All-you-can-eat sushi? Yes, please

Raku Sushi has fresh fish, ample selection
By: Toby Lewis, Dining View columnist
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Raku Sushi

What: All-you-can-eat sushi, bento boxes; lunch and dinner

Where: 6726 Stanford Ranch Road, Suite 7, Roseville

Prices: All-you-can-eat $12.95 lunch, $19.95 dinner

Info: (916) 786-2800

I like to think that I have a pretty hefty appetite, and when it comes to sushi, I can eat a lot of it.

But having dined out around town a bit, I’ve noticed that all-you-can-eat sushi is all but impossible to find in these parts.

So when I found out about Raku Sushi, a new restaurant in Roseville that serves all-you-can-eat sushi for lunch and dinner, I got excited to go try it out and set my hopes high.

I really only have a couple of rules when it comes to sushi — give it to me raw and give it to me fresh.

Sushi can be as exotic or creative as the chef wants to make it, or it can be simple, basic, standard. As long as it’s fresh, it’s all good to me.

Raku Sushi is about as straight forward as it gets.

Set back in a small strip mall across from Costco on Stanford Ranch Road, the modest all-you-can-eat menu offers all the sushi standards — nigiri (sliced raw fish served over rice), hand rolls and sushi rolls.

The open seating, well-lit, cafeteria-type dining room screamed what, to me, seemed to be the restaurant’s concept — come in, get full, get out.

A small sushi bar located in the back of the dining room seats only about six people, but the large dining room makes up for the lack of space at the bar with about 20 tables.

In the back corner of the room sits a “serve-yourself” salad bar, and two large flat screen TVs hang on either side of the dining room.

On my recent visit to the new restaurant, which opened in mid-November, we were immediately greeted by manager Tony Huang, who showed us to a table close to the salad bar.

Huang explained to us the concept of the all-you-can-eat menu, which included the nigiri, hand rolls and unlimited trips to the salad bar.

Sushi rolls, he explained, came out with four to five slices, depending on the roll.

My date and I were surprised to not see miso soup on the menu. I later found out that Raku Sushi offers another menu which has miso soup and many other items, which I will get into later, but those items are not included in the all-you-can-eat option.

Not knowing that at the time, my date and I asked for some miso soup to start, which Huang promptly delivered. We then ordered a couple of rolls before visiting the salad bar.

The salad bar contains seaweed salad, cabbage and peanut salad, green beens, sliced cucumber, spicy cucumbers, edamame (steamed soy beans), sliced oranges and a steamed mussel with tomato salsa.

The cabbage and peanut salad was a favorite for both of us.

I noticed that the salad bar was also the place to get wasabi (Japanese horseradish) and soy sauce for the sushi. The self-service was quite convenient given that I generally have to ask often for “more wasabi” when I go out for sushi.

For rolls, we started with the Wasabi Hamachi Roll, made up of seared albacore tuna, avocado, hamachi (yellowtail tuna) and wasabi tobiko (flying fish roe), and the Miso Tuna Roll — seared albacore tuna and avocado topped with a miso sauce.

There was noting fancy about these rolls, but the fish was fresh and the rolls tasted quite nice with my soy and wasabi mix.

Next we tried the Honey Walnut Roll — shrimp tempura and honey-glazed walnuts rolled with rice and seaweed wrap topped with avocado.

This was by far our favorite roll of the night, as it had a good combination of sweet and savory along with a nice “crunchy” texture.

Being a devout 49ers fan, we had to try the 49ers Roll — shrimp tempura and avocado, rolled and topped with salmon and lemon. We found the lemon to be a bit overpowering, but it did add a nice freshness.

Huang then recommended the Harbor Roll, the Firebird and Bob’s Roll, explaining that these three rolls were the most “popular” and received the most positive reviews on Yelp.

Although we were starting to feel full at this point, we went ahead and ordered these rolls for the benefit of you, faithful Dining View readers.

The Harbor Roll (deep fried tuna roll topped with a generous helping of imitation crab meat served with a house spicy sauce) was the most visually appealing roll we’d seen all night.

Huang explained that we were not to dip the roll in our soy/wasabi mixture as it already came with a sauce.

I abided by his suggestion upon first taste, but then went ahead and dipped the next bite into my soy/wasabi sauce (please don’t tell him).

The Firebird (shrimp tempura and crab meat topped with tuna and garlic sauce) was quite overpowered by the garlic sauce, but tasty nonetheless.

Bob’s Roll (grilled eel and spicy crab topped with smoked salmon and avocado) was another one of my favorites.

By now, you must have noticed a theme with the sushi rolls. Most, if not all, of the rolls at Raku Sushi are quite simple, using one or two ingredients on the inside of the roll and topped with one or two other ingredients.

If there’s one thing I don’t like about most sushi restaurants, it’s a menu that is littered with fried shrimp rolls smothered in mayonnaise-based sauces.

While Raku Sushi does have plenty of fried shrimp rolls on the menu, there are many other options and the mayonnaise-based sauces are all but absent.

We did also try some nigiri and a hand roll, and if you want my advice, the $19.95 all-you-can-eat price tag for dinner is well worth it if, for nothing else, you just want to come in and get full on nigiri. It was the freshest fish we had tasted all night.

At the end of the meal, owner Vincent Chu, who has been making sushi for 17 years and designed the menu himself, sat down with us to talk a little more about the menu.

It was then I found out that the restaurant has another menu outside of the all-you-can-eat option. This menu contained many of the Japanese staples for those who may not care for sushi, but may be on a date with somebody who does.

Bento boxes with teriyaki chicken or beef, chicken katsu (fried chicken), and vegetarian options are all on this “secret menu.”

“The vegetarian menu is very different,” Chu said.

All told, I enjoyed my conversation with Chu, who is quite passionate and proud of the menu he’s created.

He has been operating a Raku Sushi in West Sacramento for more than four years, recently decided to expand to Roseville and will soon be opening a location in Folsom, he said.

I also appreciated the “no frills” concept of the restaurant and thought the portion sizes were quite appropriate for all-you-can-eat sushi. The service was attentive and food came out very fast.

If you are looking for a fancy sushi joint with exotic rolls smothered in mayonnaise-based sauces and fried “this-or-that,” this might not be what you are looking for.

But if you want to get your sushi fix in a non-pretentious, laid back environment, Raku Sushi is the perfect venue.

Toby Lewis is a freelance writer with almost 30 years experience in the restaurant industry. Look to each month’s Dining View for his thoughts, insights and opinions about dining in and around Granite Bay. Follow him on Twitter @TobLewis.