#166: Raku Sushi

This last Thursday was a day of overeating for me.  Lunch at an Indian buffet and for dinner and this post, Raku Sushi, an all you can eat restaurant in Northeast Roseville.  They have another location in West Sacramento.  This is not your typical all you can eat buffet.  It’s a sit-down and table service type of place, and the sushi chef’s make everything to order.  First off, a little warning that just about all of these photos are not very good.  The pace of this meal was hard enough to keep up with in addition to taking photos, I was not on my game at all.  Lets dive right in.

I met my mom and brother here for dinner at about 5:30PM.  They are open for lunch and dinner and close for a couple hours in between.  We walked in to an empty dining room and a staff that was ready to start serving.  We took a seat in the largish square space filled with tables.  They have a small amount of sushi bar seating as well.  Our server greeted us and after learning that this was our first visit explained the whole process.  Dinner is 19.95 and includes everything on the dinner menu as well as the lunch menu (link to menus).  She also explained that this month (November 2013) they were celebrating the company’s 5th anniversary and were having some specials.  These included half off all beer, some sake specials, and a roll or sashimi special of the chef’s choice.  There may have been more, but these were the bits that got my attention.  These specials are going on through the end of the month, so if you’re curious about Raku, now would be a good time to check it out.

One question I had before we arrived was if you could order from a more traditional menu a la carte.  My brother is a vegetarian and rightfully felt that the small selection of vegetarian options on the menu would not be worth $19.95.  I called in earlier in the day and confirmed that a normal menu was available side by side with all you can eat.  What went down when he asked for that menu was actually very cool though.  Our server said he could still get all you can eat and choose from the vegetarian rolls on the regular menu as well, so that worked out nicely.  My brother wasn’t picky and asked to be surprised, and our server told him she was also a vegetarian and would pick out a good selection for him.  We all ordered beer and investigated the salad bar after putting in our first order of sushi.

The salad bar has salad, edamame, wasabi, ginger, and a few other items.  To the side were stacks of little plates and small dishes for soy sauce.  Back at the table I had my Asahi Black[$6.00 $3.00].  This was the first time I’ve had it and it was quite delicious.  My brother had suggested it and after tasting it also decided it was really good.  Very smooth with just a touch of a sweet honey flavor.  Soon we had our first round of rolls and nigiri showing up one after the other.  We had the Bob’s roll (Grilled eel, spicy crab meat topped w/ smoked salmon and avocado), the Harbor (Deep-fried tuna maki topped w/ crab meat and house spicy sauce) and one other roll I can’t recall the name of.  Also we had 4 orders of nigiri – sake (salmon), maguro (tuna), albacore (white tuna) and hamachi (yellowtail).  One of the nice things about the rolls were that they came in 4-6 pieces meaning you could try lots of different ones without filing up too quickly.  Of this first round, my mom and I decided that the Harbor was the best.  It was full of flavor and despite having two little chilis next to it on the menu, was not at all spicy.  Visually it was also one of the most interesting ones we had the whole night.

The special sashimi order we got turned out to be seared albacore, which neither my mom and I were crazy about.  I’m not a fan of that texture and would much prefer completely raw fish.  My brother had an assortment of vegetarian items brought out with the first round.  A few different rolls and a two item plate with some rice wrapped in fried tofu skin.

We were off to a good start but definitely needed a little more.  The portions were definitely smaller than your average sushi joint.  The fish and avocado are sliced a bit thinner.  There wasn’t an abnormal amount of rice there to try and fill you up, which I liked.  Next up I ordered some unagi.  I went with nigiri and temaki (hand roll).  My mom picked out a couple of rolls, one of which was the 49’ers (Shrimp tempura, avocado topped w/salmon & lemon).  These all came out fairly quick.  The temaki came in a little stand to hold it upright.  This was the first time I’ve seen one of those, kinda neat.  The hand roll was delicious.  The piece of eel was a bit small, but the flavor from the unagi sauce permeated the entire roll.  Likewise, the unagi nigiri was also smaller but still delicious.  I helped my mom finish off the last of the rolls.  Both were good.

Finally, I caved in and ordered dessert (I didn’t put up much of a fight, admittedly).  Choices are deep-fried banana, sesame ball or a donut.  I went with the donut.  I had one of these several years ago at a similar all you can eat sushi place in midtown and remembered them being good.  It took maybe 5 minutes and arrived hot and covered in sugar.  Obviously just out of the frier, it was a bit crisp.  The inside was nice and soft.  It was a nice end to a day of stuffing my face.

Overall I was happy with Raku.  Before I knew it was a table service place I was very worried about a repeat experience of Tomi.  The service was excellent.  Our server was very friendly and patient, happy to explain everything in detail and let us know what our options were.  Staff were regularly coming by to remove empty plates as soon as the last bite was taken from them.  The sushi was a step below your typical, non all you can eat place, but not that really far below.  Portions were smaller, which I actually think is a plus here.  The fish is sliced thinner but everything was fresh and the quality was good.  I can easily drop $40-50 on a very satisfying sushi dinner elsewhere and it’s nice to know this option is available if I want filling, reasonably priced sushi.

