Five Japanese Robata-Grilled Plates to Try Right Now
Say goodbye to boring backyard cookouts and hello to Japanese robata grilling, a slow-and-smokeless approach that’s hotter than ever in Boston.
1. Lobster Claw, Pabu
Come summer, we’ll take lobster however we can get it: as part of a beach boil, stuffed into a roll—or robata-grilled at star chef Michael Mina’s slick Japanese spot downtown. Robata grills traditionally use dense binchotan charcoal of Japanese white oak; at Pabu, its deep-penetrating heat lightly chars the outside of the claw—brushed with salted-plum butter—while leaving the inside moist and tender.
3 Franklin St., Boston, 857-327-7228, michaelmina.net.
2. Wagyu Beef, Kamakura
Though ultra-seasonal tasting menus are the main draw at this recent Financial District addition, don’t miss à la carte robata-style offerings like Texas-raised Wagyu cooked to medium-rare over scorching iron rods that replicate the infrared heat emitted by binchotan. It’s finished with chef Youji Iwakura’s signature apple-and-mustard-spiked Japanese barbecue sauce.
150 State St., Boston, 617-377-4588, kamakuraboston.com.
3. Grilled Scallops, Zuma
Housed inside the Four Seasons’ One Dalton tower, this posh newcomer is the 12th location of a glitzy international brand. While a live DJ spins mood-setting beats, grab one of eight seats overlooking the centerpiece robata-grill setup and watch as scallops are skewered, grilled, and adorned with pickled plum, shiso, and mentaiko (pollock roe) butter right before your eyes.
One Dalton St., Boston, 857-449-2500, zumarestaurant.com.
4. Chicken Wings, Hojoko
The robata grill has been burning at this kicky Fenway-side izakaya since it opened in 2015. Our favorite? Skewered chicken wings lightly cured in salt koji seasoning, glazed in a fermented-soybean sauce for a hint of funk, and garnished with lime juice. While you’re there, stop in for a sip at the recently debuted Groove, Hojoko’s 1970s-style vinyl-record lounge, for tunes, cocktails, and bites such as robata-grilled salmon.
1271 Boylston St., Boston, 617-670-0507, hojokoboston.com.
5. Avocado Bomb, Mystique
Explosive flavor awaits at Mystique, a buzzy pan-Asian restaurant inside the new Encore Boston Harbor casino. There, chef Anthony Micari, formerly of Miami’s Makoto, sears avocado over binchotan and Argentinean charcoal for a slow, caramelizing burn, then fills it with a “crème fraîche” of sudachi-citrus aioli, ponzu, toasted sesame, and chili-based seasoning.
One Broadway, Everett, 857-770-3488, mystiqueboston.com.