Sizzle and spark: dining at Raku

There’s an art to dining in the Japanese way. Here in Canberra it is known simply as Raku.

As soon as you step inside the door of Raku, Canberra Centre’s newest Japanese dining destination, you leave the city behind. You’re instantly surrounded by the taste and theatre of Tokyo’s bustling streets. Your senses ignite with the heady aromas of Japanese cooking and the sizzle and spark of the flaming robata grill. Dining just got interesting.

Together, head chef Hoa San and venue manager Marcellus Heleta have blended the traditional Izakaya experience with the vibrance and sociable charm of modern Australian dining. It’s the Japanese equivalent of a gastropub, where you can drop in for an after-work drink and enjoy a delicious array of tapas-like dishes.

Named for ‘raku’, a famous style of Japanese pottery art that is synonymous with craftsmanship and intricate detailing, the restaurant adopts this same approach to dining in the Japanese style.

The “theatre of dining”, as Heleta describes it, unfolds before your very eyes. An open-plan kitchen sits at the centre of the room, encircled by seats – a culinary amphitheatre for the hungry diner. Here patrons can sit and watch on as their meal is prepared.

Trained sushi chefs wield their knives with precision at the sushi bar, while the restaurant itself features a series of eating zones, each designed to transport you to the streets of Japan’s most famed cities. Building on that pure immersive experience are beautiful, textural details of your surroundings, such as handmade Japanese tiles and exquisite washi paper, made by a seventh-generation Japanese family.

Of the food on offer, Marcellus says there are “70-odd dishes... everything from scampi and truffle, to beautiful kingfish sashimi, Morton Bay bug tempura, and of course, gyoza.” Raku, in other words, is a front row seat to the best Japanese cuisine around.

And Raku doesn’t skimp on dessert. Marcellus is particularly fond of their whisky-flavoured chocolate fondant: a must-try for keen foodies.

Speaking of whisky, Raku has a carefully curated selection of Japanese whiskies, sakes and beers, as well as Australian spirits, which Marcellus says are all chosen to “complement the food”.

Whether it’s a quick stop-in after work, or a long, luxurious date night dinner, Raku has perfected the art of Japanese hospitality in its local setting. A dream of a destination in the very heart of Australia’s national capital.

Visit Raku at Canberra Centre’s new Monaro Mall precinct now.