Robataya NY

Critics' pick
1/4
Photograph: Noah Devereaux

Robataya

2/4
Photograph: Noah Devereaux

Robataya

3/4
Photograph: Noah Devereaux

Robataya

4/4
Photograph: Noah Devereaux

Robataya

East Village

When we visited the latest restaurant to hit East 9th Street, a.k.a. Little Japan, we were reminded of why we dine out—for entertainment, for thoughtful service and of course, for good food. Though there were flaws in our meal, Robataya NY (from the owners of Sakagura) is an example of a rare place where atmosphere and an attentive staff can augment an imperfect dinner. We arrived on a recent Friday evening, starving and with a reservation, and were informed that there would be a significant wait. A potentially irritating situation was finessed by a server who presented us with hot hand towels and snacks of freshly pounded mochi, while we watched the theatrics of the nimble, slipper-clad servers working the robata grill—climbing on the counter to reach raw ingredients, extending a paddle toward diners seated at the bar to hand off the finished dish. Once a table freed up—in a cozy room with faux windows, bamboo curtains and leafy murals—the solicitous waitress brought us a menu, which offered a range of small plates, in addition to the proteins and vegetables prepared simply on the grill. Satisfying selections included chawanmushi (savory egg custard), a silky treat hiding bits of shrimp, chicken meatballs and shiitake mushrooms. Another winner was an unusually gelatinous agedashi tofu, buoyant cubes presented in a thick soy-dashi broth. The best dish we tried was among the simplest—kamameshi, a pot of slow-cooked seasoned white rice topped with buttery salmon and salmon roe. The foods that emerged from the robata, however, were hit-and-miss. Shishito peppers were mushy, and cubes of tough Australian Kobe beef had the opposite problem. A better choice were the smoky enoki mushrooms, anointed with soy sauce. Dessert, meanwhile, featured uniquely Japanese creations that might not suit every taste—a potent matcha soup floating chestnuts and mochi, an overly firm hojicha-tea pudding. If you order carefully—and pair your meal with one of many premium sakes or shochus—Robataya offers the opportunity for a reasonably priced, memorable meal, snafus and all.—TONY

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Venue name: Robataya NY
Contact:
Address: 231 E 9th St
New York

Cross street: between Second and Third Aves
Opening hours: Tue–Thu, Sun 6–10:45pm; Fri, Sat 6–11:45pm
Transport: Subway: L to Third Ave; 6 to Astor Pl
Price: Average small plate: $8. AmEx, MC, V
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