Some might shrug it off as Youngest Child Syndrome. Less tolerant diners—me, for one—will be tempted to storm out during dinner. Raisu, the latest izakaya from the team behind Kingyo, Suika and Rajio, is the most interesting—yet exasperating—offspring in the whole Group Restaurant family.
The serene second-storey Kits walk-up has so much going for it: a gorgeous Zen design (including a window-wrapped balcony with hori kotatsu tables set over a recessed, heated floor), a serious sake list (more than 50 varieties, including some daily flights) and an abundance of intriguing specialties (elaborate meat and vegetarian bento boxes, teishoku tray set meals, sizzling hot-stone bowls and the immensely Instagrammable Oceans Offering checkerboard of various pressed sushi).
The main frustration is that many of the specialties are made in limited quantities. Some must be ordered in advance, if you can get through on the phone (it took me six attempts). Others are first-come, first-served (so you’ll have to join the lineups that start forming before the doors open at 5:30 p.m.).
Much like a multi-tasking millennial switching between numerous apps, dinner streams out of the kitchen in one big interactive swoop. We were already busy with a full table of participatory dishes—grinding the sesame seeds for panko-crusted barley-fed pork, stirring a hot clay pot of sea urchin and snow crab, dipping thin slices of wagyu in a cauldron of shabu shabu-style udon—when out came the two pre-ordered Zen bento boxes with their nine compartments of delicate lotus root sandwiches, fried tofu patties with orange-grated daikon, etc., etc.
No! Take it back. Food this intricate needs to be slowly savoured, not piled on and tossed around like any old ebi mayo or chicken karaage. Raisu is more refined than a happy-go-lucky, pub-like izakaya. It deserves elevated, grown-up service to match.