After following Eater's coverage of ex-Japonais chef Gene Kato's Sumi Robata Bar for months, I was both looking forward to a new Japanese place in my neighborhood and curious about what exactly a true "robata" restaurant would entail. Luckily, just a week or so after it opened, I had a free Friday night and headed over to Sumi for dinner.
We were seated promptly even though we showed up early for our reservation. We sat at the robata bar, right in front of chef Kato working his magic on the grill. The restaurant is wooded and clean-cut, with a distinctly Japanese feel. I really enjoyed the atmosphere; it was chic without being snobby, fancy while still feeling laid-back.
|View down the bar area- beautiful restaurant|
While I loved our seats, it was freaking FREEZING outside that night, and our seats were so close to the door that any time anyone entered or exited the restaurant (which on a busy Friday night, is often) a gust of ice cold air blew in and made our seats very uncomfortable. Luckily, after some diners elsewhere at the bar finished dinner, we were able to move down and sit in a more comfortable (aka less freezing) area.
Chef Kato working his magic at the grill
To start, we ordered some of their bottled cocktail's. I tried the "Dragon's Milk," and while I didn't get a picture, I absolutely loved the drink. They come in cute little bottles that are poured into glasses tableside. My drink had vodka, cucumber, mint, nigori sake, white pepper and lime in it, and it was everything I like a drink to be: crisp, refreshing, and alcoholic without tasting the least bit like cough syrup. At $12 the drink wasn't cheap, but once in a while, I can ditch my smirnoff-diet sprite combination and pay for something quality.
Now, onto the food:
Tofu: Chilled served with caviar and crispy ginger
My boyfriend was originally hesitant to order this dish, thinking a tofu dish would be boring. Luckily, this dish was anything but. The tofu itself was silky and sweet, and the perfect complement for the savory broth on top of it. The salmon roe was very high quality, and if you know me, you know I'm just a bit obsessed with salmon roe, so I was a happy girl. Along with the crisp ginger, there were also little pickled mushrooms on top of the tofu. All together, this dish was a great blend of sweet and savory and totally worked. Highly recommended, and an auspicious start to the dinner.
Onsen tamago: Soft poached egg marinaded with dashi soy
This came to our table as a beautiful soft poached egg atop broth, but someone (cough cough... okay it was me) was too excited to dig in that I forgot to snap a picture before cutting the egg open. After cutting the egg open, a perfectly runny yolk ran out into the dashi broth. This dish was very similar to the tofu dish before it, and as much as I loved that dish, this was EVEN BETTER. A perfectly cooked egg in a delicious broth with great salmon roe (OBSESSED) and those tasty pickled mushrooms. YUM. I could eat this every day. I've even thought about going back to Sumi on my own and just ordering this dish as a snack, but I think I might get some weird looks. If you go to Sumi, ORDER THIS DISH.
Sea Bass: Chilean sea bass with soy-butter sauce, steamed over eggplant
This dish came to our table in a cute little cellophane pouch, which the waiter then cut open "so we could enjoy the aromas." To be honest, I didn't smell any aroma from the pouch, but regardless of that, WOW was this good. The sea bass was incredibly tender, cooked perfectly, and simply luscious. The soy-butter sauce brought out the flavor of the fish without overwhelming it. This was absolutely one of the best sea bass dishes I've ever had- I only wish it was bigger! Another highly recommended dish.
And after those delicious appetizers, we moved onto our robata choices:
|Beef Tsukune slider|
|And a glass of Nihon Sakari Junmai sake to wash it all down|
I was pleasantly surprised by the robata grill items. Everything came perfectly cooked without any char. The skirt steak was a perfect medium-rare and absolutely bursting with wonderful meat flavor. Other highlights were the lamb, duck, and the quirky take on a "hot dog," the tsukune slider. The only dish I wasn't a huge fan of was the shishito peppers, which didn't have much flavor. The meat dishes really seem to be where the chef shines here- next time I return I will likely steer more towards those.
After dinner, we were lucky enough to go down to the Charcoal bar and try some of the mixologist's drinks. The lounge is very chic but the atmosphere felt a bit cold. I really enjoyed my drink, but at ~$18 a pop for most of the drinks, I'm not sure my wallet would justify a trip back down to the bar. I'd rather save my cash for more of the kitchen's wonderful appetizers and grilled items.
Overall, I am THRILLED to have this place in my neighborhood. While service was still a bit shaky (after receiving our tofu dish, the kitchen forgot about our next two appetizers and it took them about 15 minutes to come out), everyone was very friendly and clearly passionate about the restaurant. Beyond that, the quality of the food was excellent and left me craving more. I'm very lucky to live so close to the restaurant, and can't wait to return sometime very, very, very soon... okay, maybe tonight? Seriously, it's that good.
My rating: 5 out of 5.