NYC: Robataya, a Fun and Authentic Japanese Meal

First things first: how amazing does this dish look?

It’s called the Kamameshi 炊きたて釜飯 – cooked rice in an earthenware pot topped with a healthy portion of uni and salmon roe. I rarely eat my uni warm, but this rice mixed in together with the salmon roe that bursts with briny flavor and sweetness of the uni felt like a warm delicious hug on a cold winter day. I savored every bite.

Now that you’re done drooling, let’s get back to talking about Robataya NY. It has the fun of live action cooking like at Benihana’s, but about a million times more authentic. There’s two chefs kneeling table side, working on their grill and serving over your freshly grilled veggies, meats and fish on a paddle.

This cooking method is keeping with the traditional robatayaki style, which originated in rustic farmhouses throughout Sendai, the largest city in the Touhoku (Northeast) region of Japan. It’s definitely a fun experience so sitting at the counter is a MUST. That’s where all the action is so you don’t want to miss it.

Here’s what else we ordered for 4 people (we’re big eaters and were decently full after this meal):

Ankimo – $10 – Monkfish paired with yuzu – if you love monkfish it’s a good one!
Yakigoma Tofu – $9 – (Oven-grilled sesame tofu)
Tomago Yaki – $6 – like the egg custard you get at the end of a sushi meal!
Namauni Tororo –  $10 – here is where I discovered that I don’t like mountain yam, the texture is super slimy!
Kama/Uni, topped with Ikura Salmon Roe – $26 – this is a MUST! Also the rice helps fill you up a bit 😉
Seaweed wrapped Mountain Yam – once again, slimy!
Okra, Enoki, Osyster Mushroom, Asparagus
Momo (Chicken Thigh, SOO GOOD), Kamo (Duck), Lamb, and Chicken Meatball 
Grilled Japanese Threadfin (Itoyori) – $20
Hotate (Scallop in Soup) – $16

All in all, our meal at Robataya was a fun experience as the chefs working the stations were so into their work. On occasion, they would leap over their stations to go closer to the fish that’s all laid out on display in front of you. When they weren’t busy doing gymnastics across the counter, they were skillfully cooking your food.

Not to mention how patient our chef was with my picture taking! Those paddles must be pretty heavy, and that’s some major balancing skills for him to constantly reach across the whole area to pass us our dishes.

Overall, while pricey, Robataya is definitely a unique experience worth the price for those who want a fun and authentic Japanese meal. If you can’t bring your date to Japan, this the next best thing. Just don’t forget to make a reservation to sit at the counter cause that’s where the magic happens!

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