A dojo in the middle of the east village, Robataya ramps up the American ideal of Japan in a glittering commercial of a meal. Empty bottles of sake line the wood paneled walls, the giant table in the entry way seats 24 and overtakes the room
Fresh fish and vegetables are on display in baskets, and everything here from mushrooms to mackerel to wooden mats are part of the decor. The autumnal season’s bounty is laid out on display, a cornucopia of abundance in honor of the changing seasons.
We’re here to pay homage to the harvest, and the menu showcases elements of autumn that inspire the feeling of crisp days where you want to cozy up with a robust glass of wine and a sturdy sweater. Being that Japanese food always falls to the lighter side of the pendulum, it’s negligible that the actual weather doesn’t agree with that sentiment – it’s 75 and humid.
No matter, because every dish at Robataya is executed with precision, and lacks no flair – two chefs cook behind the enormous bar, often hopping up to grab more vegetables or fish from the display.
Here’s what we loved:
Fig sesame tofu
The tofu is simple, slippery and sweet, and it’s a wonderful combination to prep the palette for the meal to come.
Comprised of 2 different species, the variety in the sashimi contrasted enough to present a nice range. File fish tastes vaguely of citrus but is light and delicate, file fish skin is scratchy and salty and wonderful. The biig eye snapper is reminiscent of Tuna – all fatty and wonderfully fresh
Next up was the sukiyaki soy beef and tonkatsu roll fried pork roll, meats served in sushi form. It was incredibly interesting and innovative to have rice and vegetables wrapped with meat, but it really worked well together.
Uni Shiokobu Yaki
Though I’m a bit of an uni fanatic, I’ve never had it grilled before, and it was fantastic – earthy and nutty and sweet all at the same time. The salted seaweed accentuated the natural flavors of the uni, and the presentation was whimsical and well thought out. By far my favorite dish of the evening.
Cooked Rice with Salmon with Salmon Roe
Though this dish was delicious, it checks all the boxes normally filled by the “hot” portion of a standard sushi restaurant. I’d like to come back to sample other entrée options, but the salmon roe in this dish was substantial.
It should be noted that there was a ceremony of mochi-pounding, an autumnal ritual in Japan, that took place in Robataya the night I attended. Fresh mochi is starchy and delicious, and very much unlike the kind found in the frozen section of your local supermarket. That’s one of the things I loved about Robataya, with every course came another surprise.
Robata is type of Japanese grill, and ya is place – a place of grills. While this is the most simplistic of summations, we couldn’t think of a better place for grilling and eating than Robataya.