Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Raku - Westside

Last night, I returned to Raku for what will be my third and final time for the foreseeable future. While Raku doesn't have close to the best Ramen in Atlanta, I loved having the option for a quick, late night bite. We just don't have enough options like this ITP and it was a welcome addition to serviceable "ethnic" dining not on Buford Highway. It is also extremely economical.

In the past, when I've come around 8PM, Raku has been empty. And maybe that's why I was served with a quickness on those evenings. Yesterday, both the parking lot and dining room were slammed. I'm going to keep this short - I sat for fifteen minutes without ever being acknowledged by the staff. No water. No eye-contact. No menu. In fact, I probably stood at the entryway, waiting to be seated for three minutes until I took it upon myself to sit down.

I'm an extremely tolerant diner. I've put up with hair in my food and the lousiest of service. I probably would have sat there waiting to be served or I would have gently spoken up when one of the two servers looked my way. But sitting there, at the high-bar, I had a vantage point directly into their open kitchen. And since I don't like to spend my evenings over a toilet, frontwards or backwards, I chose to do something I can't remember doing in at least ten years - I walked.

You're a fool if you think unsanitary practices don't occur in restaurant kitchens. It's the nature of the beast. In fact, the whole wearing gloves while handling food is a silly legislation (Taka's epic tweet on the matter) and rarely used in finer restaurants that can get away with it. But the amount of cross-contamination that occurred in the 15 minutes I watched that kitchen was unfathomable and stomach wrenching.

From the moment I got there until the moment I left, there was an open bag of raw, red meat siting out on the cutting board. This same cutting board was used to slice raw salmon on. That cutting board was also used to plate food going out to the dining room. You may be thinking, "Big deal, the bottoms of the plates were touching the board so as not to contaminate the top. And all the meat on the board was going to get cooked anyways, killing the bacteria." And you might be right. But then consider that the cook handling every single order that went out - that sliced the fish, that plated dishes, that handled every cooking utensil, every device in that kitchen and ever finished order, never once washed his hands. Raw meat, both beef and fish, was handled constantly with the same unwashed hands that took care of dirty dishes, contaminated surfaces and new plates to the dining room. If someone didn't get sick last night at Raku, the bacterial gods have forsaken us.

Needing to recover from the spell of disarray Raku put me under, I went with a surefire, nearby alternative - Antico. I can put up with the unfriendly service and intolerable customers there for that pizza time and time again.

Raku Tonkatsu & Ramen on Urbanspoon