Translating literally to “fireside cooking,” robatayaki is a traditional style of coal grilling that originated in Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture of Japan. It is a rustic style of cooking, where food is grilled over an irori, a sunken hearth that once featured in many Japanese houses. Due to the harsh winters of the Hokkaido region, robatayaki was both a way of cooking and of keeping warm. Robatayaki - or simply “robata” - restaurants these days typically feature a large irori hearth or grill around which chefs cook.
Standard robatayaki grilling fare includes skewered meat, vegetables, and seafood, all cooked at high temperatures over 1000 F (about 540 C), which helps preserve the natural flavors and juices of the food. Grilled food is then scooped up and delivered to customers on a long wooden paddle. The theatrical element of robatayaki, combined with the homey presentation and wide selection of custom-order ingredients make it a popular evening dining option in Japan.
In the eternal city of Kyoto, yakiniku is a staple option available at popular dining venues, from the enchanting Ponto night district to the tradition-filled alleys of Gion and dining establishments by the Kamogawa river. Yakiniku, which literally means “grilled meat,” is one of the most popular types of cuisines in modern Japan. A sizzling yakiniku meal is considered a treat and is often associated with special occasions, such as birthdays or celebrations of events. Many Kyoto yakiniku restaurants are mid- to upscale dining establishments that pride themselves on serving good cuts of domestically-reared wagyu beef.
Meat makes up most of the meal, but salads and pickles such as various forms of kimchi are popular sides. The common availability of kimchi and Korean stews is a nod to the Korean origins of yakiniku in Japan. A wide range of standards dips, such as soy sauce and garlic-flavored soy sauce, as well as other original sauces specific to each restaurant, are part of the enjoyment as guests grill the meat to their preference and vary the condiments. Some restaurants provide charcoal grills while others provide gas or electric grills. Covers for diners’ bags, coats and clothes so they can enjoy the meal without bringing the scent of grilled meats with them home, and good ventilation is provided so the interior is surprisingly smoke-free. Here are some restaurants showcasing the very best yakiniku in Kyoto.
It’s a well-known fact that the Japanese have a deep appreciation for all things French—fashion, interior design, art—and food is no exception. French food is one of the most popular international cuisines in Tokyo, Japan’s metropolitan dining capital, and offers everything from starred French dining to crêperies and small neighborhood cafés. Read on for 13 of Tokyo’s finest French restaurants.
Japan has long had an interest in Italian cuisine, dating back to the Meiji period when Italian “inspired” dishes like Napolitan spaghetti first became popular. In recent decades the focus has shifted from these reinterpretations of Italian dishes to more authentic Italian flavors and techniques. Beyond just flavor, the appeal of Italian food to Japanese chefs and diners may also be attributed to Italian cuisine’s emphasis on the heritage of food, the flavor of a mother’s cooking, and the use of locally grown and seasonal ingredients, which are also foundations of Japanese cuisine.