Cheap Eats 2007: Raku

Oversize lanterns and paper parasols swing from the rafters; chopsticks big enough to joust with jut out from the walls. The atmosphere at this cafe is so animated, it sometimes feels like a giant rec room.

The place also knows how to please. A mostly Japanese fusion menu is focused enough to keep the raw-fish purists from grumbling, yet even sushiphobes will find something to like.

Plates like tuna tartare, Thai-curry bouillabaisse, and strip steak with Szechuan spice are dependably delicious, while newer takes like smoky wok-charred Chilean sea bass, paper-thin slices of buttery yellowtail with sesame-wasabi ponzu, and a salad of cilantro and onion prove that the kitchen hasn’t grown lazy.

Want sushi? Go for the rolls. Combos like the Raku with eel, egg, avocado, and cucumber, the kimchee-spiked Seoul Train roll, and a marvelous salmon roe and quail egg combo are as tasty as they are festive. Just like Raku.

Open daily for lunch and dinner.

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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 Logan Circle.