Friday, January 4, 2013

Review: Kata Robata (13 for 2013)

As promised, dear readers, I am working my way through my 13 for 2013 list and am kicking it off with Kata Robata.  Loosely translated Kata Robata means "a kind of grill"--although that sounds vague the reality is that Kata Robata (KR for short in my vernacular) is a high end Sushi and Japanese Tapas restaurant in the Upper Kirby district on the corner of Richmond Ave and Kirby Drive.  It is the brainchild of Chef Manabu "Hori" Horiuchi, and it serves a mixture of Traditional and Modern Japanese cuisine, along with some fusion items as well.

Daily Menu for Jan. 4, 2012
Kata Robata opened in 2010. The food at Kata Robata has been its the biggest draw and still continues to draw crowds today. Chef Manabu Horiuchi, formerly of Kubo's has produced dishes that the Houston Press says "...are both playful and breathtaking at the same time." The recurring theme at Kata Robata is quite specifically fresh, flavorful, inventive and high-quality food for a lot less.  And FYI: it was awarded Best Sushi in the 2012 Best of Houston of The Houston Press.  How I had not managed to pay them a visit before now is beyond my reasoning.

Normally I try to visit a place during off peak in order to give them a fair chance.  However Kata Robata is closed between lunch and dinner shifts.  Plus, part of me wanted to put them to the test and see how they'd treat a solo diner with no reservation.  I came over not long after 5 PM, indicated I was wanting a table for 1 and did not want to sit at the bar.  The hostess took a couple of quick looks and found me a comfortable table near the front of the dining area within a few minutes.  Good job, KR!

Tofo with Vegetables
Miso Grilled Cod
I perused their daily menu (be alert--they change daily) and saw several intriguing dishes.  I started off with the house hot sake--which was clean tasting, not too dry, not to fumy.  Very fine sake indeed/  I also ran down their main menu and after some contemplation, decided to order an appetizer from their standard menu (Miso Gyoza) and a main dish from their daily menu (Oxtail Soba).  While I was waiting for my food, I was chatting with the couple seated next to me who had some miso grilled cod and tofu with vegetables that looked absolutely magnificent.    They were kind enough to allow me to take a couple of photographs, but I did not ask for a taste.  I was tempted but I minded my manners!

Hot Sake--see the steam!
Miso Gyoza
I received my long plate of Miso Gyoza after about 14 minutes.  The pork dumplings were hot, were served with a nice sauce and an assortment of roasted edamame, shitshito pepper, greens and carrot slices, and a touch of kimchi powder.  This was a great appetizer--not too much, not too little.  The greens and veggies were fresh.  The sauce was full of flavour.  I have nothing but praise for this place and will say indeed Good job Kata Robata.

Oxtail Udon
The main course was a wonderful Oxtail Udon.  Think of some savoury creole oxtail stew.  Think of some hot udon noodles with veggies.  Throw in a spicy coconut milk Thai or Indian Dish.  Now imagine that they had a threeway and a baby resulted.  That's the Oxtail Udon at Kata Robata was like.  This dish had tender oxtail, green onion, carrot shreds, cilantro, oyster mushroom, and pickled ginger served over al dente udon noodles in a sweet and slightly spicy coconut sauce.  This dish was DA BOMB!  It was a cornucopia of flavours and textures--sweet and spicy in the sauce, umami in the mushrooms and the noodles, savoury and sour in the onions and the pickled ginger, chewy and meaty with the tender oxtail meat.  My overwhelming compliments to the Chef.

Kata Robata has a nice modern and hip atmosphere with several good traditional Japanese elements.  The staff is friendly and was able to roll with the challenge I presented (solo diner, no reservation, right before dinner rush).  As I enjoyed my dinner, I observed the restaurant fill up and saw most of the other diners happily enjoying their food.  John, my server, made proper call backs and I observed him making good solid recommendations to other diners that were delivered and looked damned good.  This experience showed me that Kata Robata is for real, it's not just hype and they have earned all the praise and awards they've gotten over the past couple of years.

The View from where I sat at Kata Robata
Report Card for Kata Robata:
Food:
     Miso Gyoza: A
     Oxtail Udon: A+
Service:
     Speed: A-
     Friendliness: A
Cleanliness:
     Dining Area/Kitchen: A
     Men's Room: A-
Ambiance (Modern Asian/Western Fusion): A

Overall Grade: A

Kata Robata is located at:
3600 Kirby Drive Suite H (At Richmond Ave)
Mon-Thurs  11:30 AM to 3:00 PM  5:00 PM to 10:30 PM
Fri 11:30 AM to 3:00 PM  5:00 PM to 11:00 PM
Sat 12:00 Noon to 11:00 PM
Sun 12:00 Noon to 10:00 PM

And Remember to Eat Happy, Y'all!!!
吃得开心!!!

Kata Robata on Urbanspoon

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