December 14, 2008


On Saturday night, Mike and Ilena headed into Sannomiya to try a robatayaki place that was recommended by friends. Robatayaki is a Japanese version of grilling, where the food - fish, seafood, vegetables, and meats - are cooked in front of you over a large wood-burning grill. The atmosphere is very casual, with lots of wood; it is meant to evoke a rustic, round-the-hearth kind of feel. (A robatayaki is a sub-category of izakaya, relaxed Japanese pubs.)

The chef mans the grill. The rare and raw foods are displayed on a bed of ice in front of you. Seated at a counter that wraps around the grill, you point out what foods you want. The chef then cooks it up, and passes it from his station behind the grill to your seat using a large paddle that resembles a rowboat oar. In fact, we think it was a rowboat oar! The menu consists of slats of wood, with kanji characters for the various items, that are hung behind the chef. When they run out of an item, the slat of wood is spun around to reveal its bare side.
The food is fresh, simple, warming, and very good. We tried yellowtail, scallops, and whale. The grilled sweet potatoes (setsumaimon), yaki-onigiri (grilled rice balls), and "potato bata" (potatoes grilled with butter) were insanely good side dishes. All of it washed down nicely with a couple of beers. So good.
(By the way, if you are ever coming over to live in Japan, we highly recommend the Japanese restaurant and menu book - What's What In Japanese Restaurants, which was given to us as a gift before we came here. Great useful book.)

We ended our relaxed night out over coffees at Nishimura's Coffee, a famous high-end European style coffee house in Japan. The original branch, a tudor-looking three story building that opened in 1948, is in Sannomiya. With a rich Victorian-feeling decor and pricy specialty coffees, it is a nice place to just relax for a little while.


Alexis Jacobs said...

Just ordered the book through Amazon. Thanks!

I think that was the same restaurant that Matt and I went to in Sept when there! The food was delish.

jmgesq said...

The varieties of Japanese food available - sushi, nabe, street food, grilled food and so on are all very interesting. I guess there are also regional differences or are these regional foods? We have lots of regional foods here in the U.S. but it doesn't seem like we have so many different VARIETIES....not sure if I'm being clear about this. But I do find it interesting...AND I'm getting hungry.

Semsavblanc said...

Whale!!!! :-(