Raku – Dupont Circle

June 2006 Cheap Eats

Chinese, Japanese, and Korean plates are all given Modern American tweaks at this pan-Asian eatery with the look and feel of a neighborhood diner gone trendy. Weekdays and weekends the dining room is abuzz–from empty-nesters nibbling on fatty tuna to toddlers gobbling shrimp and pork dumplings.

In the '60s, when families wanted a budget meal, they went for chow mein. These days they go for California rolls. Raku does those and more. In Seoul Train, cool, buttery tuna meets crunchy chili-hot kimchee. Sweet hoisin and Chinese mustard lend sweet and spicy notes to a smoky duck roll. Yellowtail sashimi gets a slick of sweet-hot wasabi ponzu sauce, and the signature tuna tartare crunches with peanuts and herby lemon basil.

Bigger plates like strip steak marinated with cilantro, chili, and shallots are likely to blow the Cheap Eats budget unless you share. So slice it up and let everyone have a taste. Noodle soups like the dreamy, creamy red Thai curry with shrimp bring the tab back on track. So do the lunch bento boxes stocked with smoky barbecue eel or surprisingly good rib-eye teriyaki. Both come with delicate crab shu mai; portobello-and-green-bean salad, a ying and yang of soft and crunchy textures; and those ubiquitous California rolls.

Sushi $3 to $10, appetizers $4.50 to $10, entrées $8.25 to $23.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.