A couple months ago, I was on a press tour of a restaurant where the owner (not the chef) bragged that he had been the first person to serve sushi and robata in the same restaurant. My eyes must have clicked like marbles when they rolled back in my head.
These days, the sushi and skewer combo is common enough to not merit much awe. That doesn’t mean L.A. couldn’t use more restaurants that serve both.
After a painful wait for its liquor license, Robata Jinya, located at the corner of Crescent Heights and Third, finally opened last week — but only for lunch (service ends at 2:30 pm). Dinner, robata and the grand opening should all happen next week.
For now, Jinya offers a small but promising lunch menu that includes ramen ($8.55), rolls ($6-11) and a hearty bento box (for only $10.50!) packed with tempura, chicken teriyaki, gyoza, California rolls, salad and miso. The most promising item was the “tonkotsu ramen,” because of its broth, which was rich and subtle. The noodles are topped with a few slices of thin, soft pork, which isn’t the way I’m used to seeing tonkatsu (I’m used to it breaded and fried), but that’s the way they do it here.
Plenty of restaurants offer charcoal grilled skewers, but outside of Torrance, few of them can boast a lineage direct from Tokyo. Robata Jinya has a twin in Tokyo’s trendy Ebisu district, and owner Tomo Takahashi has flown in from Japan to launch the restaurant.
Chicken, meat and veggie skewers, which start at $3, are all cooked on grills imported from England. The smart design features Edo-era samurai figurines in dual glass cases, several warrior masks cheerfully egging on adventurous diners from the walls, streamlined woodwork and high ceilings with exposed air ducts for a loft-like dining experience that artfully bridges 21st century L.A. with 17th century Japan.
Many thanks to my driver, dining companion and translator, Charlie Amter, without whom this post would not have been possible.
8050 W. 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90048