Usually when someone offers us lunch, it's a well-packed, pre-made box affair. (Not that we love it any less, mind you.)
So the CultureMap office was pleasantly surprised when Sushi Raku owner Patrick Chiu and new chef Adison Lee showed up with, essentially, a portable kitchen, ready to fire up the office stove.
Lee and company took us through a six-course tour of the upcoming menu additions, which will begin appearing on Sushi Raku tables this week.
Raised in Hong Kong and trained first in Japan and then in United States under pioneer Nobu Matsuhisa, Lee opened and served as head chef at Nobu London for three years before heading to Houston, working most recently as sous chef at the criminally underappreciated Sage 400.
Lee describes his cooking style as somewhat flamboyant and adventurous, and he's known for his hands-on approach to every aspect of the kitchen — even shopping the fish markets.
Starting with a fresh salad with ahi tuna and a thick, tangy vinaigrette as well as a mixed seafood stew with a kick of key lime, we tasted a trio of sashimi: Yellowtail topped with a slice of cilantro and jalepeño, salmon topped with pepper and a hint of rich truffle oil, and a flavorful Japanese snapper.
The dishes that really shined were the cooked entrees. The honey butter shrimp had an amazing melding of sweet with a hint of spice and positively melted in our mouths. Despite full stomachs, we couldn't resist the Australian ocean trout with miso and yuzu dressing. With a salmon-like meaty texture and a more subtle flavor palette, it was too perfectly cooked not to inhale.
The last dish, an Asian creme brulee, was not as successful, overly sweet with a thin, yogurt-like texture under the torched sugar coating. The lychee sake served with it, however, was quite the crowd pleaser.
Overall the lunch showcased traditional technique and some really unexpected flavor combinations, most of which worked exceptionally well. I think Lee's flair might help unify the competing segments of Raku's clientele — foodies who like the ambitious dishes and fish flown in weekly from Tokyo, and Midtown PYTs drinking colorful cocktails in Raku's luxe lounge.
Let me just say this: after a few mojitos, a bowl of honey butter shrimp is juuuuust what the doctor ordered.