No strangers to La Encantada and its abundant options for shopping and dining, my husband Jeff and I have passed by RA Sushi (located at 2905 E Skyline Dr., Suite 289) a number of times, but we've never stopped in for fear that we weren't quite hip enough. In spite of the fact that we're only in our early 30's, the youthful vibe that exudes from RA left us feeling intimidated. Our aversion goes even deeper: neither of us have ever tried sushi. Recently, though, we were invited to sample some dishes from RA's new menu, and I can happily report that RA made believers out of us.
Upon entering the restaurant, guests will notice the surprisingly intimate dining room. From the exterior, the building seems much larger than it actually is. Some of that might be attributed to the spacious patio, which offers al fresco dining at high-top tables. If you opt to sit inside, warm red tones and loud, lively music will serve as the backdrop for your meal. Enough about the ambiance, though, let's move on to the food.
Sushi virgins might appreciate that even those who prefer cooked seafood (or something else entirely) have plenty of options here. Jeff and I were given the opportunity to taste three appetizers, including: Edamame Dip, Bonfire Shrimp, and Garlic Edamame. Of these, the Edamame Dip ($5.25) stood out as a clear favorite for us. Maybe best described as the Japanese counterpart to America's cheesy spinach artichoke dip, this savory dish features a creamy blend of edamame and spinach, with plenty of crunchy wonton chips offered as a vessel. Along with the appetizer course, we were offered our choice of cocktails. I started with a Strawberry Saketini, made with Svedka Citron, Nigori sake, strawberry purée and lemon juice. It was a cute drink, if not terribly delicious. The fruit flavors seemed to get lost behind the alcohol. Later in the evening, I opted to sample the Kiwi-Berry Kiss and found it to be much more to my liking. Be forewarned, though, that unlike the Strawberry Saketini, the alcohol in this one is almost indiscernible and could really sneak up on you. Jeff tried both the Coconut Mojito and Ginger Blossom, made with vodka, muddled fruit, and ginger beer. In spite of the fact that the drink was pink and he may or may not have sacrificed some major man points by drinking it, he preferred the less sweet Ginger Blossom over the Coconut Mojito. Mojito fans needn't fear though; I will gladly come to its defense as a great cocktail choice that delivers an authentic coconut taste rather than a syrupy, artificial one.
As a second course, we were served a trio of crispy Asian tacos ($7.50-$9.25). The three flavors we tried were: Spicy Salmon, "RA"ckin' Shrimp and Chicken. Though not included in our tasting menu, the restaurant also offers spicy tuna and crispy white fish varieties of their Asian tacos. Normally, seafood is not my first choice, so I was very surprised to find that I preferred the "Ra"ckin' Shrimp tacos over the chicken. The coleslaw and guacamole in the shrimp tacos added depth and brightness whereas the heat of the chicken tacos overcame the other flavors and failed to carry the dish.
Easily, my favorite dish of the night was served in our third course. Truly I tell you that I am not a salmon fan, but RA's Salmon with Green Beans is a dish I would order again in a heartbeat. The spicy yuzu sauce added the perfect hint of heat for my mild palate while the green beans offered firm texture that stood in perfect contrast to the flaky fish. Also served within this course was my least favorite dish of the night: the Drunken Black Mussels. My table mates and I agreed that the trouble wasn't with the taste; it was with the consistency. Within the small dish of mussels I was served, some were flavorful and meaty while others carried an overwhelming salt water taste and bordered on slimy. That may very well be par for the course when one orders mussels, which is why I'm glad I know better than to make that mistake in the future.
For dessert, we were served a traditional Japanese treat: Sweet Mochi Ice Cream. If you've never tried this, I urge you to give it a shot. Basically, the dish consists of ice cream wrapped in sweet rice cake and garnished with whipped cream and fruit. The sweet rice cake is the draw of this dessert; its curiously gummy consistency will leave you wanting more if for no other reason than to further explore the texture with your tongue.
Although I didn't venture into sushi territory this trip, RA's new menu items proved that Japanese restaurants offer unique twists on familiar dishes. Next time I'm at La Encantada, I'll visit RA and ask for a table on the patio. Who knows, I might even give sushi a try.