DINING out is an experience, cooking is an culinary performing art; being served while watching the presentation of the food being prepared, garnished and served are truly an enjoyment. Robatayaki dining may not be rated as the Japanese fine dining cuisine but the skills needed are undoubtedly a performance of art. Dining at Inakaya Robatayaki restaurant at 101 floor of Hong Kong new landmark, International Commerce Centre (ICC) in Kowloon is an extreme sky dining experience. Not only that you are "on top of the world" directly looking at the Hong Kong Victoria Harbour's view and is also probably the highest Robatayaki restaurant in the world. The serious in disguise yet friendly and skillful Head Chef, Ushio Masakazu told mylifestylenews what does it takes for being a Robatayaki Chef.
mylifestylenews @ Inakaya Head Chef, Ushio Masakazu
Inakaya Robatayaki started in Roppongi Tokyo, 1970 serving only just Robatayaki cusine in which it was initially a village style cooking. We now have 3 outlets in Japan and one in New York.
Inakaya Hong Kong is our second overseas branch and we promise to serve the original and mouth-watering Robatayaki delicacies as well as rendering a sound definition of an exciting dining adventure to our diners.
‘Robata’ means ‘around a sunken hearth’ and ‘yaki’ stands for ‘grilling’. It is known as a venerable Japanese cuisine in which pristine ingredients are chosen by diners and grilled in open-flame. Literally, it is a "fireside-cooking" and similar to barbecue in which the items of food are on skewers and are slow-grilled over hot charcoal.
In the old days, Robatayaki cooking was done and performed by the old village lady. In fact, it was a casual way of cooking and serve right away while the food is cooked or grilled.
Traditionally, the food consists of a combination of morsels of seafood and vegetables and now any kind of food that are suitable for grilling can also be used.
Robata originates from a century old country style of cooking by northern Japanese fisherman around a communal hearth that serves both as a cooking area and to provide heating found on the northern most island of Japan, Hokkaido.
In the fishermens town of Kushiro on Hokkaido, many restaurants are now specialize in this style of cuisine.
Our chefs are all veterans in Robatayaki from Japan who carry a strong heritage in delivering a real robata experience to diners. Seating capacity is limited to 23 following the flagship’s tradition as to ensure every diner gets the most attentive service from chefs.
We stir up clamor with our diners zealously as it is hailed as a culinary institution passing knowledge of authentic Japanese cuisine to the diners. In other words, we are not only chefs who work behind the counter as we also take turns playing the role of hostess and server.
This is an exceptionally simple yet a dynamic dining ritual but required certain skills to master it. A strong and precise mind are need as you need to get your knees down and cook in front of diners for at least 2 to 3 hours before the next shift work carry out by a shift changing ceremony.
The dazzling array of ingredients surrounding the U-shaped robatayaki table includes a wide variety of Japanese vegetables, fresh fish and prime meat, all set on the glistening blocks of ice for guests to choose from and place their order.
There is no such "standard" menu but to base on our daily fresh deliveries. Ordering is as easy as pointing to the item and servers will perform with chefs a boisterous shouting of your orders in the already dynamic dining room. That is part of the traditional for delivering such method of service.
Sake is the best compliment for Robatayaki dining especially with some premium award-winning selection.
Top L to R : Fugu Fish/ Chicken Teriyaki/ Asparus
Bottom L to R : Prawn/Japanese Shitake/ Japanese Ginko
We will then prepare and cook the food in front of diners, when the food is ready, we use a gigantic wooded paddles to deliver the grills to them. It requires an extraordinary strength to manipulate the long paddle, a well balance of passing through the food to our diners are not only food but also with bottle of beers included.
There is no specified training on this but practice can only make perfect. We all have strong arms as you can see.
Entering Inakaya is like entering a Japanese Cottage, the Robatayaki area is offset by timber lattice and Noren screens, the granite cobblestone pathway pay homage to traditional Japanese architectural details and style.
The Robata grill is specially decorated with traditional roof tiles, complimented by a rattan pendant and beige furniture, presenting the freshly grilled Robatayaki cuisine in an authentic way.
We have a unique shift-changing ceremony and it will be performed by all chef in a whimsical way and create an upbeat atmosphere.
Robatayaki cooking uses very basic ingredient to cook such as salt and pepper. This is to ensure the original taste of the food itself can be brought out and enhanced by just a hint of supplement seasoning.
Top L to R : Eggplant/ Scallop
Bottom L to R : Pork/Jalapeno
Top L to R : Sweet Potato/ Wagyu Beef
Bottom L to R : Pumpkin/Mochi
Dining in Inakaya Robatayaki, you are also part of the robatayaki show as the essence of robata is with lot of interaction between us and the guests as we would like our guests to join in our Japanese rice cake dough making with the long wooden paddle to make your own mochi dessert to the rest of the diners in the house.
Chef shift-changing ceremony in action.
Inakaya Hong Kong
Shop A, 101 Floor, International Commerce Centre,
1 Austin Road West, Kowloon
Tel: +852 2972 2666
*Special Thanks to H-View Group @ the interview arrangement.