#165: Jimboy’s Tacos

Today was Jimboy’s Tacos for lunch.  This fast Mexican food chain is a Sacramento area native.  Here in Roseville we have three to choose from.  One across from the Galleria next door to Starbucks, one on Sunrise at Cirby across from Bel Air, and the one I went to on Douglas, on the East end of the Hobby Lobby shopping center.  It has been brought to my attention that there is a fourth, albeit micro-sized Jimboy’s, over by Denio’s at the corner of Vineyard and Atkinson.  That one is apparently only open when Denio’s is.  I don’t eat at Jimboy’s too often, but it usually hits the spot when I do crave it.

It’s apparently been quite a long time since I visited this one in Roseville, because they’ve undergone a significant remodel and expansion, probably quintupling their capacity.  In the first interior photo below you can see nearly the entire extent of their previous dining room, a few small tables and a counter along the window.  This was a bit of a shock to me when I walked in.  The counter is a little longer and less cramped as a result, and the fountain soda machine is now accessible by the customer around the corner.  Behind the counter, their menu is now two big, bright LCD monitors.

I have almost always ordered just their standard ground beef taco, and taquitos on rare occasions. They have a good sized menu with lots to choose from, and I had never really studied it until now.  For instance, I had no idea they had burgers.  Enchiladas, tostadas, quesadillas, taco salads and burritos are some of their options, and of course they are most well known for their tacos.  Today I decided for some variety in photos I would try some of the other tacos they have.  I still ordered a single Ground Beef Taco [$1.89].  I picked out the Carnitas Taco [$2.59] and the Fish Taco [$2.99].  As I approached the counter I noticed a sign for their classic bean & cheese burrito on special for $1.49 so I added one of those to check it out.  With a large soda [$1.99] my total came to $11.77 after tax.  The cashier repeated my order for correctness and took my name.

I filled my soda up around the corner and headed towards the back where I found a publicly accessible rear entrance and a bit more light which was coming in through that glass door.  The rest of the dining room was somewhat dark overall.  The overhang of the roof in front blocks a lot of sunlight from making it’s way in.  My food took about ten minutes, after which I faintly heard my name called out from up front.  Although my order was for dine in it had been bagged up for take out.  I asked for a tray and took it back to my seat.  It was bagged up well, inside I found a box to keep everything oriented upright, which is nice if you actually do take it out.

First up was my ground beef taco.  If you’ve never had a Jimboy’s taco before, the thing that’s unique about them is the Parmesan cheese which they sprinkle onto one side.  I’ve heard of it done here and there but Jimboy’s is the only place I’ve actually seen it, and it’s pretty tasty.  Inside is simply ground beef, melted cheese and lettuce.  This was actually one of the better tacos I’ve ever had from Jimboy’s.  Many times I find the taco shell to be kind of limp, this one had some crunch to it.  It was hot throughout and had a good amount of beef inside.

Next up I tried the fish taco.  This had a little wedge of lime sitting inside the taco itself.  There was a fresh salsa on top and some sort of cabbage slaw, similar to most fish tacos I’ve had.  When I opened it up to get a better look inside I was surprised at the size of the fish, it was easily double what I was expecting.  This was very good!  The white fish was nicely fried crisp.  I tend to like most fish tacos, and this was no exception.  I’m almost certainly going to be adding this to my usual order in the future.

The carnitas taco was a little smaller than the others.  It did not have the massive fish or the filler lettuce.  Instead it consisted of pork and what I think was cilantro.  Like the fish taco it also came with a lemon wedge.  The Parmesan was inside of this one.  I normally am not a fan of cilantro as I feel it can overwhelm anything it’s put in, but I really didn’t taste any at all.  The carnitas was front and center and was pretty rich in flavor.  A little piece here and there was crisp.  Overall it was very tender and juicy.  This was also excellent and something I would consider adding to my future orders.

The bean and cheese burrito was exactly what it says it is.  There didn’t seem to be any sauce or additional ingredients that I could identify.  It was simply a tortilla with refried beans and cheese inside, rolled up and lightly grilled on the top and bottom.  It was about 7″ long and a little skinnier than, say, a Taco Bell burrito.  It held together well and was pretty good for what it was.  I’m normally not much of a burrito guy, but this was a nice way to satisfy that last bit of hunger.

Honestly I didn’t expect a whole lot form the other items I ordered.  I like my ground beef tacos, and have for years, but this visit really showed me that Jimboy’s has a lot more to offer that’s worth trying out.  I’m far more likely now to experiment even more the next time I go.  This was very enjoyable, and well priced for the amount of food I got.

