Robatayaki - Akanoya & Takumi Tokyo
In my very loose definition, a Robatayaki is a Japanese grill over charcoal where the menu of fresh ingredients are laid before you and you point and choose what you want for dinner. The thing about authentic Japanese restaurants is that sometimes the menus are built in a way that exclusive to the Japanese speaker so the best part about this type of Japanese restaurants is that in terms of ordering, it is hard to get lost in translation. So if it looks like a scallop, it is a scallop, if you point at it, they will serve you a scallop. Just remember to smile and to bow politely when you enter and when they shout Irashaimase.
Great robatayakis outside Japan should do two things. They should firstly transport you to a different world - one that will loudly welcome you and maintain this rustic noisy lively atmosphere and slightly overwhelm you with the beautiful meticulously arranged display of food that you will sit in front; and they should always present the best and the freshest ingredients.
I always have fun at robatayakis. You ogle at the food in front of you and point at whatever you fancy (but this can be dangerous for your wallet), the order gets shouted out and the chef shouts a confirmation, then you sit back and wait for your food to get served on a long wooden paddle to you. It entertainment factor is quite cool. Entertainment aside, I like the idea of the robatayaki, it is rustic and more importantly, it is very ingredient driven.
This dining concept has been around for a few years and in those few years I've been to two and have had reasonable meals with shell-shocking bills.
At Inakaya robatayaki, now known as Akanoya Robatayaki, (correct me if I'm wrong) was the first robatayaki to open here, my dining companion and I went a little overboard with the pointing we started at the vegetables, pointing to corn, sweet potatoes, matsutake and then moved on to the fresh array of seafood where we couldn't decide what to have to we decided to just order everything that we wanted from the crabs to the scallops and added chicken and beef to the list... before we knew it, we ordered almost one of everything. Plates of food kept coming off the grill, onto the paddle and directed at us. We, there were three, unabashedly finished everything, and having tasted almost everything, I thought it was good but not outstanding and my main issue is that it freshness quality did not hit the mark for me. What it missed with freshness it did not in the bill and that I didn't feel that was justified.
On another part of the island or Keppel Bay to be exact is Takumi Tokyo offers a great view, as opposed to a conventional dark wooden atmosphere, and fantastic tasting sake. Like the other robatayaki, the freshness - near pristine ingredient - quality missed the mark but there were some bright sparks in the meal that we had. At Takumi Tokyo they have set menus but my preference is the pointing method. Overall, food was good and the great items that we had were the homemade cream cheese as part of the appetizers, seasonal fava beans that were cozy up in their thick cocoons, the glistening mackerel and the onigiri that was seriously aromatic from the toasting treatment and very crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Finished with a crisp floral sake, very lovely.
So, where does robatayaki stand? On entertainment and experience value, it ranks very high. On food, good to very good. On service, very good. My suggestion, if anyone is reading, the vegetable section is a little neglected, I would like to see more seasonal = more freshness = more flavour.
1 Tanglin Road
#01.01 Orhard Parade Hotel
2 Keppel Bay Vista
#02-01 Marina at Keppel Bay