Oishi Japanese


Robataya NY | 231 E 9th St., Manhattan | 212.979.9674 | www.robataya-ny.com

MY PHUDE TREKS ARE usually set upon impetuously. I always have a mental “queue” of restaurants to chose from, from which I take it upon myself to go check out. But my longest-term dining partner had expressed an interest in joining me on this particular culinary excursion.

This friend, who I have previously monikered “Trixie“, and I have known each other coming up on 11 years and have been guilty of our own impetuosity—for better and worse—during our friendship.

But a few years of maturity have taught us patience, which served us well as we planned a couple weeks ahead to finally have dinner at a great new Japanese restaurant called Robataya NY, located, yes, again, in the burgeoning food mecca which is Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

I let the unfortunate rush hour traffic delay me as I arrived 15 minutes late to the restaurant, where I had let Trixie wait for me alone in the main room.




As you can see, the display and layout at the communal table/kitchen was a welcome sight to behold, with almost all of the cookable ingredients were distributed from one end of the room to the other. The ingredients looked fresh and plentiful.




The rest of the decor had similar design nuances, both inviting, genuine, and warm.




The staff were courteous, attentive, and affable, announcing the arrival of new customers, being almost completely informative about the several appetizing food choices, and expedient with their service, as we were given hot towels to clean our hands while Trixie and I ordered a Japanese beer and, eschewing the curious selection of Japanese whiskeys, decided to each sample a flight of sakes.




Trixie being as adventurous as I am, we started with a marinated raw shrimp dish, then coupled our starter salad of a five different sashimi with a tempura of cod milt, which all arrived expediently, and looking very attractive.




The raw shrimp was light and delicate, yet very tasty as well with great raw shrimp texture. The sashimi salad, with its bright, aromatic, and piquant wasabi dressing, was flavorful with both the nuances of each fish as well as the spicy root vegetable. And if you don’t know what cod milt is, I suggest you try it here tempura-style and enjoy its soft and ever so slightly briny flavor—along with its non-oily fried batter exterior—before you do. The staff wouldn’t outright confirm my faint memory of one of those travel food shows, but in general business practice, it’s probably for the better. The temporary ignorance will help you better enjoy this indigenous delicacy.

Then it was time to put these traditionally-garbed grill masters to work, as we ordered a Grilled Cod Fillet special, as well as this New Zealand Lamb with Salt off of the regular menu, while we got to see and approve the raw lamb selection while we were grill-side. (You can watch the spectacle of how the grilled marinated cod was finished and presented to us on long-handled wood boards here.)




It seemed every succession of food brought a new favorite, as the grilled cod wowed us, intimating a kind of super grilled eel dish, except the slight glaze on the fish was better seasoned, and the flakes of the fish were firmer, possessing some great smoky flovor from the slow grilling process. The lamb, done a perfect medium rare, what to be manually enjoyed (instead of using chopsticks) but was well worth the effort, as just the little bit of salt late the natural soft gaminess of the lamb meat speak wonders for itself, balanced beautifully by the more sweet and very tender, rare interior meat.

Portions are small, which most customers are grateful for since it affords them room to try a greater variety of dishes. Next for us it was the Fukusu Yaki (a Japanese-style omelet stuffed with white fish, carrot, shiitake mushroom and Mitsuba leaf) and Kakuni (Robata-ya original stewed Diced Pork served with mashed potato and tofu leaves).




Okay, new favorite! The diced pork—it should be called bricked pork, due to its size!—was phenomenal. Supple, pork, sweet, salty, very, very tender (Trixie and I easily separated into portions with our chopsticks), and a rich, sweet, earthy broth, and tempured by a very soft mashed potato placed on top. The omelet, probably the most pedestrian of everything that we ate this evening, was good as weel, although I couldn’t help but dip pieces into the broth leftover after my partner and I devoured that pork.

Having great faith in the menu, we figured we could do no wrong by ordering a dessert. We ordered a mochi (decimated sticky rice) with a sweet syrup and brown sugar. Trixie, ultimately, wasn’t a fan of its gelatinous consistency or blandness (most of the dish’s flavor came from the sugar and the syrup; I was a bit more amenable to the overall flavor, which, to me, didn’t deter from its unsweetened coffee Jello nature.




By the time we were ready to leave, the place had filled out quite nicely. Not surprising, since Trixie and I agreed that if we lived in the neighborhood, we’d eat here more often as well. And it was well worth the wait to come here with her, a former English teacher in Japan, who was able to teach me some Japanese to speak to the friendly staff, who all shook our hands as we left.




And the whole meal—the whole evening—was made better by waiting to go with Trixie, since it was finally, after almost eleven years, were able to retain our unique and very special friendship by overcoming our individual, impetuously reactive personalities, and learning some mush overdue patience, which I now know is nintai in Japanese.

“Arigatou gozaimasu”, Robataya!

Bun Apple Tea!

.kac.

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Robataya NY | 231 E 9th St., Manhattan | 212.979.9674 | www.robataya-ny.com



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