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Robata Is the Fiery New Japanese Grill Restaurant From the San Telmo Crew

Expect charcoal-grilled yakitori skewers and reworked classic cocktails in a neon-dressed space, plucked from the streetscapes of Tokyo.
By Libby Curran
August 03, 2021
By Libby Curran
August 03, 2021

The team behind restaurants San Telmo, Pastuso, Palermo and Asado have spent the better part of the past decade taking Melbourne's tastebuds on a culinary jaunt around South America. Flavours of Peru and Argentina are championed across the four menus, but now, the San Telmo Group is switching continents entirely to pull inspiration from the other side of the globe for its latest venture — Robata Japanese Grill.

The kitchen is embracing the art of charcoal grilling with as much enthusiasm as the rest of its stable, but Japanese techniques and traditions are clearly at the forefront here. A custom-built robatayaki grill sits centrestage in Robata's kitchen, and mindful produce selection remains at the forefront of the menu.

Former San Telmo Head Chef Stephen Clark is taking the reins and guiding the grill offering, drawing on his own experiences eating his way across Japan.

"The grill has always been my greatest inspiration, and it's still front and centre even in this new chapter of my career," Clark says. "I've always loved Japanese cuisine. It's simplicity, variety and focus on freshness. This menu will offer new flavours and dishes that fans of The San Telmo Group have not seen on our menus before."

Rocking a playful, minimalist space on Exhibition Street, the restaurant takes its cues from the streets of Tokyo. Futuristic elements and neon lights aplenty lend a very different feel to that of Robata's siblings, with fresh interiors courtesy of acclaimed Melbourne firm Ewert Leaf.

The izakaya-style menu is headlined by a slew of yakitori and kushiyaki skewers, cooked over charcoal. Choose from the likes of chicken meatballs with cured yolk and tare sauce, Skull Island prawns with lemon, nori-salted turnip, and pork belly dressed in yuzu kosho (a type of chilli paste). Other snacks run to the likes of sashimi, onigiri and a soy-laced beef tartare, while bigger bites might include a tonkatsu pork cutlet matched with cabbage and mustard, and the Rangers Valley skirt steak done with shio koji (a fermented grain marinade). Add a side of charred broccolini and shiraee (smashed tofu salad), and a sparkling sake and sakura sorbet for dessert.

An expertly curated drinks lineup ensures you'll be washing down your feed with some top-notch drops, whether that means a Coedo craft brew or a bottle of Yarra Valley chardonnay. The bar's pouring a strong spread of imported sake and the full range of Nikka Japanese whisky, while a cocktail selection features sips like an umeshu sour, a shochu-infused espresso martini and the sake martini with salted plum.

Find Robata Japanese Grill at 2 Exhibition Street, Melbourne. It's open from 5pm–late Wednesdays and from 12pm​​–late Thursday–Sunday.

Published on August 03, 2021 by Libby Curran
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