Eater dining critic Bill Addison just published this year’s edition of the National Eater 38, a compilation of the restaurants that stand out nationwide. Raku, the Japanese robata grill in Chinatown, re-enters the list after dropping off last year.
Addison says he looks to the Eater 38 lists compiled by city editors to come up with his list. "‘Best’ is catchy shorthand but more specifically I’m thinking about restaurants that are essential to their communities and that also, when considered together, define dining in America right now," Addison says. "And like the local lists, the national counterpart is meant to evolve slowly; it wouldn’t hold water as a list of essentials if I chose an entire new roll call of restaurants every year."
He says Raku was in a "unique position on the 2016 list: It was among the inaugural 38 I compiled in 2014, and then I rotated it off last year. But in freshly considering Vegas and its one-of-a-kind dining ecology, with so many imported concepts along the Strip, I felt certain that Raku should retake a place on the list. It’s really the first place I want to eat in Vegas; the second location in LA has done nothing to diminish its excellence. (And I’m nearly as big a fan of Sweets Raku across the parking lot nearly as much.)"
The restaurant’s reputation for luring visitors off the Strip to Chinatown coupled with tempting guests with different types of Japanese foods made Raku a natural for the National Eater 38.
"Because so many Americans gravitate to sushi and ramen as their benchmarks for Japanese cuisine, I admire how Mitsou Endo champions other equally worthy aspects of culinary Japan: not only of course the centerpiece yakitori cooked over the robata grill, but unexpected pleasures like delicate, freshly made tofu."
Restaurants spanning the country appeared on this year’s ranking, ranging from New York’s Momofuku Noodle Bar to Austin’s Franklin’s Barbecue. Newcomers included Petit Trois in Los Angeles, San Francisco’s Zuni Cafe, and Milktooth in Indianapolis, among others.