By Ron Bernthal
It was crowded and noisy, perhaps a hundred people packed into a small restaurant that was bursting at the seams, sake cocktails were being consumed as if they were glasses of spring water, at the tables or along the 20-foot walnut bar, and every few minutes, when new customers opened the front door, the sushi chefs would scream, in unison, “irasshaimase,” welcoming the guests with a traditional Japanese robatayaki greeting.
Despite the commotion, or because of it, I was able to enjoy the food and the atmosphere of this relatively new (opened in October 2007) restaurant, which defines itself through its robata cuisine, which means placing almost anything on the menu–aged rib eye, chicken meatballs, Chilean sea bass, jumbo shrimp, Japanese shiitake mushrooms, filet mignon, fois gras�on a grill that sits over a bed of 1,000 degree high-quality, imported Japanese charcoal. The food is seared almost immediately, and the flavor and moisture retained. The Robata items were small, with prices around $3 a portion, the problem being that each was so good I could not stop at three or four or six.
Other menu choices included the larger plate-sized seaweed salad with ginger vinaigrette; sea bass “harumaki” springroll, and the wonderful handroll trio with spicy tuna, salmon, and lobster. I also tried the salmon, Japanese snapper and mango tartare from the raw bar. A refreshing drink was the restaurant’s signature cocktail called Robata Infusion, with Ozeki sake, Skyy vodka, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple and cranberry juice. For dinner I had Japanese Red Sun beer.
Robata Bar is across the street from Palisades Park, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The restaurant is a little kitschy, with more than 5,000 tassels hanging from the ceiling, and its sister-restaurant, Sushi Roku, owned by the same company, the L.A.-based Innovative Dining Group, is right next door, part of the same busy dining complex.
Robata Bar offers a good opportunity to experience beef, fish, and vegetables cooked in the authentic robatayaki tradition, and don’t be surprised to hear the sushi chefs thank you when you leave with a sincere, “arigatou gozaimashita.”
1401 Ocean Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: 310-458-4771; FAX 310-458-4746
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