From the cold parts of Japan comes the method of skewing and grilling, robatayaki, to one of Delhi’s plush hotel restaurants—Kylin Experience

robatayakiwords & photographs: Ambica Gulati

Delhi is full of surprises. A city where tourists throng constantly, where business runs day and night, somewhere nice to wine and dine with a touch of the unusual is quite a pleasant way to relax in the fast-paced city. We found something new at Holiday Inn Mayur Vihar—Robatayaki at the Kylin Experience. Skewed, grilled and eaten at the live counter, this was quite something.

Giving a background on this, Director (F&B) Suprabhat Roychowdhary says, “This is a traditional Japanese way of cooking, more popular with the fishermen. It means fireside cooking. Similar to a barbecue, here meats and veggies on skewers are slow-grilled. In Delhi, we are the only hotel where this can be experienced piping hot and at the live counter.”

This centuries-old grilling method has been more popular in northern part of Japan, especially on the island of Hokkaido. As this is a cold region, this hearth or irori would be a source of heat and cooking area at the same time for the fishermen who would cook freshly caught fish on their boats. Interestingly, to save the boats from being engulfed by the heat, they put the binchotan coals in a stone box. When the government declared this area as idyllic rustic surroundings, this method of cooking was adopted all over the country. The first restaurant, also called Robata, opened in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. Since then, many restaurants have opened in Osaka. As per Wikipedia, there are more than 10,000 such restaurants since 1965.

 

chefsatwork
Chef Pascal Tamang on the right cooking at the grill

Luckily, we need not go that far to enjoy this kind of cuisine. While in Osaka, restaurants do have the traditional hearth with a sandpit or on a raised dais, the one in Holiday Inn is all modern and lesser heated. Traditionally, this has been patronised more by the drinking community. Here too, we downed our skewed platters with their smokey flavours with wheat beer and whiskey cocktails. The menu is pretty extensive and I must mention, the prawns are cooked with shells and are positively a must-eat. The spices are changed a bit to suit the Indian palate and ambience. But the juices remain intact and the smokiness of the coals can be quite a nice flavour.

 

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For the vegetarians, there’s a special skew but meat lovers can have a whale of time, for grills and beer can make for long conversations and happy times. I would say, try it for dinner–healthy and light.

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