I found myself at another izakaya after visiting Nomé Izakaya recently. This time, I was in the mood for some sushi and ramen since I didn’t get the chance to have any last weekend. It was perfect since there was a newly opened izakaya in Markham! 😀
Raku Ramen & Izakaya is located at the popular Peachtree Centre in Markham near Highway 7 and Kennedy Road. It replaces the previous noodle shop, Wonton Chai. The interior of the space is not super big; there are several tables in the middle of the room with some booth seating near the back of the restaurant. There was Japanese pop music playing cheerfully in the background.
I took rein of the menu and ordered several items to share. I could tell the restaurant was quite new since the menu itself was freshly laminated and I could barely open up the pages wide enough. I was impressed that even before we placed our order, the server came around to serve us a portion of salad. The salad was fresh and the lettuce was crunchy. It was a great start.
The takoyaki came first. These well-known Japanese deep fried octopus balls were placed together in a mash in the centre of the plate. The bonito flakes that were scattered on the top of them were HUGE! I’ve never seen such big shavings before. Due to their size, they weighed down each flake and they weren’t able to wave in the air as they usually do due to the heat from the octopus balls. No show to watch. 😦 Usually, that’s what I look forward to when eating takoyaki. I like seeing it move as if alive. The octopus balls themselves were pretty good otherwise.
The Tonkotsu Ramen arrived steaming hot in a cute little black pot on a red mat on a wooden serving plate. It was impressive. The presentation of the ramen was perfectly executed. It was almost so perfect that it couldn’t have been real food. Look at how perfectly placed all the condiments and toppings were. They really spend a lot of time on aesthetics here! Fortunately, the ramen itself and the soup base actually tasted quite good! The ramen noodles themselves, however, seem more reminiscent of Chinese-style cooking than actual Japanese style. I enjoyed the bowl of ramen nevertheless. I slurped up the soup, gobbled up the soft chasiu slices, and munched on the soft vegetables and corn. The boiled egg was so-so though.
The Chicken Soft Bone tapa was not what I expected it to be. I’ve had chicken soft bone before at other restaurants and it is usually a plate of small, bite-sized pieces of crunchy yet chewy soft bone. It usually looks like this. However, the chicken soft bone that they serve here at Raku is a long white piece of soft bone with some chicken meat attached. It tasted too hard and I didn’t like that it wasn’t chewy enough. I also didn’t like how most of the edges were charred. I had to use my fingers to pick off some of the burnt parts because I really didn’t want to have that in my body. I wouldn’t recommend ordering this tapa if I were you.
Lastly, I got my fix of sushi (at least for a little bit). Spider Roll is frequently a favourite roll for me to order. Deep fried soft shell crab is just so yummy! Again, Raku was able to impress with its presentation of the dish. It looked so perfect and was so well executed. I noticed the details of the dish such as the two carefully crafted star-shaped carrot and radish slices placed against the slice of lime that was styled in a spiral-like motion, the perfectly assembled ginger pieces, how there was a ‘splash’ of spicy mayo sauce decorated on top of the slanted banana leaf, and how the green plastic leaf stuck out of the diagonally sequenced spider roll. All this takes a lot of work and I appreciate the time they put to make the dish look beautiful.
However, the roll itself didn’t impress me very much. The soft shell crab was deep fried well, but the actual crab itself didn’t seem to be of much substance. I could barely taste it when I chewed it down. It didn’t taste like a spider roll at all. The crab was just ‘not there’. The rice in the sushi was good though, but my mom commented that it was too mushy. Also, the wasabi wasn’t spicy at all. 😦 It barely ‘melted’ into the soy sauce and seemed too hard to break down. Ugh… I’m really not so sure about the authenticity of this izakaya….
OH, and another thing is that the Spider Roll on the menu is listed as $9. However, when we ordered, the server informed us that the market price has gone up for soft shell crabs so the price of the roll was now $12. I still ordered it anyway, but thinking back now, I probably shouldn’t have. If they changed the price, why didn’t they change the price on the physical menu? I have seen plenty of restaurants that put a sticker over the old price on the menu if there is a change. I feel scammed now.
So, all in all, there are other izakayas if you want better food. The presentation of the food here is beautiful! They couldn’t have executed it better. The ramen was good, and the takoyaki was decent, but that was it. Also… if you are squeamish, just stop reading now: I noticed the server prepping the tables for dining by placing the plates, napkins, and chopsticks onto the surfaces. As he was doing so, he coughed… right into his right hand…. which he proceeded to use to place the napkins onto the table. Uhhhh. I think if you work in the food industry, you need to learn to cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow, NOT your hand that you use to touch the cutlery/napkins with. Or if you do happen to sneeze or cough into your hands, you need to immediately head to the restroom and wash them out before touching anything else in the restaurant! I almost lost my meal at that point. It was pretty disgusting to know that my food might not have been handled sanitarily. Ew…