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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–10:00pm
Fri 11:30am–midnight
Sat noon–midnight
Sun noon–10:00pm

Features Date-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


3201 Louisiana St.
Houston, TX
(713) 526-8885
Sushi Raku
A flashy place where the cooked classics yield the best results

From the two-syllable, four-letter name right down to the lower-case font and hanko stamp, Raku’s logo bears an uncanny likeness to that of a certain famed Austin restaurant. And like it, Raku sells modernized Japanese to well-dressed folks looking for dim lighting and artful platings. Resemblances beyond that grow blurrier; for one thing, the interior’s expensively designed, but to good effect? The color scheme and furnishings borrow smartly from a Kubrickian vision of space, but with diaphanous curtains and red ropes flung about with the artless melodrama of a Project Runway challenge. The best place to sit, as ever, is at the sushi bar, where you can ask for the goods of the day. Mostly, however, the sushi’s unremarkable, suffering from average-quality fish and underseasoned rice that’s served much too cool.

The beverage program is oddly more like that of a careless dive than a swanky hot spot, with cheap, nameless sake (available in “hot,” “cold,” and “flavored”) and sugary, poorly made cocktails using standard liquors. If anything, we like Raku for its hot small plates. We’ve had killer tontoro (Berkshire pork belly roasted for 12 hours to tender, and served not too sweet) and delicious buttered mushrooms en papillote. A robata grill special of snapper head has also been terrific. But unlike the better modern-Japanese kitchens, whose unlikeliest-sounding dishes often reveal delightful surprises, dishes here that sound poorly conceived—like yellowtail over greens with truffle oil—also taste it.

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