As someone who tries to keep an ear out for local restaurants and businesses opening, whenever I hear of a new place to eat that offers something different from anything I’ve tried before, I get excited.
Recently, I heard about the opening of Tamari Robatayaki & Whisky Bar on “Restaurant Row” in the North Pointe Center on Palm and Herndon, and my interest was piqued. What is “Robatayaki”? I had to find out.
Fireside cooking seals in flavor
According to the restaurant’s website, “Tamari” comes from the Japanese word for gathering place, and “robatayaki” is a term that comes from the word “robota” meaning “fireside or hearth, the center of the home.” Robatayaki essentially means “fireside cooking.”
Intrigued, my husband and I ventured out to give Tamari a try. With its prime location, sandwiched between well-known restaurant heavy-hitters Parma and Cracked Pepper, our expectations were high.
When we arrived, a friendly hostess opened the door for us and, despite there being a sizeable Saturday night crowd, she sat us immediately. (She did ask whether we had a reservation, which we didn’t, though it’s good to know the restaurant does accept them.) We were seated at a table and our server, Sandy, greeted us promptly and was warm and friendly.
Sandy asked if we’d had robatayaki before (we hadn’t), and proceeded to explain that robatayaki is a type of grilling in which fresh meats and produce are skewered then heated over a super-hot grill burning a specialized charcoal called Binchō-tan. Binchō-tan charcoals provide a cooking temperature as high as 1,000 degrees, allowing food to cook extremely quickly while simultaneously sealing the natural flavors of the food, rather than them being cooked out over time.
Extensive menu offerings, including a large selection of whisky
In addition to the robatayaki menu options, which consist of a wide variety of meats including pork belly, lollipop lamb chops, prawns, rib eye, and more, as well as vegetables such as corn with Shiso butter, bacon-wrapped asparagus, and Brussels sprouts, Tamari also offers a wide range of Asian fusion menu items such as sushi, customizable ramen bowls, and yakisoba noodles.
Beyond the numerous food options, and as is stated in its name, Tamari is also a whisky bar offering an extensive selection of whiskies from around the world, as well as a full bar with signature cocktails, craft beer, and wine.
Trying out the food
In order to sample something from many menu categories, my husband and I tried the following:
Our overall opinion of the food was that everything tasted very fresh. The lamb was tender and flavorful and the sauces and Shiso butter added a lot to each dish. My Blossom-tini was tart and refreshing instead of sweet and cloying like too many pink drinks in martini glasses can be, and my husband enjoyed carefully choosing the whiskies he wanted to try from such an extensive selection, many of which he’d never heard of before.
The robatayaki dishes were extremely hot (though not burned or singed) and heated all the way through, and we both agreed you really could taste the natural flavors of the food well. I can’t imagine how amazing Fresno State corn could be with the Shiso butter (like a mild, sweet garlic butter) when it’s in season, if Tamari sources it.
Though you can definitely watch your food being cooked robatayaki-style, it’s a more passive and less-engaged experience than, say, eating at a sushi bar or Teppanyaki restaurant. That being said, Tamari’s food is quite tasty and unique, and if you’re a whisky drinker, you’re sure to be delighted by all the options presented to you.
So, what do you think readers? Will you be putting a robatayaki experience on your must-try list?
Where to find Tamari Robatayaki
Tamari Robatayaki & Whisky Bar is located at 6731 N. Palm Ave. in Fresno. It is open for lunch and dinner.
Hours: Mon-Wed 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Thurs-Sat 11 a.m. to midnight, Sun 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Reservations: (559) 721-7300
Find them on Facebook.