Raku is not the absolute tiniest restaurant in Tokyo. But it certainly feels that way once you’ve squeezed past a couple of cramped tables and several people’s posteriors to shoehorn yourself in at the seven-seat counter.
So why bother? One word: gyōza.
They’re not the usual version of these dumplings, plump and bursting with garlicky minced meat. Rather, Raku serves a longer, skinnier Kobe variant, each just a single bite with more golden-fried wrapper than filling. Each serving (from a mere ¥380) brings you eight of these tasty little packages all bunched up in a row.
One portion is never enough. And that’s a good thing because Raku offers almost half a dozen different kinds, with herbs such as shiso (perilla), pakuchī (coriander) and even Italian herbs mixed in with the pork-meat filling. Each variation comes with its own recommended dips and seasonings, such as salt and lemon juice with the shiso gyōza.
You’ll find a small list of salads and side dishes to give your taste buds a rest, and a good choice of beverages. That’ll be enough to keep you happy for an hour or two, until you’re ready to squeeze back out again into the gritty Shinbashi night.
Gyōza from ¥380; side dishes from ¥250; Japanese menu; little English spoken
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5