Dinner on Wednesday April 9th 2014
Type of restaurant : Isakaya (Japanese Bistrot)
Addr: 8080 Boulevard Taschereau, Brossard, QC J4X 1C2
Raku is the other restaurant (after Yasu) that I ate at during a quick visit of South shore Montreal. It’s located in a mall center.
Being an isakaya, I did not expect much from their sushi but I still tried the red snapper sushi just to see how the sushi is crafted here (they do have a full list of sushis):
I picked the red snapper sushi. The rice packed too tight for my liking, the bite way too firm and the fish (served cold) adhering (way too) persistently to the rice (adherence is needed when crafting a piece of nigiri, but certainly not to such extent…And by stretching the flesh of the fish –over half the sushi’s height — the way they did, the texture of the flesh was consequently…unappealing??). As you’ll see later, this is a competent Chef, and at his level I doubt he can’t craft the (conventional) sushi that we know, so all I can think about is that he is perhaps bored with sushis in its conventional form and and he is trying sushi in a different way (???). You’ll certainly be critical if you head there expecting your usual conventional sushis and end up getting what I had (who knows, perhaps it’s done differently on other days), perhaps less critical when you’ll learn that many aspects of that sushi piece are not necessarily a flaw if you consider that in some parts of the world, the fish of the sushi is served colder than what you might be used to…yep, yep, and yep! That the texture of that rice is considered as ‘normal” elsewhere). Ha, you see…a totally new perspective now, Lol. Anyways, I still did not like that sushi (expecting someone like me who grew up in a fishermen village to be enthused with cold cuts of fish is a bit like expecting the moon to behave like the sun ;p) , but again…that’s (more accurately) only because I prefer the type of sushis most are accustomed to. Therefore, I can’t score this one.
Spiced red tuna (you can see it accompanying the red snapper sushi on th eprevious pic) starred decent texture, but the seasoning (although certainly not bad) remained not particularly exciting (yes, it was indeed spicy as in ‘hot on that tongue’ kind of feeling, but you won’t have hard time finding better versions of this item right here in Montreal and its surroundings. 5/10
Then, the dish that would determine my appreciation of this isakaya, the simple sounding takoyaki balls. As ever, this is the type of dish that captivates my attention since it’s easy to overlook the details that set apart the good (it’s usually hard to not miss a decent rendition of the takoyaki balls – which is why I was disappointed by the meal at Yasu earlier on) from the great when it comes to those octopus-filled snacks. This was a refined take on most of the original renditions of the takoyaki balls, so obviously not your usual sweet and rich bold tasting and rustic looking takoyaki balls, rather a gourmet version of it, but a version that will reveal, if you have an eye for such details, some serious technical mastery: the texture superbly puffy , a texture that would make any ambitious pastry team really proud. The touch of (quality) Mayo kept to minimal use so that the (delicious) octopus filling as well as its (flawless) takoyaki sauce take front stage. An inspired take on the takoyaki ball, its refinement absolutely pertinent. Easily the finest takoyaki balls I ever sampled in Montreal (along those at Kyo, which were as great but somehow a bit different in conception). 10/10
Ended the meal with their eggplant tempuras which light batter was achieved skillfully. Of course, we are limited by the quality of the eggplants (ha..it’s not the the Mediterranea…so the eggplant did not have the depth of taste it could have – and NO it would not make that much difference if it was in eggplant season, since we do import them anyways….), found locally but this is almost (Kyo remains the isakaya that does this the best in Mtl and surroundings) as good as your eggplant tempura will look and taste like in Montreal and its surroundings. My dining companion complaining that the eggplant should have been seasoned, but I disagree with such suggestion since, for me, the point of a good tempura is to let the star ingredient’s inherent flavor unaltered (the batter needs to be well done to accomplish that feature, which is what they did). 8/10 by Montreal & surroundings standards
Verdict: 7/10 By Isakaya standards in Montreal and surroundings. South Shore Montreal has now an Isakaya that they can be proud of. No need anymore to head to Montreal since, although not at the level of a place like Kyo (Kyo is more consistent throughout a larger variety of dishes, even excelling outside their comfort zone, for eg doing really good with non isakaya-specific fares such as sushis, etc) , Raku still has a Chef who –by our local standards — can certainly surprise with some inspired creations (his takoyaki, on this evening, being a great example). If you stick to proper isakaya items and factor the fact that they are more into refinement rather than bold isakaya textures/flavors, you’ll certainly appreciate that this Chef performs a notch above the norm for this kind of food in Mtl & its surroundings.
What I think weeks later : The Chef has skills, that’s clear (It would take an utterly naïve mind to believe that such brilliant takoyaki balls can only come from a poorly skilled Chef ). Still, those skills would have been no evidence to you if you had sampled that sushi or the tuna tartare. It’s always unfortunate that such poorly conceived tartare (the seasoning did impart an unappetizing taste to the tartare) and sushi (I know I am not in Japan, lol, but please..an effort..) could be enjoyed under the same roof as such dazzling takoyaki balls, or that well conceived tempura. If only they could quell the disappointment of items like that sushi or tuna tartare, as those are problems that are easy to address…because for now, whenever I’ll go back, I’ll remember that here…anything can happen;p