Robata Jinya - Happy Hour
January 15th, 2012
It was the day after New Year's Eve, January 1st, and I thought for sure Robata Jinya would be dead. I thought every restaurant in Los Angeles would be dead; partying hard the night before was sure to keep everyone at home, nursing their hangovers. I hadn't been to the 3rd street restaurant in awhile, but I had heard they added a happy hour so I was ready to stop back in. In the spirit for more spirits (hair of the dog) and honoring new resolutions (going out to eat more), I called ahead to try and make a last minute reservation. Busy. I tried three more times and again, busy.
The busy phone line should have warned me. My boyfriend and I walked into a crowded dining room and were added to a list. "Did you make a reservation?" the manager questioned. "We tried," I responded and he gave a understanding nod (he was also answering the phone).
Robata Jinya is a Japanese restaurant featuring an array of robata skewers, sushi, ramen and other Asian tapas. "Robata" means cooking over an open flame. I used to work at a robata style restaurant, so I was very familiar with this style of food. Generally, most robata grills use Binchotan charcoal, which is high-quality and fairly expensive to import. Once heated, Binchtan can reach extremely high temperatures (up to a thousand degrees) which quickly grills meats or vegetables, giving them a smoky flavor and practically steaming the dishes.
We were seated at the sushi bar and ordered the $5 HH Lychee Martini and a $3 HH Sapporo draft while we looked over the rest of the menu. It took awhile for the server to come back over, but the manager, also acting as host, came by to check on us. Can I please buy this guy a Redbull? The place was obviously busy, but the food came out quickly and we had got seated just in time because there was a line forming outside the main entrance.
Tukune chicken meat ball and Chasu pork skewers ($2 each)
The happy hour at menu at Robata Jinya was sparse, but when you consider the rest of their menu is fairly inexpensive, you can't really complain.We enjoyed the spicy tuna rice cakes (3pcs) for $5 and also loved the Tukune chicken meatball skewer and Chasu pork (served with Karashi mustard) for $2 each, which were juicy and flavorful. We passed, but you can also order the happy hour creamy shrimp tempura for $5.
I ventured outside the happy hour menu to try the tuna sashimi with a soy wasabi sauce; big cubes of tuna and avocado wrapped in a banana leaf were fresh and slightly spicy. My other robata skewer favorites were beef with garlic soy, shishito peppers and lotus root. The beef was moist, accompanied grilled garlic cloves, and the vegetables were crunchy and slightly smoky.
Besides the slower service in the beginning, I really enjoyed the overall experience of Robata Jinya and so did the regulars seated next to us. The prices are right, the food is great and it's nearby. Plus, next time I'm encouraged to try their Omakase option starting as low as $25 per person. Now, that's a steal. Oh, and by the way, I ended up there again the following night. Looks like they have a new regular.
Robata Jinya Happy Hour:
Monday - Friday, 5:30 - 7pm
$3 Sapporo Draft Beer
$5 Lychee Martini
$2 Tukune Chicken Meatball or Chasu Pork Skewer
$5 Creamy Shrimp Tempura or Spicy Tuna Rice Cakes
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