The East Village is truly becoming a mini-Japan, with Japanese joints sprouting up all over. East 9th street is the street I would call "Little Japan", for the numerous Japanese restaurants on it. St. Marks between 2nd and 3rd has many cool Japanese spots too.
Last week I joined my family at Robataya, a restaurant where grilling the food is front and center. The space, with its grill and grillers up front, and an authentic dining room in back, whisks you away to Japan upon entering. The food is pretty good too.
A complimentary plate of special rice flown in from Japan tasted like...rice. I thought this was a pointless dish.
Grilled sea urchin ($11), sprinkled with salted Konbu seaweed was great! An ocean of deliciousness in my mouth.
Lightly fried white sesame tofu ($6.50) coated in a light batter, served in a soy sauce infused broth was really good too. Delicate and soothing.
Lightly fried asparagus ($8) with white fish paste encrusted with pine nuts and rice crackers was a revelation! I had never experienced a dish like this. Truly unique, with fantastic and new flavor and texture. It was an eye-opening dish.
Simmered shredded beef back ribs ($6.50) with daikon radish, served with bonito infused soy sauce was fine and tasty.
A homemade chicken meatball with salt ($4), was juicy and wonderful. A sprinkle of lemon really took this ball to the next level!
Grilled eggplant with soy ($5) and enoki mushrooms with soy ($6) were fine, but nothing special.
A whole grilled fish ($19) was quite boring and did nothing to my taste buds. Looked cool though!
Kamameshi with snow crab ($15), a special rice cooked and served in an Earthenware pot for two, that takes 30 minutes to prepare, was also quite boring, lacked flavor, and had my taste buds complaining to me. My buds fell asleep.
Robataya is still a fun restaurant to go to, and the prices are not too high either. The portions aren't huge though, so order wisely, and share some good grilled Japanese bites, and you will leave happy. Japan is just a subway, cab, or walk, away.
231 E. 9th Street (bet. 2nd and 3rd)
New York, NY 10003