Photos by Justin Fox Burks
The menu at Robata Ramen & Yakitori Bar, Jimmy Ishii’s new Japanese restaurant in Overton Square, is a lot to take in, with adventuresome dishes
(wasabi octopus with pickled daikon), new dishes (stir-fried noodles with seafood, Kewpie mayo, and katsu sauce), and familiar dishes (skewered meat marinated and grilled with asparagus or cherry tomatoes).
So here’s some advice. Before tackling the menu, order a chilled bottle of sake and ask the server for this: deep-fried garlic. Within minutes, two fragrant garlic heads that look like plump new peony blossoms will arrive to the table, piping hot. Pull off a clove and squeeze it into a mini-mound of sea salt, plated alongside. Eat and repeat.
Tantalizingly simple, the garlic is an apt primer for Robata’s more authentic Japanese menu that finally moves Memphis beyond sushi rolls and shrimp tempura. Tuna, salmon and yellow tail, for instance, are expertly prepared in three different ways: as sashimi, carpaccio, or lightly seared tataki. Flavorful and oversized ramen bowls, on the other hand, come in many variations thanks to mix-and-match noodles, house-made broths, and customized toppings, including kimchi, mustard greens, boiled eggs, and stir-fried pork.
Located in the longtime home of the late Leighnora Griffin (and later the restaurant Paulette’s), Robata adds charm and history to Overton Square’s aggressive redevelopment. Oldsters and youngsters alike will appreciate the property’s white picket fence, still intact, and the garden’s stand of gladiolas that match the cheerful yellow cottage.
Open seven nights a week from 5 p.m., Robata also includes a small but comfortable bar in the back serving cocktails, wine, sake, and seasonal drafts from Memphis Made Brewing Company.
2116 Madison Ave. (901-410-8290) $$