A Lesson in Decadence at Kata Robata Sushi + Grill
I usually reserve fine dining for the weekend, when I can take some time and really enjoy myself, but some weekdays also call for a decadent meal. One Wednesday evening after a grueling day at work, I headed to Kata Robata. Since being named number two on Alison Cook's list, the place has been packed most nights, particularly on the weekends. On that Wednesday evening, there was still about a half-hour wait.
Kobe Beef Carpaccio
Kata Robata is a part of the Azuma Group, along with Azuma (three different locations) and Soma Sushi. Kata Robata, to me, is the star of the three. Billed as sushi and Japanese tapas, the offerings here are by far the most creative and intriguing, and the restaurant clearly belongs on Cook's list. Along with Kata Robata's regular menu, the restaurant has a changing specials menu that includes specialty cocktails, innovative dishes from Executive Chef Manabu Horiuchi and desserts from Pastry Chef Chris Leung.
To start, I ordered the Kobe Beef Carpaccio, American Kobe, of course. Paper-thin, delicate slices of marbled beef were laid out perfectly on a cold plate, topped with micro-greens dressed in a light vinaigrette. The beef was front and center, the fattiness cut with a slight sweetness.
My next dish was from the specials menu, beef tongue and mozzarella salad -- a curious combination that worked so well. Thin slices of grilled beef tongue were arranged atop mozzarella and beefsteak tomatoes, and dressed with arugula drizzled with the same light vinaigrette. The beef tongue was tender, with hints of char from the grilling, the mozzarella's creaminess complemented the meatiness, and the tomatoes and dressing added the perfect amount of acidity.
What is decadence without bone marrow and foie gras? And those were my next dishes. I've had great bone marrow at other restaurants -- Brasserie Max and Julie, Branchwater Tavern and sorely missed Stella Stola, come to mind -- but I think Kata Robata would be number one on my list.
Miso Crusted Bone Marrow
The bone marrow isn't for wusses. It's a thick, deep bone amply filled with buttery, rich goodness. The difference here is the miso crust, caramelized on top until golden-brown. You crack into it almost as you would a crème brûlée. Spread on top of a slice of toast and sprinkled with just a hint of sea salt, it is the definition of decadence.
And finally, the pièce de résistance: three pieces of foie gras sushi, simply grilled, brushed with a hint of a glaze, wrapped in a sliver of nori. It is an explosion of umami in your mouth. It's rich, beefy and unctuous, reminiscent of charred fat on a good steak with a mild liver flavor. These two paired together are a definite contender for my last meal.
Kata Robata deserves the attention it is getting. The food is top-notch in taste, quality and presentation, the service is always stellar, and the ambience is never too stuffy or pretentious. If there was ever a place to indulge, this is it.
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3600 Kirby, Houston, TX