Robata – sounds like a new car or maybe a manga character doesn’t it? Well Robata is a way of Japanese cooking – “fireside grilling” to be precise. And as with all things Japanese, Sake is the place to go to experience great Robata.
We visited Sake to test drive their Robata menu and, of course, part of any eating is prepping the taste buds. So we put ourselves in the hands of Sake’s the very knowledgeable Sommelier. I suggest going on a quiet night to avail yourself of her services. I could sip, whoops I mean sit, for hours listening to her sake stories. And nope I don’t mean Saki, though she is as entertaining,
Seating at Sake is always a conundrum – watch that Ole Man Brisbane River, sit at traditional style Japanese seating (great for those with young legs) or watch the chefs work their magic? I never tire of watching other people work, especially if it’s preparing food for me—so we propped at the counter. We tiptoed through the menu and tried the three suggested dishes. In total Sake offers eight options – four vegie and four meat: Japanese eggplant, brown mushroom, green asparagus, charred corn, braised beef cheek, chicken negima, lamb chop and brined pork belly.
Because Japanese-prepared vegies are so much better – I could be a vegetarian if I lived in Japan – we started with the eggplant.
My eggplant usually ends a mushy mess in the fresher drawer because I have no imagination. Sake presented us with a dish showing-off how aubergine is meant to be served: two skewers of meaty, miso-soaked, benito-flake topped dish. Then we had the green asparagus – what more can you say about fresh asparagus? It was crisp and delicious, again with the benito topping. The hero dish of the evening was the lamp chops – two succulent chops, delicately grilled, lovely and pink in the middle served with a subtle chimichurri and wasabi sauce. What no benito flakes? Just fyi, the benito flakes give robata its “dancing grill” nickname.
In all, three dishes were enough for us to share – there is something more filling and more satisfying when food is tasty and so elegantly presented.We will go back for the mushroom (no one does mushrooms like the Japanese), the chicken (oh darn, ditto on the chicken) and the beef cheek – I mean it has truffles, folks, truffles. But we simply did not have enough room; we always put our forks down sooner at Sake.
Back to the sake – each dish was complemented with a glass of different sake. Um, I’d like to list them but space limitations etc. Our favourite of the night was the Pink Lady. Ask and it will be explained. I always learn something new when I go to Sake, this time I learned I like my Sake rough rather than refined. ‘Nuf said.
Words by Dr Toni Johnson-Woods
Images supplied by Sake