From an ostentatious restaurant touting in-your-face décor and pasta served straight from a cheese wheel to the second instalment in London’s ‘press for champagne’ purveyors, we’ve seen some super-hyped openings this year. One that might have gone under your radar is Robata; the Japanese restaurant bringing izakaya vibes and robata cooking to Old Compton Street.
Located on one of my favourite foodie streets in London, Robata counts Balans, The French House and Cecconi's among its neighbours, so I had high expectations for this newbie. The menu is divided into raw dishes, small plates, robata skewers, bao buns and large dishes cooked on the grill and we were on a mission to try something from every section.
Butterfish tataki (£8) came served with a refreshing combination of red seaweed, chilli ponzu and a garlic dip; while an elevated tuna tartare (£9) consisted of black caviar-topped tuna and truffle aioli with a quail egg resting on top, before being mixed together by our waiter. Even simple dishes like pork gyoza (£8) were done well, with four pudgy dumplings that were both steamed and fried, and bursting with water chestnut and shitake mushrooms.
I’m not sure if it was the blaze from the chef’s robata grill or the hay-flamed beef fillet (£35) that sizzled at our table over charcoal, but things were really heating up. As two massive soft shell crab bao buns (£14) arrived slathered in green mango, purple shiso, cucumber, red chilli and lashings of spicy mayo, I practically had to fight the meat sweats to devour one of the delicious stacks.
In a sea of dishes packed full of saliva-inducing flavours, the miso aubergine (£11.50) was a shining beacon. Another option that required our lovely waiter mixing it up at the table, this giant veg was paired with pickled shimeji mushroom and red chilli before being mixed into a messy slop of thick fleshy aubergine swimming in a sweet yet savoury sauce. Trust me when I say you need this in your life.
The DesignMyNight Digest
As someone who lives for Japanese food, Robata is definitely up there. The restaurant may evoke chilled out izakaya feels, but the menu is an impressive mix of classic bites and adventurous crowd-pleasers… and the lack of empty tables on our way out definitely proved this. Plus, that aubergine is worth a trip in itself.
You'll find Robata at 56 Old Compton Street, W1D 4UE. For more foodie inspo, check out our guide to Japanese restaurants in London.