Robata-Ya’s Off the Menu Bento Substitution is a Big Time Winner
I’ve been spending way too much time in Little Osaka these days. I can’t help it. The tsukemen from Tsujita is enough to make me consider a trip to Sawtelle at least once a week, but once you throw in all the new lunch options that seem to be popping up one after another, the pull is just too much for me to resist. Gottsui just started serving a surprisingly tasty lunchtime ramen, a new Korean soondubu place just opened in the same strip mall, and apparently another ramen place is on the way! There’s also the newly converted Spaghetti by Orris (although word is that place is up for sale) and if you haven’t tried the ketchup leather topped burger at Plan Check, I’d highly recommend it. And of course there’s Miyata Menji, which opens today- although I’m going to give them a little time to get settled in. (Plus, word is the famous-in-Japan comedian who owns the place is supposed to be there today, and I don’t want none of that.)
And yet in the midst of all this craziness, last week I found myself sidling up to the counter at Robata Ya- a 4 year old yakitori place that is solid if uninspiring. The reason? My buddy Dylan had told me that they do a bento box with salad, soup, rice, tempura (including one piece of shrimp!), gyoza, half a spicy tuna roll, and 3 pieces of yakitori. All that food for just $10?! How could I not.
As promised the bento was a ton of food for the price. Salad and soup were just fine as was the spicy tuna roll and the 3 gyoza. And getting a shrimp tempura and a shishito pepper tempura alongside some more typical pieces was a nice surprise. Everything was solid. Naturally the yakitori was white breast meat Jidori chicken (this is L.A. and Sawtelle is not above pandering to the white man!) but it was still pretty good.
My buddy assured me that their other yakitori is actually pretty delicious, and insisted that we try a few just so I get a taste of what Robata Ya is really capable of (cheap bastardness aside.) The chicken gizzards were nice, as was the neck. But the best one by far was the thigh, or what they call a “chicken oyster”. Think ball of dark meat, wrapped in super crispy chicken skin. Delicious.
And that’s when I had a bit of absolute dumb luck pure stroke of genius (it does happen occasionally.) I thought out loud “I wonder if they’ll substitute the chicken oysters for the chicken breast?” Answer: yes. they. will. And that alone takes this bento from being “good for the price” to “freakin’ spectacular.” If I worked in the area, I’d probably eat this once a week.
They did warn that if too many people asked for the substitution, they might have to charge extra for it- but for now you’re good to go. (Aka… what the hell are you waiting for?!)
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- Not the best restaurant on the Sawtelle strip, but for $10 that bento is a pretty sweet deal. So much food!
- I actually like white meat chicken. Bring on the Jidori chicken skewers.
- Do you really get a spicy tuna roll, dumplings, tempura, soup, AND salad? For $10? This is my new favorite place.
- I’m sure the tempura is all sweet potato and broccoli right? What’s that? There’s a shrimp in there too? That’s insanity.
- Those chicken oysters are so good. Can’t believe they’ll do a substitution.
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I hate spicy tuna rolls.
- It’s too much food! I’d rather them charge a bit less and you get a bit less.
- Skewers are good, but everything is just meh.
- Sorry but I can’t go to Sawtelle and not eat at Tsujita…
Robata-Ya, 2004 Sawtelle Blvd. 310-481-1418