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One of the first robatayaki restaurants in Hong Kong (almost two decades old) still serves up expertly grilled items with a paddle and pizzazz. Instead of the individual tables, take a seat at the U-shaped bar in front of the cornucopia of fresh meats, seafood and vegetables for the sizzling theatrics. Unlike formal teppanyaki, robatayaki follows no formula, only the whims of the diner, so the ambience is convivial, sometimes rowdy, and a lot of fun.
We started with raw seafood, and with its Hung Hom prices, the assorted deluxe sashimi was a total steal — eight seasonal kinds of jet-fresh seafood, each served generously in not the usual two but three fat slabs. Ordering right there from our chef (who’s being honing his craft there for twenty years), we enjoyed the velvety aubergine and slimy-crisp okra, expertly grilled to a fine smokiness. The mentaiko chicken wings stuffed with spiced and salted pollack roe provided texture and inordinate flavour to crisp wings, the tips still blistering with hot chicken fat. Fall-of-the-shell grilled Alaskan king crab legs were succulent and buttery. There’s a variety of Wagyu on offer, but go for the Hida beef sirloin, one of the most prized of Japanese steaks with intense marbling. We finished with Mochi yaki, grilled rice cakes wrapped with nori, crisp on the outside, chewy within. Cooling desserts came as sorbets — Japanese peach and yuzu — served in the respective fruit, hollowed out and frozen.
Caskets of sake grace the entrance, so take note of their sake and shochu list, with a wide variety of brews from different regions of Japan, from rare boutique labels to premium sake. But we think robatayaki goes exceptionally well with a tall chilled glass of Japanese draft.
The restaurant replicates that exceptional high-end robatayki with the experienced chefs behind the ingredients and the grill. Wait staff, on the other hand, are courteous but may be slightly difficult to flag down on a busy night, so it’s not as refined as one would expect of a Japanese restaurant.
Picking and choosing is of course, part of the fun of robatayaki, but it may get astronomical if you keeping ordering premium seafood or wagyu. A meal for two with wine and service averages HK$1,300; still, its non-Central location keeps prices down. There are more economical set course options if you’re feeling frugal or indecisive.