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Despite being a little off the foodie trail, you’re likely to find yourself fighting for a seat at this popular robatayaki joint. Located at Whampoa Garden, Robatayaki’s sizzling meats and jet-fresh seafood attract a buzzing crowd of pin-striped patrons in search of chargrilled treats. Once seated at the cosy U-shaped counter you can choose from the expansive menu or simply point to organic vegetables, seasonal fish and fine cuts of meat displayed in rattan bowls. The culinary drama continues as dishes are then delivered to patrons on long wooden paddles. Warm and homey, this hidden gem is a must-try for lovers of authentic Japanese food.
It wasn’t the recommendation we were expecting but, feeling adventurous, we were more than happy to try the waiter’s suggestion of the highly poisonous blow fish. Marinated in mirin and lightly grilled, the thin strips of non-deadly flesh are sweet, chewy and go perfectly with our wooden cup of house sake. While waiting for chargrilled dishes from the robatayaki menu, you can take advantage of a wealth of non-grilled dishes such as salads, soups, hand rolls, tempura and sushi. We opted for the wild Norwegian salmon sashimi, which was smooth, creamy and delightfully fresh. The first wooden paddle to come our way contained rich and velvety goose livers. Eat with a bowl of plain rice if you want to savour the delicious meaty juices. The taraba crab from Hokkaido is a must-try signature dish. The succulent meat on its long leg and claw is lightly browned but still wonderfully moist with a hint of the sea’s natural saltiness. The buttered asparagus was perfectly al dente and the barbecued rib-eye beef melted in the mouth. Save space for the dessert platter which includes a fluffy white sesame pudding and a bouncy ball of plum wine jelly.
Sake is the order of the day here, so forget the grapes and head straight to rice-based beverages. For something a bit different try the house sake, which is served in a square wooden cup and comes with a bowl of salt to be sprinkled on the rim and drunk margarita-style. There’s also a decent menu of mainstream and premier label sakes, some served by the glass, and others by the half or full bottle. There is a small selection of wine and champagne by the glass.
Staff are friendly and attentive yet never overwhelming. The chefs deliver food at a perfect pace and sake is refilled at opportune moments. Plates are cleared and replaced as if by magic, enabling you to kick back and fully unwind. Dishes recommended by knowledgeable staff proved excellent and contributed to a memorable evening.
Dinner for two with sake will set you back about HK$1,000 per person, which is towards the top end of the price scale for Japanese cuisine but reflects the quality of food and the professionalism of staff.