MELBOURNE | Robata is a new Japanese restaurant from the team behind San Telmo, Pastuso, Palermo, and Asado. Housed it the space that used to be home to Gazi (you’ll recognise those plates), it sees the team make their first departure from South American food.
The space is modern, and light filled courtesy of the large windows that surround the venue. Gone are the hanging terracotta pots of Gazi, replaced with bold, vibrant Japanese signage featuring brand logos and pop culture references. It’s all done very tastefully and isn’t over the top.
Given the Japanese influence on several South American cuisines, and the overarching theme of cooking with fire, it’s not actually as big of a departure as might initially seem to be the case. Former San Telmo Head Chef Stephen Clark heads up the kitchen here, drawing on his experiences eating in Japan, and general love of Japanese food.
The restaurant’s namesake, a large robata grill, take pride of place in the centre of the kitchen, and is where much of the magic happens. The name comes from the Japanese grilling method ‘Robatayaki’ which directly translates as “fireside cooking”. It’s an izakaya style menu, focused around, but not limited to, things cooked on the grill.
The menu, which is designed to share, features a lot of delicious dishes. You can order a la carte, or go for a tasting menu which gets you all of the kitchen’s favourites. The tsukune (chicken meatball with tare, and cured yolk) is fantastic, as is the negima (chicken thigh and spring onion). Make sure you don’t skip the wagyu beef with egg sauce either.
There’s a lot to like beyond the grilled skewers too. Tonkatsu, made with fried Borrowdale pork scotch, cabbage, mustard, and red miso sauce, is delicious, as is the seared salmon with Japanese mustard miso. For dessert, you can’t go past the black sesame and green tea parfait.
The drinks menu stays true to the theme, with assorted cocktails, sake wines, and beers that go well with izakaya style food. Try the Yuzu Bellini, made with yuzu, peach, and sparkling wine. The Robata Negroni – yuzu gin, Campari, yuzushu, umeshu, and sweet vermouth, is also great.
2 Exhibition Street
Wed – Sun: 12:00pm to 11:00pm
Mon – Tue: 12:00pm to 3:00pm