Imagine this: up in the heavens somewhere the gods are arguing about who is most able to please the human taste buds. Leek god makes a valiant claim; squid and duck gods scoff. Onion god is quietly confident. Before prawn god starts getting violent with his tail, potato god suggests a competition. They agree on two unsuspecting humans, ‘Bede’ and ‘Natalie’ as taste testers, and a cooking medium that will allow the unadulterated flavour of each to shine, one by one: robatayaki.
The weather god does not approve of this one-upmanship and sends a typhoon. It very nearly derails the plan by inhibiting excursion, but save-the-marriage god really wants Bede and Nat to have a kiddiless date night.
So it was that we ended up at this restaurant. It was another of these small places oozing with charisma in hipster Shimokitazawa.
Inside was typically intimate. We sat at the bar where before us lay a spread of fresh veggies and meat on a bed of ice. Behind the bar was the grill on hot coals, and behind that was the cook. The process was obvious enough: off the ice, onto the grill, and onto the plate. The English menu had no words, just pencil drawings of the food before us. We selected leek, potato, onion, duck, prawn and squid. Plus beer and plum wine.
The cook set to preparing our meal. No need to stand up, just reach over and pick it up. Typical lean process.
Leek was first. How could grilled leek be anything at all? Add smoke, char and precision. Fleeking amazing. Salt and soy sauce to taste. We knew we were in for a treat with duck on the way.
Here it comes, efficiently delivered. No, please, I insist, don’t stand up. Douzo arigato…
Smoky duck as tender as our baby Coby’s cheeks and deep pink all the way through, with seeded mustard and salty seasoning. Rich unspoiled chunks enjoyed one by one. It was like the duck had graduated from tasty school. Then squid cut into small strips with a mayo and spicy seasoning. OMFG (oh my food gods) we almost died of delight.
Let’s gloss over the potato which really let itself down, and to be fair was not recommended by the house.
Now about the onion, this one did come recommended. It was thrown on the grill whole, with skin. Sif that would be nice, but 15 minutes later it was presented in eighths like orange slices. It was hot sweet, moist and of course smoky. We could not get enough. The more caramelly layers we ate the closer we got to the outer skin and the more smoky it became. It stayed beautifully warm for the whole duration on account of the increasing size of the layers as we ate inside outwards, and the insulation afforded by the husky sheath. Genious.
The prawn. It was a big one. Again, smoky, tender, and horrendously well presented. The size and flavour really did make the normally pesky pealing work worthwhile.
Finished off with a complementary miso soup.
So in order of greatness:
Hope that settles it food gods.