Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Robatayaki Ichiban 一番

This restaurant has been operating for many years, at least 15 years accordingly to my sources. It is one of my occasional selections in the Causeway Bay area whenever I feel like having casual Japanese. Usually I come here not because of the sushi or sashimi but for its Robatayaki 爐端燒 and its atmosphere which gives off a slightly worn-out authentic Izakaya 居酒屋 feeling. On a side note, frequent visitors to this place would recall seeing a cat running around. It belongs to the Japanese owners of this restaurant but wait a second, a cat inside a Japanese restaurant serving raw fish? humm ....

Since this is an Izakaya 居酒屋, how can we not order some beer or sake. Sake it was. There were not many choices so we asked the staff for suggestions. He suggested this slightly un-filtered sake because he likes it. O well, I like it as well because un-filtered sake in general is slightly sweeter. I am no expert in sake but this one seemed alright to me, it was easy to drink and fairly smooth as well. We ordered the following to go along with the sake: (1) OX Tongue 燒牛舌 (2) Chicken Kidney 燒雞腎 (3) Chicken Soft Bone 雞軟骨 (4) Grill Leek 燒京蔥 (5) Grill Tamago 燒玉子 (6) Grill Chicken Wings 燒雞翼 (7) Grilled Quail Eggs 燒鵪鶉蛋 (8) Chawanmushi 茶碗蒸蛋. If you ask me, I think the key factors to good Robatayaki are fresh ingredients and experienced grilling techniques. The spices and salt are condiments used to further bring out the freshness of the ingredients. A simple but complicated item to prepared well.

(1) OX Tongue 燒牛舌
One of my favorite items to order in any Japanese restaurant if they have it. The pieces they prepared here were bigger than other places but they were well flavored. The amount of salt used was just right to bring out the taste of the ox tongue. Texture wise, it was chewy (as it should be) but not overly so. Thumbs up especially with s sip of sake to go along.

(2) Chicken Kidney 燒雞腎
Not a common item I would order but glad we did because it was good. Very chewy (crispy kind of chewy) and well flavored. I think I will order this again next time at other places as well for comparison purposes.

(3) Chicken Soft Bone 雞軟骨
In my opinion, this is as difficult to grill as grilled chicken skin. For some reasons, grilled chicken soft bone as always an addictive items like grilled OX Tongue, a must order. Maybe it is just me?

(4) Grill Leek 燒京蔥
The grill marks made the leek look very impressive but taste wise it was fair only. The outer layer was hot and slightly crispy but the center was rather "cold" to me. Maybe one more minute on the grill would be better.

(5) Grill Tomago 燒玉子
This is another TOUGH dish to prepare well in ANY Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong or in Japan. To my understanding, an authentic way to prepare one "brick" of it would require time and patient because it is a slow and repetitive process. Important characteristics should include slightly sweet flavor and it should be layered evenly and pressed hard against each layer. In my opinion, in can be served cold or hot as long as it is done correctly. However, the tamago we got was a disappointing dish because the layers were loosely folded / packed and taste wise there was a rich butter flavor which I don't think should belong anywhere here. Disappointing indeed.

(6) Grill Chicken Wings 燒雞翼
Too dry, too salty and skin too thick / chewy. The wings themselves were meaty but maybe because they were sized differently but cooked simultaneously, the quality consistency failed my standard. I think the size issue is an important issue, a minor but important factor worth extra attention.

(7) Grilled Quail Eggs 燒鵪鶉蛋
Now, time for the heavy cholesterol bomb or bombs! We both know quail eggs are high in cholesterol but we just cannot resist them. Wherever a Chinese restaurant offers quail eggs dim sums, they will be on my table sooner than you can imagine. The way it was prepared here include some sauce over them but I would be equally happy with just plain salt. A simple but delicious items to try.

(8) Chawanmushi 茶碗蒸蛋
This is another dish I often order at any Japanese restaurant because I like it. However, quality can vary by a lot. I will start my Japanese theme soon so I will recommend few places where I think offer great Chawanmushi later on. As for the one here, it was too watery, either a few more minutes in the steamer or less stock would be better. On the plus side though, the ingredients used were plentiful. Flavor wise it was fair, slightly too weak because of the watery issue.

  • Cozy environment & atmosphere
  • OX Tongue 燒牛舌
  • Chicken Kidney 燒雞腎
  • Chicken Soft Bone 雞軟骨
  • Grilled Quail Eggs 燒鵪鶉蛋
  • uncomfortable seating (slightly packed)
  • can be quite noisy
  • the cat that wanders around
  • very disappointing (Grill Tomago 燒玉子)

Robatayaki Ichiban 一番

G/F, 21 Lan Fong Road
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong


KC said...


Jason said...

yeah! ... most of their stuff here are very good indeed and perfect environment for a casual dinner with close friends.

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