Raku Sweetens the Deal, the New Year’s Chicken and a Faraway Buffet

interior-raku.jpgJapan is the theme this week, as it should be for multiple reasons. Anthony Bourdain recently did an episode of CNN’s Parts Unknown on Japan. In it, he proclaimed the revelation that almost every chef he knows in America, Europe or Asia picks Tokyo as the one city they’d like to spend the rest of their lives eating in.

That said, unless you’ve been living under a rock at Valley of Fire State Park, you probably know that Mitsuo Endo, the proprietor of Raku, is our leading light among a coterie of good Japanese chefs. And now, inspired by a dessert place in the Big Apple called ChikaLicious, he’s created a near miracle at the adjacent Sweets Raku (5040 Spring Mountain Rd., 290-7181).

Let me assure you that this is a culinary experience like no other in this country. The edible rice paper menu heralds a $19 prix-fixe, three-course dessert flight prepared and delivered by an impeccable team of comely, Japanese-speaking chefs and food servers in the gleaming white-tiled jewel-box space. Sweets Raku is simply amazing.

I started with a delicious amuse bouche of strawberry sorbet and mint jelly, then chose as a main course a rich Mount Fuji, a pastry sopped with chestnut puree and a whipped cream so rich, it should be illegal. Petit fours finished off the feast, but I also tasted an artistic, a la carte cheese plate, foie gras and a quiche Lorraine, served piping hot. Dessert wines such as moscato and Tokaji are also on the docket. Wow!

And while we’re on the subject of Japan, early 2014 is going to bring us yet another type of Japanese treat, and a new wrinkle on that classic American fave, fried chicken. We’re talking about Mochiko Fried Chicken, slated to open at 2101 S. Decatur Boulevard. This chicken is fried in a sweet rice flour batter, which gives it extra crunch—we are counting the days.

But if you really can’t wait that long for that Japanese-food fix, Kyara (6555 S. Jones Blvd. 434-8856), the excellent small-plates Japanese restaurant, is now serving an opulent lunch with meals starting at just $6. I had the restaurant’s textbook pork katsu combo, paired with tempura, a tangy miso soup, salad and steamed rice, and just to be greedy, had an order of gyoza for $3 extra. If you’re in a parsimonious mood, the chicken and beef teriyaki bowls are also $6.

Finally, I got to dine at MRKT at Aliante Station (692-7777), and was greatly surprised by the quality and consistency of the cooking. The room might remind you of Hank’s at Green Valley Ranch—lots of stone and crystal—and what I ate (a silken lobster bisque, a pristine fresh halibut, a 24-ounce Black Angus bone-in rib eye and the delicious corn pudding) was the equal of anything I’ve had on the Strip in recent memory.

Hungry, yet?

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