Inside a cookie jar placed on our table, a piece of chicken sits in a square in apple wood smoke. Once the lid is lifted, the aroma of chicken, grilled to fullness, mixed with flavored smoke, fills the room to satisfy our hunger. The ongoing Robatayaki festival at Santa Cruz-based Jos has a lot of fun like cookie jar yakitori chicken.
In Japanese cuisine, robatayaki – often abbreviated to robata – refers to a method of cooking similar to barbecue. However, the difference lies in the charcoal used for cooking – white oak variety or bincho-tan (in Japanese).
There are two main effects on a dish using this charcoal. First, it enhances the taste of the smoky. Second, since it burns slower than regular charcoal, butter or fat from the meat falls on the charcoal, emitting only smoke, not flame, which further enhances the taste.
A quick round of Joss’s signature Enigma Mocktail helped us cut through all that technology. The sweet combination of hints of Australian dark grapes, rambutan and cinnamon was a promising start to the meal.
Robatayaki cooking techniques are used to grill meat or vegetables in all dishes introduced as part of this festival.
What followed was one dish after another that played hide and seek with our senses. Start with Turkish bacon-wrapped shrimp maki, a simple and delicate starter. One can blindly consume the taste of sea and barbecue.
Much like the sensitivity of Japanese design, this minimally grilled pork belly meat in a glass of shiso seed lets the meat say it all. Vegetarians can look for spicy tofu cheese which comes on top with red bean paste. It mixes the right amount of sweetness with spices. However, F2T (Farm to Table) vegetables, including Miso Chili Parmesan, have faded compared to its predecessors.
For the main thing, it was a combination of chicken and shittake mushrooms that sat on top of the microgreen, sprouts and stream egg yolks. The healthy bowl of Korean Dolsot Bibimbap can be easily shared between two people with a healthy appetite.
For dessert, we picked chocolate and walnut cream brulee, a home specialty that comes with a beautiful crust. Lightly sweet and creamy, the restaurant’s regular menu features desserts.
The Robatayaki festival will continue until the end of this month in both Jose and Umam in Churchgate.