Wednesday night, for a business dinner, I went, with 5 co-workers, to a fantastic robata-yaki style restaurant in Roppongi. The name of the restaurant is Inakaya. (7-8-4 Roppongi, next to Charleston Pizza, across the parking lot from Hard Rock Cafe, and Tony Roma's. Open 5:00pm - 5:00am daily. They also have another branch in Akasaka, 5:00pm - 11:00pm daily)
Robata-yaki restaurants are known for two things: Great food, and LOTS of yelling. Inakaya doesn't disappoint in either area.
The seating in the restaurant is around a large horseshoe counter, which surrounds the various dishes available, and the cooking area. There is one chef in each cooking area, and he handles all of the culinary needs for that particular counter(the counter at which we sat accomodated about 20 people). He also handles the beer orders. All food and beverages are passed from the chef to the customer by way of a large wooden paddle.
The meal started with ice-cold beer (natch), and small fried crabs, which are eaten whole (shell,legs,claws and all), in one bite. The crabs - legs and all - are about the size of a 50 cent piece. Lightly salted, they are really addictive. You can't eat just one.
Next came a couple of sashimi platters (1 platter for 3 people), which included maguro, toro, sawara, and hirami. All were very fresh tasting.
The amount of fish on the platter, if not shared between a few people, is a meal in itself.
After the sashimi came a very simple, yet delicious, serving of yakitori. Each person got 2 sticks of grilled chicken and onions. This was followed by 1 stick per person (2 pieces) of tskune (grilled minced chicken, onion, and sake, formed into a flattened disk).
And then, more seafood - Grilled crab legs. We had ordered 3 plates, one for every 2 people. Each plate had 4 8"-10" legs. Before grilling, the chef slices away part of the shell, allowing the crab meat to be infused with a delicate smokey flavor.
Next, we were each served two skewers of Kobe beef chunks. Grilled until medium rare, and served with a very light miso dipping sauce, and a dollop of grated ginger on the side, these just exploded with flavor.
Then, came the vegetables. Grilled asparagus and eggplant, cooked just until tender, was a great way to take a bit of a break from the meat.
The final dish that we ordered was shio-yaki (a whole fish grilled with a just bit of salt). The night we were there, the fish was red snapper. Boy, this was really flavorful. The meat of the fish was firm, flaky, and juicy. 2 orders of this was enough for the entire group.
After the ordered dishes, the restaurant presented each of us with a complimentary plate of fresh fruit, which just happened to be watermelon. Cold, crisp, and very, very sweet.
Now, for a note about the yelling. The place is staffed by 5-6 waiters (for 2 horseshoe counters), and 2 chefs. When the customer enters the restaurant, the entire staff yells out a greeting. When the customer places an order, you waiter yells out your selection, the rest of the wait staff repeats the order at the top of their lungs, and the chef (kneeling in the middle of the horseshoe), yells back confirmation of the customer's order. And, after the meal, as the guest is leaving, the staff yells out a farewell. The whole effect actually kind of grows on you.
The entire meal described above, plus a LOT of beer, ran about $200.00 per person. Thank God for expense accounts. It is very possible for 2 people to get a very well-rounded meal for $80.00 - $100.00 per person, which in Tokyo is fantastic for the quality of food available at this place.