Wasabi

Probably the most famous of Raku’s many small bite dishes, we’d be lying if we said the Kobe beef wasn’t still quite good here. $14 for two bites though?

Blue Fin Tuna

Again, this was good. But absolutely not worth the trillion dollars (actually around $45) it costs to eat. This is LA, we have plenty of affordable places that will give us something just as good. Take note, Raku.

Cold Udon Noodle With Foie Gras Egg Custard Soup

This is absolutely the most inventive thing on the menu. Certainly not for everyone, it still shows that deep down Raku is at least attempting to do something different. Maybe over time.

Asparagus With Bacon

Is this the best thing on the menu? Maybe. And maybe that says something about the menu.

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