A Perfect Meal at Robataya

231 E 9th St
(between Stuyvesant St & 2nd Ave)
New York, NY 10003

The way I feel about Robataya is the way people should feel about their significant others. It’s always a treat when I get to spend time with Robataya. I always feel better about myself after I spend time with it. The more I spend time with Robataya, the more I grow to love it. The reason I haven’t fully blogged about Robataya sooner is because all my photos have been pretty crappy. The lighting is not the brightest and there’s a yellow warm hue that my old camera just couldn’t handle. But LAW recently got me an awesome Olympus PL-5 so I knew it was time to showcase Robataya.

I hate using the word “tapas” but that’s kind of what Robataya serves up. The menu offers a variety of grilled (over an open hearth) vegetables, meats, and seafood. There are a number of appetizers on the menu as well but the stars are all in the grilled items. I ALWAYS get the brussels sprouts ($6). It’s ALWAYS the freshest, most perfect brussels sprouts. ALWAYS perfectly grilled. ALWAYS salted just right with Suzu Salt, a salt imported from the Noto peninsula in Japan. According to Robataya’s menu, this salt “can only be produced by using the cleanest seawater in the region. Its saltiness is rounded by acidity, bitterness, and sweetness.”

Shishito peppers ($6) are also a favorite. These peppers are thin-skinned, sweet, and just faintly hot. Once in a while you’ll get a kicker but most of them are pretty mild. The freshly ground ginger on the side balances some of the heat and natural bitterness of the peppers.

TAROOOOOOO ($5). What a great carb. Taro is grilled such that it forms a crisp, thin outer skin. The center is soft and almost mushy. Natural sweetness of the taro tastes great with the Suzu Salt.

Best enokis you’ll have ($6). These enokis are brushed with a layer of soy sauce and grilled to enhance the natural flavor of the mushroom Soy sauce is slightly sweet and caramelizes the exterior of the shrooms.

Okay, the real highlight of Robataya is their Gindara Saikyo Yaki ($16 – used to be $13!), a grilled fillet of cod steeped in saikyo miso. Buttery, flakey, fresh cod that is slow-grilled over an open hearth. The miso glaze caramelizes the fish and adds an addicting sweetness to the fish. Robataya has figured out the perfect miso + sake marinade and timing. Many Japanese restaurants serve this dish but I have found that it is usually too sweet, too dry, too bland, or too fatty. Robataya consistently serves up juicy fillets of perfectly flavored cod that is just fatty enough to keep you wanting more. I salivate every time I think about this cod.

This time I went, LAW wanted to try the Langostino Prawn ($15). The prawn looked great but was not as great as all the other things we’ve had at Robataya. The meat was a little tough, albeit very sweet like good lobster meat. I would definitely prefer a second Miso Cod to this but was happy that we tried it.

Both LAW and I need ample doses of carbs to make us full so we always order a few of these Yaki-Onigiris ($3 each). There is a choice of soy sauce or miso glaze. We’ve tried both and agree that the miso glaze is better. The quality of the rice is top-notch: chewy, plump, and with a good bite to it. The rice sits on the open hearth until it forms a crisp crust.

My second favorite item on the menu is the Kamameshi with Salmon and Salmon Roe ($15). It is a rice cooked and served in an earthenware pot.

The salmon and salmon roe are cooked in the pot with the rice, infusing the rice with flavors of fresh salmon. There is a little soy sauce added (I think) so the rice is savory. The roe is not overly salty (like many other restaurants serve it) and adds a fragrant burst of flavor. This always tops off my Robataya meal and produces so many endorphins in my body that I always leave extremely happy.

Minus the langostino prawn, the above is a perfect meal in my book. It’s complete with a healthy dose of veggies, just enough carbs, and delicious seafood. LAW always says he loves coming here it because it forces him to really taste the vegetables we order. Each vegetable is always served in its most perfect state. You’ll find the most beautiful mushrooms and asparagus here. Stunningly large elephant garlic and alluring bulbs of brussels sprouts await you. It truly is always a treat to visit Robataya.

I will add that not everything is good on the menu. Langostino prawn and some of the meats (I remember having the duck and lamb) are not my favorite. All on the tougher, chewier side. Stick to the vegetables and seafood when you come! I guarantee a successful meal.

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