A top-class addition to Canberra's dining scene, Raku is a prime example of how Canberra's food scene has doubled-down on shedding the mediocre tag. The interior is sleek and offers traditional tables as well as the option to choose a private screened booth or seating around the kitchen. The dancing flames, glinting knives and energetic chefs are the focal points wherever you choose to sit, guaranteed to transform your meal into a multi-dimensional experience.
Raku is named for a style of Japanese pottery where items are styled by hand without moulds and fired in open flames to produce unique textures and patterns. One look at the masterpieces coming from the kitchen and the name seems apt. The menu is broken down into hot, raw, salad, sushi, sashimi, meat and vegetable options as well as tasting menus and banquets.
Cold food is served first and the sashimi at Raku never disappoints - expertly cut, tasting of the sea and presented with sculptural coloured ice, the drama of the presentation perfectly contrasts the simplicity of the freshest raw seafood. Order this and let it set the bar high for the rest of the meal.
The Canadian scallops with jalapeno and apple are zesty, fresh and playful. The combination of flavours is a punchy match made in heaven. The kingfish sashimi with truffle and ponzu sauce is elegant and delicate. Sliced so finely that it seems ethereal, the taste is fresh with a hint of earthiness from the truffle. And the tuna tartare is an umami masterpiece - the flavour packed into this little dish is absolutely tantalising.
Canadian scallops with jalapeņo and apple, Raku Canberra
As the tables are cleared and the hot food comes out, the standard stays impeccably high. Classic izakaya fare is reimagined with the karaage chicken marinated in soy and served with bonito flakes a light, crispy and salty treat. Served with a choice of yuzu lime mayonnaise and spicy ponzu sauce, the sauces add another dimension to the salty chicken.
The nasu dengaku, or deep-fried eggplant, is strikingly presented with a yin and yang of red and white miso and sesame seeds. Designed for the sauces to be stirred through the gelatinous eggplant, this dish is warm, hearty food with a surprising amount of oomph for a vegetable dish.
Fried tofu can be a risky choice - done badly, it becomes a soggy bland disappointment. Luckily, Raku's chefs know how to do it right - lightly crunchy outside, silky inside and topped with avocado salsa and the most beautifully fine slices of chilli, there is a sweet warmth balanced by the creamy avocado in this dish.
The entire Raku experience oozes refinement. The dramatic kitchen takes centre stage to create a sense of anticipation and excitement which is backed up by the exceptional food presentation. The service is sharp with staff knowing their menus well, guiding choices where asked and happily adjusting the usual portion sizes to suit the number of diners. A confident, creative restaurant, Raku is perfect for Canberra's foodies who know quality when they see it. Raku is guaranteed not to disappoint and perfect for a special occasion.