Raku in Edina corners the luxury sushi market
A casual observer will have noted that 2010 was the year of seemingly opposite trends: cupcakes and sushi. However, trust me, new sushi joints have outpaced cupcakes by about three to one. We now have bona-fide mature market segmentation, with Twin Cities sushi options for thrifty internationally minded grad students (Koyi Too), for vegetarians (Midori’s Floating World—try the kimchee with egg and cucumber or the umeboshi with perilla leaf), for taco lovers (Tiger 2 Sushi), for people who don’t wish to leave their homes (Mt. Fuji delivers to Uptown and Kenwood), and for residents of nearly every suburb (especially Woodbury, home to a whopping three sushi spots: Giapponese, Akita, and Sushi Tango). And yet, who dares to serve the wealthy?
Brand-new Raku in Edina, that’s who. My first impression upon crossing the threshold at Raku, near the Edina Lunds and across from Talbots, was that it was like stepping into a soothing spa constructed entirely of the most expensive interior finishes known to man: Threads of sandstone form an elegant frieze on one wall, polished dark wood is tastefully layered, a sparkling quartz-like substance undulates interestingly. Nice work if you can get it! I exulted, sinking into a comfortable chair. Sake was brought to me in a striking blown-glass pitcher, the likes of which I’ve only seen once before in my life: at Kai, New York City’s dear, departed, but when it was there, terrifically posh kaiseki (tea ceremony) restaurant. How fancy! How nice!
I was meeting colleagues who were a bit sushi-skittish. I had chosen them because Raku has an extensive menu of cooked meats and poultry. I’d try Raku’s sushi offerings, zeroing in novelties, like “new style sashimi” (made with yuzu truffle soy!), and hard-to-find options, like the whole-fish aji–horse mackerel. My guests would try the roast chicken and special Japanese preparation of filet mignon, whatever that was. And so the meal unspooled, near about flawlessly: Well, in truth the sushi was only a titch better than that served by the great masses of Raku’s competitors. They were out of the rarer offerings (like the aji), and I didn’t detect any particular truffle in the sashimi. Still, the beautiful room and attentive service made the evening feel momentous and luxurious.
Shockingly, the hit of the night was the filet mignon, served fajitas-style on a sizzling plate crackling with soy sauce and mushrooms.
The meat was terrifically tender, the soy-mushroom accompaniment perfectly accented its beefiness, and, at only $25, it actually seemed like a pretty affordable steak. What’s not to like? The bill. Raku is noticeably more expensive than sushi-snob hot spots like Origami. Yet, by making that comparison, do I venture into cynical territory, where one knows the price of everything but the value of nothing? Perhaps. If you value being treated graciously while your eyes relax and delight upon beautiful surroundings, Raku may be the one sushi spot you’ve been waiting for.
The poshest, plushest sushi spot Minnesota has ever seen, Raku is for you if you like comfort and style, and can afford to pay for it.
Ideal Meal: Sushi; filet mignon with soy sauce and mushrooms Tip: Good for non-sushi types; Raku has very good meat offerings. Hours: 11 a.m–10 p.m., Monday–Thursday; noon–11 p.m. Saturday; noon–10 p.m. Sunday Prices: A four-course lunch is $16; dinner entrées are typically around $20. Address: Raku, 3939 W. 50th St., Edina, 952-358-2588, rakumn.com