Robatayaki, sometimes shortened to “robata”, literally translates to fireside cooking. Robata actually refers to the method of slow-grilling seafood, vegetables and other delectable eats on flat grill above charcoal.
Roppongi Robataya is one of the very traditional restaurant, very strict, and expensive. Just know that it will be somewhere around $200 per person with drink. As soon as you walk in, you see this big counter with fresh ingredients and 2 men sitting in the middle. It is like looking at a beautiful stage, and it should be, as you are about to experience some pretty cool entertainment. Seat is limited, so make sure you make reservation!
There is no menu at Robataya, as everything they offer is placed between the counter and the “chefs” who grill the food. Just point to what you want, and wait for the wonderful course of cuisine (of your choice) to start. It might take a while, based on the item, and as they prepare the food almost like an art work…
While you are waiting for the food to be grilled, you can get other dishes that does not require any grilling, like Sashimi. They were very fresh and high quality fish, great way to start the dinner.
After the food is cooked, it is placed on a long paddle, and deliver it right to you. Just remember, do NOT order too many at once. Just order couple of items at a time, as you get filled up without realizing it. Each item is very high quality and therefore very expensive, so it is not as simple as “I am full and I can’t eat what I ordered” type of situation. (I heard 1 large Tiger shrimp is about $50 piece). I don’t know how they balance the food and drink on that paddle so perfectly. A light, little plate, maybe yes, but a pretty big and heavy bottle of beer…They are very skilled!
Each ingredients are plated beautifully, and since they are not huge portion, you get to try several different dishes. The chefs know how long each item will take to grill, so they do pretty good time management so that about the time you are finish eating one item, another one will be ready on the paddle. Here, you can see grilled Shiitake Mushroom, Tiger Shrimp and Beef. They were salted and had great flavor. You can really taste the natural flavor of the ingredients since it is such a clean way to cook.
One of the most awesome item was the whole Kinki fish. It was grilled from the very beginning, and served at the end of the grill course, so it was being grilled the longest. It was so soft and flaky, yet juicy, the fish meat fell off the bones so easily! And don’t forget some drinks, they have good collection of sake, shochu, beer, and so on.
Speaking of drinks, here are some pretty good snacks that are perfect companion to drinks. They are dried stingray fins (sliced and then grilled), and dried baby sardines, made into chips. They were so tasty and addictive, it disappeared rather quickly (among all other things).
They also brought us this soup, that had rice and pieces of fish. I believe they use the fish parts that didn’t get use (for sashimi and such), and make this delicious, light, warm-you-up-from-inside soup. It was a great way to cleanse your pallet as well. Now, while having this peaceful soup, more entertainment and fun started at the corner of the restaurant.
One of the staff started to pound mochi rice with wooden mallets in a traditional mortar. They allowed one guest from the restaurant to experience this together (they have extra mallet), what a great and fun way to participate in making a Japanese food? It certainly is memorable. The end result, they make it into sweet mochi desserts, and serve it to everyone in the restaurant. It was soft, chewy, super delicious! At the very end, they also brought fruits, to really cleanse the pallet before you leave.
All the staff were very nice, fun spirited, well, almost all of them. They were very friendly, they even brought a picture album with all the celebrities that had visited the restaurant. Only issue I had was that some dishes tasted a bit too salty, but I felt like they were trying to please the non-Japanese customers who are used to stronger flavor (or seasoning) than Japanese, as this is very popular spot among tourists. They do deliver high quality food, service, and most of all, provide you with great entertainment!
Roppongi Robataya – 4 Chome-4-3 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo 106-0032, Japan