Raku and Dolcezza Artisanal Gelato

Tuna Tartare at Raku

Tomorrow, I am going up to New York before I head back up to school the next day Thursday. I look forward to returning to school because, over the summer, I set my mind on a career path and found what passions I really want to pursue. Without delving into details, I gained new life experiences this summer. For that, I have to thank everyone I spent the summer with—fellow interns in Houston, old high school friends I met up with in California, new friends I made at Google, and more. Yet, as I prepare for my third year at Yale, I can’t help but feel rushed. With only two years of college left, I wonder if I’ll find myself in the spring of senior year wanting to start over. This is something I’ve talked about with recent graduates and alumni, and they’ve all agreed that by the end of senior year, Yalies are ready for and accepting of moving on to the real world. While comforting, this doesn’t change my renewed determination to maximize the latter half of my college years, so here’s to the next two years.

Raku

Last weekend, I visited a hip Japanese restaurant located in the heart of Bethesda, MD. Located in the midst of a busy shopping district, Raku is easy to overlook, but for its reasonably low prices, it doesn’t disappoint.

When I met my friend Sarah at the restaurant on a Friday evening, Raku was packed to the brim. Chances are, without the reservation I made earlier on in the week, we would have looked at a healthy waiting period before getting seated. In retrospect, some time spent with the menu before getting seated wouldn’t have hurt.

Raku’s dinner menu spans over 15 sections, from First Flavors to California Lineups. Among the intriguing options are ‘Seoul’ Train Roll and Chinese Five Spiced Duck Breast. Raku’s menu brings the indecisiveness out of most people, and it is menus like this that make me want to pursue a part-time role as a paid food writer, just so I could order everything that fancies my mind.

Raku Roll, eel, tamago omellete, cucumber, avocado at Raku

From the limited sampling of plates we tried, I would say that Raku is worth a try. The signature Raku roll packed a strong savory base flavor with an amalgam of textures from soft to crunchy thanks to eel, tamago omelet, avocado, and cucumber. With a sliver of marinated ginger, each piece was a brought a rainbow of flavor into my mouth.

Seoul Train Roll and Salmon Roll at Raku

The ‘Seoul’ Train roll triggered memories of Korean California rolls my mother used to make, the unifying ingredient being kimchi. As a hard-to-miss ingredient, the kimchi gave the ‘Seoul’ Train roll a uniquely Korean flavor. Alas, the ‘Seoul’ Train roll lacked in sophistication that the Raku roll pulled off so nicely.

Floating around somewhere in my mind is the name of the third roll, which was more traditional in the sense that it was not a specialty roll. Even so, this third roll appeased my inclination for savory foods by combining a healthy serving of salmon with crunch from a pea-sized dose of panko bread crumbs.

The strength of Raku lies not in its diverse and solid sushi lineup but its equally expansive selection of appetizers and entrees.

Tuna Tartare at Raku

As a huge fan of the traditional French dish steak tartare, I had no choice but to order a tuna tartare. Though not similar in flavor to traditional steak tartare, the tuna tartare with lemon basil sauce piqued my interest for the food to follow. Raku’s tuna tartare is served with slices of toasted bread, dressed greens, and baby pickles that pack quite the punch.

Maine scallop with oyster mushroom ragout at Raku

The Maine scallop with oyster ragout was mellow in taste and soft on the mouth, consisting primarily of scallops, mushroom, and a creamy white sauce. A bit of added kick in the sauce wouldn’t have hurt, but the main pitfall of this dish lay in the fact that the tortilla strings topping the dish got soggy too quickly to enjoy.

Dolcezza Artisanal Gelato

After dinner at Raku, Sarah and I walked around the area a bit—which itself is quite charming—until we came across this gem of a dessert place called Dolcezza Artisanal Gelato. From the name, you can already anticipate the quality of its foods, and the gelato certainly lived up to its name.

As an aside, I should confess that I rarely eat sweet foods and almost never eat stereotypical desserts, i.e. ice cream, cake, etc. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of these foods. I enjoy them just as much as anyone else. I simply avoid them as part of eating a healthy diet. The reason I digress is that because of this, my palate for sweet foods may not be as refined as it could be. I find most sweet treats quite delicious.

However, I have an instinctive feeling that even self-proclaimed gelato connoisseurs would enjoy Dolcezza’s selection. The flavors are exotic, ranging from lemon opal basil to cucumber mint vodka, and they change weekly. You can find tried-and-true flavors too, such as espresso or salted caramel.

The gelato itself is creamy, with little if any trace of large ice crystals. It melts in the mouth like butter, and the flavors, far from being dull, trigger memories of the ingredients they’re made of. For example, tasting the lemon opal basil gelato felt almost like biting down on a basil leaf.

Raku
7240 Woodmont Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 718-8680

Dolcezza Artisanal Gelato
7111 Bethesda Ln
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 215-9226

About Earl

Hi, my name is Earl. I am a student who loves to analyze food and eat healthy. My careful eye for food has caused me to become interested in the science behind food and cooking, and I write about my explorations into food on my website Toastable.com. While I believe in sticking to whole, natural foods, I'm not afraid to work with avant-garde ingredients and equipment such as constant temperature water baths and sodium alginate. I also love photography, technology, and journalism.

20. August 2013 von Earl
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