Toronto diners seeking authentic Japanese robata cuisine need look no further than Shibui Robata, now open in the city’s downtown neighborhood. Brought to you by the operators of Toronto’s popular Copacabana restaurants, Shibui Robata perfectly captures the techniques and flavors of authentic Japanese robata cooking.
Robata means “around the fireplace” in Japanese and refers to the centuries-old method of cooking over an open fire in the home. This tradition later gave rise to robata restaurants around Japan, at which highly skilled chefs embraced its unique challenges. Now, restaurateur Michael Rudan and chef Masaki Nakayam invite you to experience the rustic elegance that is live-fire robata cuisine at Shibui Robata.
Robata ingredients are simple – fresh fish, beef, lamb, pork, and vegetables. Its tools are few — charcoal, fire, salt, and pepper. Yet, under the talented eyes and hands of a seasoned robata chef, such as chef Nakayama, the end result is magic. Nakayama, who perfected his method at top restaurants in Miami and New York, was drawn to the robata style of cooking by its deceptive level of difficulty. He notes, “The fire is live, and you have to control the heat, the temperatures of the fire. That is very challenging.”
With diners having a front-row seat to the action, does chef Nakayama get nervous cooking for a crowd? “I love that people can see me cook. It’s like a show. I have to make it fun for the customer, and that’s fun for me, too.” Along with just-out-of-the-fire robata dishes, the Shibui menu features sublime starters, such as hamachi ceviche with tart green apple and kiwi, and inventive rolls, like the eel oshi zushi, featuring pressed sushi, avocado, masago, and cream cheese. The next time you dine in Toronto, pull up a seat near the fire at Shibui Robata, where traditional technique meets a decidedly modern presentation.