Robata Grill (Tsukenaya)

pen, 24. April 2007, 12:46

Some friends and I checked out Robata Grill on the corner of University Avenue and Dole St. They have “validated” parking (they double or triple park your car in the lot).

Food: Different. This is a Tsukeuneya-style restaurant (indicates a region in Japan that prepares this type of food). Tsukuneya-style involves chicken ground with mountain yam (yamaimo?) and a plethora of spices, then grilled or fried in various meatball-like forms. The prices on the menu are for one portion, but when you order the tsukuneya, you must order a minimum of 2 orders. Of course, we had to try the house specialty (tsukune), so we had the “teriyaki” version ($4.50 for 3) which was the ground chicken mixture mashed onto wooden skewers and grilled with a teriyaki glaze. We also tried the “mixed cheese” version ($5.00 for 2) which was supposed to have cheese in the middle of the chicken mixture, which was subsequently mashed on a wooden skewer. Ground chicken and cheese may sound odd, but I was willing to give it a try because I love cheese; and after having the awesome cheese/lotus root thing at Kai, I was willing to be a little adventurous. There was a trace of pale yellow melty-cheese like substance when I bit into the skewer, but that was it. I couldn’t taste the cheese at all. They also stuff the chicken/yam/spice mixture into “shiitake mushrooms” ($5.00 for 2) which was awesome. I really liked that one.
The menu offers more than tsukune, though. We shared the “tofu dengaku” ($6.50) which was grilled with some kind of yummy sauce on it. I normally am not a tofu fan, but I ate two pieces. The “steak” ($26.00) was pricy, but good. Well-flavored, cut into strips, it came on a cast-iron platter with fresh beans, carrots and what looked like frozen french fries from a package. Obviously, the french fries were unnecessary (and bland and a bit mushy), but the rest of it was good. We also tried the “veggie kamameshi” ($8.75) which was rice cooked in a pot with veggies. The rice was not really koge on the bottom (which is the way I like it!), but just a pale brown. It comes with a dashi broth that you can pour into your rice and eat it like chazuke (my apologies if I am spelling these words incorrectly). It was quite flavorful.
My friend tried the “panna cotta” ($4.75) for dessert. My suggestion is that you skip it and go to Bubbies or something instead. The panna cotta was a little too hard (gelatinized) for me. Also, it came in a glass and was topped with this unnaturally bright red syrup that tasted a bit like cough syrup to me.

Service: It was pretty attentive, but they did not come around with the water enough. The water was served from these jugs that had charcoal in them…for purification. The wait staff was pleasant and they are willing to explain everything on the menu to you.

Ambiance: Quite relaxing. There is a bar in the front with an assortment of alcoholic beverages and, of course, sake. The lighting is soft without being too dark and there is a separate “tatami-like” room that is screened off in the back, if you have a group and want some privacy. There is a long bar as soon as you enter. There were a lot of Japanese-speaking people there, as well as a menu in Japanese.

Overall: It’s a little different from other izakaya-type places, so worth a try. Personally, I think I would prefer to eat at Kai or Tokkuri-Tei on Kapahulu Ave.

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