Iroriya in Santa Clara: Robata Dining
Iroriya has been open for just over five weeks now. After reading a terrific report on another site *waves* I called them up, booked a spot at the counter and then went and did some homework.
Robata, or robata-yaki, is fireside cooking according to wikipedia, where items are grilled over a charcoal fire. There's typically a horseshoe-shaped counter, behind which is the charcoal grill where salted and cured fish, meat and vegetables are cooked.
Iroriya is the latest appearance of robata in the bay area, from the same team that brought us Sumika and Orenchi.
I'm sure the kitchen dishes are great, but I stuck mostly with the grilled stuff. The good stuff (seasonal) is right on the counter, packed in ice. And if you peer over the counter, you can see your food being cooked over the charcoal, and you'll definitely smell it. Delicious. You know your food is ready when a wooden paddle appears right in your face holding your dish.
Hagi (leatherjack) sashimi: Seasonal special item from the kitchen. Nicely textured fish, quite firm. Good with big toppings of wasabi.
Eringi (oyster mushroom): Very lightly grilled, and still nicely firm with some chewiness. I dipped it in my shoyu/daikon mix.
Kodai himono (cured baby snapper) with daikon and lemon: Also a seasonal item, this is salted for a day and then dried for a day. Lovely white meat, moist despite the curing and grilling, and really nice charred bits around the edges and on the head.
Karatsuki hotate (big shelled scallop) with kimo (liver): They're having trouble sourcing these right now because of weather on the east coast, so they run out fast. They got 20 on Friday and were down to 3 on Saturday night. Really sweet scallop, grilled in its shell with its own liver and juices.
Yaki sanma (grilled Pacific saucy) with daikon and lemon: Seasonal. This was also available cured, but I went with the fresh version. Really crispy skin from the grill, but beautiful flesh, and a really rich, salty head.
Me-kyabetsu (brussel sprouts): Very deft touch on these, some char just on the crown but otherwise fresh and crunchy. Good with shoyu/daikon mix.
Tatami iwashi (sardine sheet): Sardines are pounded and then dried into sheets and packaged as a snack. Here, they toast the sheets lightly and serve it with a spicy mayo sauce. Really addictive.
Jaga bata shiokara (potato with butter and squid guts): Shiokara by itself can be quite pungent, but on top of a grilled potato it balances out nicely. Let the butter melt before digging in.
Soba pudding: I'm guessing they take the water from cooking soba, sweeten it slightly and then let it set. Like a Japanese creme caramel flan, but more subtle.
Everything was fantastic! Do be patient, as obviously grilling takes time. I overheard the waiters relaying requests from tables, and I get the impression people are expecting stuff to come out immediately. Relax!
Wonderful staff, really helpful!
See the crowd of people standing outside Orenchi? Look just to the right of them. There's a lantern hanging from a wood paneled wall, a wooden door with 3548 in white letters above it, and a tiny glass pane on either side of the door. That's Iroriya.
You can book via SeatMe (available directly on their website), but I called them up to book the counter.
3548 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051
Sumika and Orenchi are both terrific, can't wait to try their new sibling. I'm fascinated by the pic of the sardine sheet.
Another fantastic dinner last night. The highlight was the saba himono. Crispy skin, tender flesh.
They've dropped the soba pudding. Their new dessert was described by our server as a "sake-flavored panna cotta". It certainly looks like one, but the consistency and taste reminded me of the whipped tofu dessert served at Mori in LA. It's a very sweet sake flavor, absolutely delicious! They've noticed that it's a big hit with guys but not with the ladies.
Had a terrific meal here. 4 people shared a number of items. Among the most memorable were three sashimi dishes (saba, lightly cooked on the outside; tai; and firefly squid - cooked not raw); the himono hokke (a type of mackerel); the fried sea bream; the home made tofu (it is poured into a bowl and curdles while you wait 10 mins as instructed); large grilled prawns; a stewed tai in ginger and white soy sauce broth; and the beef tataki. Total was $75 per person including tip and corkage (which is a reasonable $20 per bottle for wine, $30 for shochu, and $35 for sake). Service was outstanding.
An all-around fantastic experience! On a Tuesday, it was maybe 80% full when we arrived at 7:30 pm. Reservations were easy to get a few days in advance.