Be it sushi, ramen or yakitori, Japanese cuisine is an all-encompassing one with something to please every palate. It also boasts an array of culinary techniques, from teppanyaki (using an iron plate to cook) to deep frying tempura-style — which results in food coated in a light and crunchy batter. A little less ubiquitious — but no less important — in Japanese food is robatayaki, a Japanese cooking technique that entails grilling food over binchotan charcoal.
Its origins date back to centuries past, when Japanese fishermen would gather round a stone hearth and grill their food over hot coals. They typically used a wooden oar from their boat to cook and serve the food. Since then, robatayaki has made its way into Japanese restaurants the world over, with some restaurants paying tribute to its roots by searing their food over binchotan charcoal and using wooden paddles to present these dishes to their diners. These dishes often range from vegetables to meats and seafood such as King Crab and scallop.
Recent years have seen the growing popularity of robatayaki in Singapore, with several new restaurants showcasing their renditions of it. From the newly opened Kazu Sushi Grill Sake to the decade-old Akanoya Robatayaki, here are 5 of the best robatayaki restaurants to try.
(Main photo: Tamashii Robataya; Featured photo: Kyuu by Shunsui)
Run the same folks behind Kappo Shunsui and 999.99 (Five Nines), Kyuu by Shunsui is a Japanese restaurant serving up omakase menus and à la carte dishes. Taking pride of place in its kitchen is a sleek robatayaki counter, where the freshest meats, seafood and vegetables are seared over hot coals and imbued with a smokey flavour. Highlights include prawn with wasabi, and a well-marbled Kagoshima A4 wagyu beef aitchbone with red miso Fond De Veau.
Kyuu by Shunsui, 29 Keong Saik Road, Singapore 089136, +65 6221 7098
This newly opened restaurant at Marina One offers everything from sushi and omakase to donburi and robatayaki. It flies in its seafood and vegetables from Japan thrice weekly, and obtains its sushi and sashimi from Hokkaido — so you can be assured of the freshest, most delicious ingredients. Try the King Crab, which can be fried tempura-style or — for a healthier alternative — slow-grilled over charcoal.
Kazu Sushi Grill Sake, 5 Straits View, Marina One The Heart ,#01-14 Singapore 018935
Founded in 2008, Akanoya Robatayaki is very much a veteran in the local robatayaki scene. The atmosphere inside the restaurant, which is tucked away on the ground floor of Orchard Parade Hotel, is boisterous and noisy especially when it’s crowded — making you feel like you’re dining in a Japanese izakaya. What sets Akanoya Robatayaki apart from many other establishments of its ilk is its adherence to tradition: Diners sit around a horseshoe-shaped table facing the chefs, who kneel as they cook as they cook various seafood, meats and vegetables over a charcoal fire. The food is then served on wooden paddles. There is no menu, so customers order by simply pointing to the ingredients on display at the counter.
Akanoya Robatayaki, 1 Tanglin Road #01-01, Orchard Parade Hotel, Singapore 247905, +65 6732 1866
Located at Japanese multi-concept dining venue Shokutsu Ten at Great World City, Ami Ami Singapore specialises in tempura and robatayaki. Must-try items include its charcoal-grilled Pacific Saury, which, if you opt for a set, comes with rice, chawanmushi and miso soup. Also worth sampling are its juicy grilled scallops, which come with lavish toppings such as uni, ikura and crabmeat.
Ami Ami, #B1-03/04, Shokutsu Ten Japanese Food Street, Great World City, 1 Kim Seng Promenade, Singapore 237994, +65 6835 9071
Nestled away amidst a row of shophouses on North Canal Road is Tamashii Robataya, a five-year-old Japanese restaurant. It ticks all the right boxes when it comes to the staple features of a traditional robatayaki joint: U-shaped counter? Check. Chefs cooking the food in front of patrons? Check. Customers receiving their dishes via a wooden paddle? Triple check. The only difference is that Tamashii Robataya sears its food on an electric grill instead of binchotan coals. But don’t let this deter you from making a trip down — the grilled fare here is just as delicious, with highlights such as Hokkaido King Crab, Saga beef, and cod fish with teriyaki sauce.
Tamashii Robataya, 12 North Canal Road, #02-01, Singapore 048825, +65 6222 0316