March 22, 2010

Restaurant Review: Kata Robata - Omakasa

First off, take note of the smiling faces and hidden full bellies in this picture.  Four very happy folks. And behind us, the venerable Chef Horiuchi Manabu with an equally big smile.  We give good company on a Tuesday night!  We went for the "omakase" experience at Kata Robata, which means "it's up to you" in Japanese.  This means it's up to Chef Hori on what you will be eating for dinner.  He'll ask what you like, don't like, want to try, etc and then creates dishes for you until you throw your hands up, going "stop, too full!" His dishes will be from on and off the menu or if he has some fresh fish, he may try to put something together for you!  When I think about his signature dish - I DIE. I DIE HAPPY.  So good.

Omakase costs around $60-80 per person and he focuses most of his time on you.  You sit at the sushi bar, chat with him and watch what he makes.  We went middle of the road and set a budget with the waiter and chef prior to starting.  Additionally, they also have a sake pairing for each dish and this can bump up the cost to over $100 per person.  We had 10 dishes and they were all very tasty.  Don't fret by the size of the dishes when they come out (yes, I know we live in Texas) but you'll be surprised by how full you are afterwards.  :)  You need to call in advance when you make reservations to ensure Hori-San is available.  They typically only do omakase during the week as the weekends get a little too busy. 

A little about Chef Hori (as we called him during our meal).  He's one of the few Japanese sushi chefs in Houston.  He studied for five years in Japan, .has been a sushi chef for 14 years, came to the US nine years ago and is now the executive chef at Kata Robata.  When I asked why he become a sushi chef, he answer was a simple "because I love sushi!" followed with a chuckle. Good answer! Super nice and friendly, explained everything that we ate and overall, just gave us a wonderful first omakase experience.  MMMM-kay, let's get on to the many delicious dishes!

Monkfish pate with jellyfish and noodles sits on top of a few slices of japanese cucumber slices and pool of ponzu sauce.  I was a little perplexed when I heard monkfish pate but it was very good!  Creamy texture and even better when you take a bit with some of the jellyfish and cucumber.  The fishiness is quite strong but not overwhelming. 

This is a japanese red snapper carpaccio/sashimi with grapefruit, pecans, microgreens which he sprinkled with a mixture of freshly ground pink peppercorn and sea salt. This was incredibly light, had a fresh sweet flavor and actually, one of my three favorite dishes of the night. 
Sashimi platter of (starting on the left going clockwise) fatty tuna, Japanese jack, New Zealand salmon and yellowtail. These were so fresh and it was also my first time to try the fatty tuna, jack (for everyone) and new zealand salmon.  My favorite hands-down?  Jack fish!  It was firm and a little buttery without being too fishy.  This is seasonal and they just received so yum, yum!  The Jack was my second favorite dish of the night.
You'll notice we have a combination of cooked fish and sushi/sashimi.  Chef Jean-Philippe Gaston handles the cooked food while Chef Hori is the sushi master.  This fried scallop sits on a bed of spinach puree was a nice break to the fresh fish. There HAS to be some type of cheese or cream in that spinach because man, it was smooth, silky and delicious!
Lobster ceviche with mango reduction and geoduck clam. This was a light, fresh dish after the heavier fried scalllp. The geoduck is interesting in that it's somewhat like firm jelly if that makes any sense. I've seen it before in Asian markets. It's a big clam with this long, windy arm comign from it. By itself, I was not a fan but with the lobster, red onion, avocado and a scoop of that yummy mango sauce, hrm, it's a brillant burst of fresh, creamy, fruity combination in your mouth.
Red snapper cheek and filet on a bed of mushrooms. My god, the mushrooms. I think this was so good we barely paid any attention to the fish. Ha, poor snapper!  I kid the fish was good but not fantastic.  Unfortunately, the filet was a tad overcooks so it was a little dry. The cheek, however, was what Hori referred to as the Japanese chicken wing!  There is that one thumb size piece embedded in the little nook of bone - ahhh, the prize!  It's soft and tender and that one piece makes that cheek so good that you wish you could have the other cheek just to have another bite.
Blue fin tuna tartar with golden roe. I'm not a huge fan of tuna but man, after tonights fatty tuna and then this blue fin goodness, yeps, I'm a fan now.  Don't be mistaken by those chips on the side - you probably thought they were taro chips right? Nope! They are burdock root and lotus root chips! 
So, you may be deceived by this picture. Unagi you may think? Ha! Fooled! This is Chef Hori's signature dish, which by the way, I think I asked if every other dish was his signature until he finally said, it's coming, be patient! =) It's FOIE GRAS (yes, I said foie gras) on seared scallop with a tiny bit of rice.  Then the one one in the back is foie gras on seared yellowtail.  Okay, how do I explain this. I first took a bite of the yellowtail, and I literally said, omg, wow, this is amazing.  But wait....then I ate the foie gras with scallop and I DIED. Seriously, I DIE.  It was this buttery combination of goodness, a slight saltiness combined with the smooth creamy flavor of the scallop. Wow, really, just wow.  Obviously, this was my favorite dish of the night. I want more!
Okay, I'll be honest. I was pretty full at this moment and he somehow knew to ask if we were full.  However, my friend had to ask if we could try their famous pork belly. Yum! 
So, I think I will pass on dessert the next time I go. They were not so spectacular that after such an amazing meal, I was a tad disappointed in the dessert. Mind not, I was still able to finish every bite. Waste not right? So, when I took a bite of the strawberry and red bean panna cotta topped with a strawberry and cilantro mix, I laughed out loud and asked Ross to hurry and take a bite and tell me what he thought it tasted like. I kid you not, this tasted exactly like Strawberry Hi-Chew! Texture was a little grainy and off to me but the  cilantro topping made up for it.  The other dessert in the back some type of chocolate cake with orange fluff and dressing. 

Overall, this was downright freakin fantastic. Service was great, they were there to clear our plates, fill our drinks and Chef Hori was informative, very humble, had a great chuckle and personality!  If you've never experienced an omakase dinner, this is the place to do it with a true Japanese sushi chef, who couldn't be nicer or more fun with some amazing food. Also, thanks to Fefo for taking these pictures for me!


  1. I wanna do omakase again! let's go again! sooo yummy. You know I tried to take pictures but at the end of the day... I ended up reverting back to Fefo's :0)

  2. Um, are you kidding? Looks AMAZING. Great review! Can't wait to discuss tonight in-person. Are you bringing your camera to Branch Water? ;)
    PS - Strawberry Hi-Chew dessert ... doesn't sound too bad!