Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cafe Koraku Primm, Nevada

Cafe Koraku inside the Primm Fashion Outlet Mall

Koraku Entrance
So on our drive to LA, one of the places we try to go to get a bite to eat is Cafe Koraku, it's on the I15 South and it makes for a great little stop before the haul through the mountains.  It's located inside the Primm Fashion Outlet Mall, which is interesting and totally out of place since there's nothing in that mall that speaks Japanese, (or really Asian for that matter-except for that Boba Tea stall).  But it's one of those cafes that you would find in little Tokyo, (they have other restaurants throughout LA) where you can find some authentic, casual Japanese menu items.

This is a place without a lot of ambience, and upon entering you find yourself wondering, 'what am I doing here?' Maybe you were drawn in by the showcase filled with simulated replicas of Japanese food.  With their shiny hard exteriors glistening with the allure of culinary promise, just trying to make that visual leap between this so obviously fake, almost gross pieces of plastic and an actual dish that you would want to consume can be a mind boggling quandry.

Dining Room Floor
Plastic Food Display Case
And this is why I take so much time in front of these things; I remember as a kid in Japan, pouring over multiple display cases in an underground restaurant department store floor, running from restaurant window to another trying to choose where to eat.  It's like gambling; which plastic food display is gonna yield the bigger payout than all the others?  I've made my mom crazy, I've been known to take at least forty-five minutes while I whizz around and drag her to each restaurant display two or three times while I calculate.  But at least I've never been disappointed post-mortem.....

And once you've sat down and acclimated yourself to the jarring surroundings and order, you get a sense of the familiar;  the open kitchen with workers buzzing around hot stoves, the soy sauce and condiment containers and bucket of chopsticks on the table, the waiter bringing you a basket of utensils precisely to order.  There's a feeling of anticipation with these subtle displays of drama that I love about coming to this desolate outpost and eating here.

Pork Kastu Curry

And as is our usual modus operandi, we always order the same thing-why screw with perfection? The Kastu Curry is an instant crowd pleaser; the curry is thick and full body, exactly like how a Japanese Curry should be.  When accompanied with the Kastu, the curry doesn't need the vegetables that are normally in it, but this version does have a high beef content which gives it's rich hearty flavor that goes amazingly well with the fried pork.  You just want to dunk every bit of the fried cutlet and drench it to get that crunchy and thick stew texture inside your mouth!  And the Kastu is perfectly fried; soft and moist pork incased a light golden brown breading.  Rick can't stop talking about this dish, he says it's the best he's ever had, (and he hasn't changed his opinion even after our trip to Japan).  Now that's a compliment!

Tenshin (Omelet) Ramen
The other main dish that time and time again we order is the Tenshin Omelet Ramen.  It's actually a unique and satisfying dish that combines a shrimp omelet with ramen noodle soup that ends up being lighter than you expect. A soft yet dense omelet containing with a subtle trace amount of ingredients covered in a cornstarch soy slurry, underneath an egg ramen noodle in soy soup base.  A purist's dream, the only condiments that adorn this dish is scallions and not much else is required!!  Ramen noodle soups have that ability to instantly warm your body and fill you up without feeling uncomfortable.  Koraku is half Japanese noodle restaurant, so it's no wonder that they have a handle on this national culinary dish!

I have to say Koraku Cafe ends up being one of my favorite Japanese restaurants in the Las Vegas area, not only because of the food, but the memory attachment it has with taking that road trip; kinda like the roadside restaurant you always go to when you were a kid with your family.  In the end it's not about where you eat, but how the food makes you feel; like you're home.....

Rating (Out of Five Stars)
1)  Food          4.5
2)  Service      3.5
3)  Ambience  2.75

Cafe Koraku on Urbanspoon