Website: http://jimboystacos.com/

#164: 2H at Bunz and Company (now Bunz Sports Pub & Grub)

Today I made plans to go watch the Sharks game at Bunz & Company (or 2H at Bunz and Company as it’s now called) (they changed the name sometime in late 2013 to Bunz Sports Pub & Grub).  I suspect I am in a tiny minority of Roseville residents that have never been here, and even more so, know barely anything about it.  I was aware that it was a sports bar and that it was somewhere in the vicinity of Vernon St, but that’s about it.  Some time ago I purchased a Groupon, or some similar deal, to Bunz and Co and they promptly went out of business.  This happens to me pretty regularly for some reason.  I got my refund and moved on, not giving it much thought.  A while later I read an article about Bunz being reopened by new owners.  That was about a year ago, and I’ve finally made it out here.

I was killing some time before heading over and checked out their Facebook page where I saw that they had a live band playing from 7-9.  I figured that was a guarantee that I would not be able to hear the game audio and decided to go early, eat and then just watch the game at home.  I arrived a little after 6:30 and took some time taking a photo outside before going in.  The building is pretty unique for Roseville, looking like it belongs more in a little mountain ski town or something.  It was much bigger than I had expected.  Based on a couple photos I had found online before driving over I thought it was a tiny bar with enough room to fit a small band.  Boy was I wrong.  It was easily 4-5 times larger than I anticipated.  The bar itself was pretty long and the space in front of it was big and full of places to sit.  Further towards the front of the building looked to be a separate room, though I did not make my way in there to get  better look.  From the front doors, if you turn away from the bar you’ll find yourself in another big room with more seating.  On top of all this (no pun intended) is the 2nd floor where you’ll find pool, foosball, arcades and more.  From here you can look down on the first floor.  Tonight this gave a good view of the band.

I walked up to the bar after entering and gave the drink situation a once over.  They appeared to have a full compliment of liquor and a decent amount of beers on tap.  Almost immediately I was greeted by the bartender, who asked me what I would like.  I took a moment to examine more closely the beers on tap.  There were a lot of very typical domestics, Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Light, Rolling Rock and Blue Moon.  I noticed a couple smaller breweries there, Bear Republic and Anderson Valley.  In addition to these they have a small selection of bottles, but nothing much more exciting than what’s on tap.  I ended up going with their “Gusto” sized (27oz) glass with Blue Moon [$6].  With the beer she handed me a menu.  The place was moderately busy so I decided to just sit there at the bar.  The menu has a lot of the type of bar/pub food you might expect, Bacon & Cheese Skins, Mozzarella Cheese Sticks and Nachos Grande among others.  A good chunk of the menu is made up of burgers, and a note which I’m just now noticing on their website says that all their meat is provided by the Roseville Meat Market, which is pretty cool.  However, their website menu and the menu on Facebook seem to be out of date, as the burger I selected has a totally different description than what was on the menu there at the bar and the prices are different as well.  I went with the California Burger.  Their website says this has sauteed mushroom and pepperjack cheese.  The menu there in the bar said bacon, avocado and American cheese, and that’s exactly what I got.  I ordered it medium rare and opted for fries (choice of fries, salad, and something else that I can’t recall).

With my food ordered, I sat drinking my Blue Moon and watched a pretty spectacular end to the Carolina/Philadelphia game on the big screen in front of me.  Behind me, the band was setting up and getting in tune.  About 13 minutes after ordering, my burger arrived, and shortly after that the band started playing Country music.  They weren’t too bad either, and I really could not care less about Country.  As soon as the plate arrived I had noticed the big steak cut fries.  Usually I’m much into this type.  These were surprisingly good however.  Most were crisp and they all tasted good and were lightly coated with salt.  My burger had all the fixings on it.  Lettuce, several pickles, a lot of red onions, a big slice of tomato and the whole thing was topped off with a big cherry tomato skewered on top.  The American cheese, as well as the two big, crisscrossed strips of bacon, was thick.  Biting into this good sized burger I found the patty to be cooked perfectly with a warm pink center.  This was absolutely fantastic.  Everything about it.  The beef was delicious, there was a good amount of soft, tasty avocado slices under the bun, the cheese was flavorful and the bacon was quality.  This burger reminded me a lot of the Burgers & Brew in Midtown Sacramento, which is my favorite burger in the Sacramento area, and probably my #2 burger of all time behind Umami burger in SF.  This one gives it a serious run for that #2 spot.  The only thing I think I would give Burgers and Brew over this is that they have some amazingly good variations, including a ridiculously awesome spicy guacamole burger.

2H at Bunz and Company was a crazy revelation for me.  I was blown away by the size of the place.  How it remained hidden from me all this time despite being within walking distance is beyond me.  The bartender was friendly and attentive and from what I could tell the same was true of the rest of the staff.  I met, and spoke to very briefly, one of the owners who was very nice.  The prices seemed very reasonable for what you get (and the burger is several dollars cheaper than a comparable burger at Burgers & Brew).  I think the only thing I might do to improve Bunz is to put some more variety into their beer selection with some microbrews and definitely at least one stout.  Other than that this place is fantastic.