Robatayaki Rendezvous

If I could only eat one type of food for the rest of my life, it would without a DOUBT be Japanese.  The flavors, cooking techniques, and food philosophies just appeal to me.  And it is SUCH a diverse cuisine!  Ramen, yakitori, sushi, curries, those truly adorable bento boxes(yes, I just called a cuisine adorable), and the open grilling cooking known as robatayaki.

Inakaya is a restaurant in the New York Times building that features traditional robatakaki cuisine, cooked in an open kitchen.  

The restaurant is big, but there are not many tables. That’s because the main attraction is a HUGE wooden bar that surrounds the chef’s space.  You sit and watch the chefs cook and then they hand the food over on a huge wooden paddle…

like this!  Excuse the horrid picture and the fact that I am easily entertained, but…it’s really quite unique and fun!

We first ordered the Tskune-ground chicken skewers with original “tare” sauce. These were standouts!  The meat was so wonderfully juicy!  There was definitely dark meat in there-that’s the moistest, fatty part of the chicken.  The skewers were soft, lightly spiced, and tasted so freakin AWESOME-like your Japanese nonna was making them at home šŸ˜‰  The tare sauce is kind of like Japanese bbq sauce.  It tasted like sweetened soy sauce-sweet, salty, a bit acidic…it was heavenly with the moist, soft chicken meat.  You MUST order this when you come here!

Shisito peppers with fresh horseradish.  Delicious, but not unique.  Now, I LOVE shisito peppers-they are small green peppers that range from mild to medium spicy-you just pop them whole in your mouth and they are sweet, hot, a little salty, and charred.  These were great-especially with that sinus clearing fresh horseradish-but i wouldn’t call them totally unique.  However, if you have never had them-or, like me, love them-get an order for sure!

Roasted Mochi(rice cake).

OMG-BEST THING MAYBE EVER IN MY MOUTH!  (That’s what she said)

These were a taste and texture sensation!  Chewy, sticky, glutinous rice cakes were wrapped in crisp nori and basted in soy sauce.  They were then roasted so the soy sauce caramelized and became sweet, and the cakes got a crusty, charred exterior. These were AMAZING!  I really am at a loss to explain why they were so amazing-they just tasted like rice with nori and soy sauce.  It was just crispy, chewy, salty, and sweet. But it   was so amazing.  Sorry.  I am literally failing to describe the most delicious thing of the night.  But that’s because there are no words for the best things in this world.  How do you describe love?  Or passion? Or ecstasy?  Yes, I just compared this roasted mochi to ecstasy.  And I meant it.

We also got roasted rice balls coated in soy.  Because-honestly-can you ever have too much rice?  These were delish!  Densely packed sushi rice, grilled till the outside is crisp and caramelized, but the inside is moist and perfectly steamed.  These were just awesome little carb bombs for anyone who is a rice addict!

Grilled Japanese eggplant.  Coated in more of that addictive tare sauce (seriously….where can i GET some of this stuff?!), this was grilled until it was tender, but not meltingly falling apart.  This would be perfect for someone who is squeamish about eggplant’s texture-it still has that sweet flavor, but a bit more bite and NO slime factor.  

Our last dish of the night was Yellowtail collar.  I have never actually had fish collar before, but i have heard that some of the sweetest, most flavorful flesh is there.  And whoever told me that was NOT lying!!!  This was some seriously awesome fish!  Light, moist, flaky flesh with the DEEPEST meaty taste close to the bone.

There was a TON of meat here-easily enough to make a meal for one person-along with some of those roasted mochi balls!  By the end of this dish, it was all I could do not to pick up the collar and gnaw at the bone to get all the meat…Ok, so maybe I did that.  Don’t judge.  And that hot pink thing laying on the plate?  That is pickled ginger and it is a bomb of ginger-licious-ness!

At the end of the meal, if you spend a hundred dollars, you get to play a dice game to see if you can win a discount!  You can see how impressed my sister’s friend Travis is šŸ™‚ The aftermath is that we didn’t win…
Aah, the luck of the Jews…

This was a seriously great meal, and for all the food we got, and the quality of the food, I thought the price was really reasonable.  I didn’t even picture the excellent sushi or the melt-in your mouth pork belly we got, because…well…I was too busy eating!  This is a great restaurant to take your folks to, or a hot date.  It is fun, impressive, and unique.  And delicious.  So it’s inakAWESOME! (and no, I cannot resist making a pun)

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