Clemmons has a new restaurant specializing in both ramen and sushi. Raku Ramen & Sushi opened May 23 at 1445 River Ridge Drive in a former Zaxby’s location.
Mai Medvedev, a Chinese-American from Asheville, is the principal partner in the restaurant. She is joined by Linda Lee, who helped build the space; chef Jim Liu; and managers Yan Guo and Sally Wilson.
Medvedev also runs Red Ginger, a dim sum restaurant in Asheville, and Umi, a sushi restaurant in Hendersonville.
Lee, who lives in Winston-Salem, also built Red Ginger, and it was Lee who brought the Clemmons location to Medvedev's attention.
Medvedev said she has owned or run sushi restaurants since the 1990s in such cities as New Orleans and Houston. She said that much of Raku’s sushi menu will utilize Umi’s recipes. “The sushi is very similar to Umi with a few twists,” she said.
Though Japanese fare dominates Raku’s menu, the restaurant serves a mix of Japanese, Chinese and Thai dishes.
The lunch menu offers bento boxes, hibachi grilled dishes and curries in addition to sushi. Lunch entrees run from $10 to $13. Lunch specials include a choice of two sushi rolls for $8 to $9.50, or three rolls for $13.
The dinner menu includes soup, salad, hot appetizers, teriyaki, hibachi, ramen and sushi.
Soup includes miso ($2.50) and seafood tom yum ($7). Salads include seaweed ($5) and spicy crab ($6).
“Chef Jim has some different special appetizers,” Medvedev said. Those include steamed buns with a choice of pork, duck or vegetarian fillings ($9 for two). Duck rolls ($9) are made with fresh spring rolls with shredded duck, peanuts, spring mixed greens in rice paper with hoisin sauce. BBQ squid ($11) includes a whole grilled squid, sliced and topped with ginger teriyaki sauce. Other appetizers include soft shell crab, scallion pancakes and hamachi kama (grilled yellowtail cheek with ponzu sauce.)
Teriyaki ($15 to $22) is available with tofu, chicken, shrimp, scallops, salmon or steak.
Hibachi dishes ($15 to $22) can be made with vegetables, chicken, shrimp, beef, salmon, scallops— or as a combination for $4 extra.
Curries at dinner include red, green and massamam and cost $16 with chicken or vegetables and $18 with shrimp or beef.
Noodle dishes include chicken prawn pad Thai ($16), teriyaki salmon soba ($16) mushroom yaki noodle ($16) and dan dan noodles ($11)
The sushi menu includes such appetizers tuna tataki ($9), or seared albacore with ponzu sauce, and fresh oyster shooters ($9), with raw oyster, spicy daikon, scallions and ponzu sauce.
The extensive sushi menu includes all of the standard sashimi (seafood only), nigiri (hand-formed pieces with rice) and maki (seaweed-wrapped rolls).
The more than a dozen chef’s special rolls include Raku (shrimp tempura, avocado, eel, topiko and eel sauce, $16) and Geisha (spicy crab, seared peppered tuna, black tobiko, avocado, wasabi chili and and eel sauce, $15).
There also are a handful of entrees from the sushi bar that range from $23 for assorted sashimi to $90 for a “roll lover” dinner of 10 rolls for four people.
Raku has five ramen dishes ($13 to $15). Four feature its homemade pork bone broth and come with a choice of chicken or pork belly; the fifth contains a vegetarian broth and plant-based chick’n. All include egg, noodles and vegetables. Variations include spicy chile, yellow miso, and black garlic.
“Ramen is traditional in Japan, but so many people here didn’t eat it for years, and it’s delicious,” Medvedev said, explaining why she added ramen to her sushi concept. “And noodle dishes in general are more popular now.”
Raku can seat about 150 people. But about half of the that is in the brand-new patio — built in what was once Zaxby’s drive-thru lane — that features accordion-style glass doors that can be opened or closed. The patio area also has a large new fireplace so it can be used during the winter.
The owner kept the old drive-thru window on the other side and plans to use it. Customers will be able to order online and come for pickup, or use such delivery services as DoorDash.
Medvedev is waiting for final approval on ABC permits, and plans to sell local draft beer, wine and cocktails.
Medvedev said she always offers the best seafood she can find. She said she sources her seafood from all over, but she likes to seek out local produce and other foods whenever possible. And, she said, Raku does not use MSG.
“My goal is to have healthy Asian food,” she said.