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Raku Washington, D.C. With the current popularity of Spanish tapas, it was only a matter of time before other ethnic restaurants borrowed the concept for their own menus. Raku, a trendy and tasty Asian eatery north of Dupont Circle has done just that, going so far as to label one section of its menu “Pan-Asian Tapas.” (Just think appetizers.) And why not? Asian food is well-suited to the “try a little of this, sample some of that” approach to eating. Remember when dim sum was all the rage? At Raku — named for a Japanese ceramic-making process — the variety of these starters is extensive, and almost all of them are enticing. Examples include the chicken yakitori glazed in a ginger-soy sauce on skewers, the crispy calamari served with chili sauce, and the tuna Napoleon. Sushi is also served. The grilled portabello mushroom, marinated and served with crispy garlic, can tempt even those not partial to mushrooms, resembling (in the most positive sense) a succulent and tender marinated steak. The chicken potstickers are simply adequate and lacking in texture or definition, while the vegetable dumplings are light and tasty. Other smaller delicacies, called “Little Plates,” include such items as fresh napa kim chee and jicama salad. Yet, the most enjoyable opener on this occasion was the fresh saut�ed green beans, served with garlic and a black bean sauce, which, although a little oily, helped make this dish truly fit the definition of appetizer by preparing the diner for even more delicacies to come. Indeed, you should not fail to venture beyond these opening treats. If you stop here, you will miss the pleasures of a wide-ranging, delicious assortment of main courses gathered from across Asia. The menu runs the gamut, from Korean chile beef to marinated Mongolian pork to pad sew, which is shrimp and calamari in black bean sauce, served with a variety of Asian vegetables. Among Raku’s noodle dishes, the Chiang Mai (named for the city in northern Thailand) was among the best — a savory and spicy bowl of noodles, chicken, cabbage, sprouts, and other vegetables in a yellow coconut curry sauce. The Raku Special was tasty, but the presentation was disappointing, with each of the items — marinated, grilled chicken breast and shrimp, broccoli, and noodles — served separately. Two of the more distinctive dishes were the ginger-soy glazed salmon, a tender filet served with noodles, carrots, peppers and tomatoes, and the seaweed and spinach salad. The fish was a nice contrast to the many heavier meat dishes on the menu, and although the marinade was a little overwhelming, it was savory nonetheless. The seaweed and spinach salad was short on seaweed, but once a supplement was provided (with the waitress practically having to sneak it out from the kitchen in fear of the apparently dictatorial chefs), that dish provided a light, tasty, and unusual contrast to some of the heavier items on the menu. Indeed, one of the nice features about Raku is that virtually all the entrees sampled were good to excellent, dependably tasty, if not earthshaking. Unfortunately, the service was generally only adequate, with little interest or assistance offered about menu items. At one nearby table, a request for a fork to supplement the standard chopsticks was greeted with both a lack of enthusiasm and a slow response. It is an unfortunate shortcoming that may be the result of an apparent lack of flexibility in the kitchen, as well as a busy, almost diner-like atmosphere at a restaurant that on the whole is clearly much more. Restaurant: Raku Location: 1900 Q St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Reservations: 202-265-7258 Price range: Appetizers (pan-Asian tapas): $1.95 to $7.95; entrees: $6.95 to $12.95. Lunch for two: $25 to $35. Dinner for two (not including liquor): $40 to $60.

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