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South American food has always been the focus for the San Telmo Group, whose portfolio comprises San Telmo, Asado, Palermo and Pastuso.

But with Robata, the team has added Japanese to the mix. This is a smaller jump than it seems, as Robata shares the other venues’ emphasis on chargrilled meats. The name is a common abbreviation of robatayaki, a Japanese charcoal-grilling technique that translates literally to “fireside cooking”.

Yakitori (chicken skewers) are the protein of choice – prepared as thighs, breasts, wings, meatballs or hearts. There are also a few kushiyaki (non-chicken skewers) such as wagyu, pork belly, Skull Island prawns and shiitake. Most are grilled over binchotan, a neutral charcoal used specifically for yakitori. Thanks to its high carbon make-up, it’s virtually odourless and burns clean, imparting minimal flavour.

Each skewer is paired with a specific dressing. Meatballs are brushed in tare (a sweet, thick soy-based sauce) and served with a cured egg yolk; hearts are coated in shichimi (a dried chilli blend); and the wings are intentionally simple, sprayed only with sake before cooking.

While skewers range from $6 to $14, you might find heftier menu items including a pork tonkatsu with cabbage, and a kaisen don prepared with sashimi-grade fish, trout roe and cucumber over rice. Whatever’s used in the don also makes an appearance on the concise sashimi menu, which changes regularly.

Located in Gazi’s former digs, Robata is a large space with room for over 100 guests. The prime spot is at the kitchen bar, for a close-up view of chefs working the robatayaki grills and carefully slicing sashimi. Even if you don’t snag a seat there, the fit-out – designed by architect Ewert Leaf – still offers plenty to look at. Electric neon signs welcome you in, while light boxes emblazoned with Japanese phrases hang from the ceiling. The look and feel is designed to replicate the kind of experience you’d find in Tokyo’s Shibuya area.

While you soak up your surroundings, sip a sake or a Japanese whisky. The restaurant offers impressive selections of both, available straight or worked into cocktails such as the Ancient Remedy, a smooth blend of Nikka whisky, ginger, honey, lemon and matcha.

Updated: October 13th, 2021

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