I guess that's why I have developed such a passion for food: it's an area that allows you to be adventurous, a risk-taker, but to do it all safely. Within bounds. Without consequence. For the most part. Call me a walking Lifetime special.
So it is, that when in Vegas, the kind of debauchery I allow myself to indulge in is not of the sort that would be fodder for a female version of Hangover - but more of the literally culinary kind.
The first time I ventured to famed and foodie-beloved Aburiya Raku, every moment felt like an adventure. Everyone else wanted to stay on the strip, many within the hotel we were staying in - but thanks to gourmands who love to eat and share - I knew that amazingly tasty and affordable foods were to be found off strip. And the 'getting there' would be much more exciting than walking downstairs to the nearest glitzy new restaurant downstream from the lobby.
I convinced a friend to go with me - and after an only-in-the-movies sort of cab ride where we were given a dissertation on the types of people who come to Vegas and exactly why they each make our driver angry - we arrived at the back corner of the non-descript strip mall, one amongst many in Chinatown, that Raku called home.
We pulled up to the bar, great for line of sight at what's happening in the kitchen and at the counter - and proceeded to drool over the blackboard and regular menus, packed with delicious sounding creatures of land and sea. I remember laughing at my friend, who is over 6 feet tall, trying to find a comfortable place to put his legs at the bar built for smaller people. I remember charcoal grilled wagyu, skewers of foie, and a blur of great conversation touching even on evolutionary psychology, punctuated by unctuous plates. I fell in love with Raku in that first visit - so much so that I didn't even take notes about the food - I was so in the moment enjoying it.
It was difficult to leave it behind and I wished we could have this experience back home. Luckily, I was able to return on the next Vegas visit. Here's the report on highlights from the meal:
Although every time I leave Raku, I wish they could have a branch in LA - I realized that it's better that it stays in Vegas. It's human nature to want what we can't have - and maybe its inaccessibility on an everyday basis is what helps it sustain that pedestal status in my mind. Maybe it wouldn't feel or taste the same at all, if I had access to it in LA. It definitely gives me something to look forward to next time I'm in town again - and perhaps will even be a reason for another visit.
Raku: I will be back for more shameless indulgence. Calories be damned. Til then, this is me, encapsulating you, into a beautiful memory.