January 05, 2011

Round Two! Kata Robata Omakase

Happy Birthday to me! Ross treated me to an omakase experience at Kata Robata and it lived up to our hype from the first time we did it early last year.  Read about my first experience here.  With such a high bar set last time, I was hoping that it would be just as good. Well, Hori-san didn't disappoint.  What I love about omakasi is that you will never get the same thing twice when you do this. 

This time, the kitchen chef was Seth Siegel-Gardner, who is on a special 6 month contract with Kata Robata.  An acclaimed chef, his experience includes being the executive sous chef of Gordon Ramsey and also worked at Aquavit, restaurant owned by Top Chef Master Marcus Samuelsson.  He was taking a break and Hori-san went to one of his dinners and he invited Seth to come to Kata Robata for an omaske experience. While there, Hori-san asked Seth to join for a few months and good thing he did!  Seth has never done Japanese and he brought such an innovative and unique level to the restaurant.  Read a Houston Press here.

Also, what I love is that Hori-san and Seth are a team. They make sure their dishes complement each other and when to use the right ingredients. I was looking forward to Hori's signature foie-gras and scallop dish, but Hori-san highlighted that Seth was featuring foie gras and didn't want to serve the same ingredient in his dishes to make sure we got a full spectrum of flavors. 

This is a long post with every detail I can recall, because I don't want to forget this myself!  And now, let's begin.

 Honey mussels with a citron vinagrette (left) and a cucumber vinagrette (right).
Left: Norweigan salmon and toro sashimi. That salmon sashimi - literally like butter and one of my favorites of the night. In retrospect, Ross offered me a piece of his because I liked it so much and I TURNED IT DOWN. What was I thinking?!?! Do-over, please.

Right: Light salad of palms of heart and jelly with pickled tomatoe, pickled cucumber, sea bean, and pickled cucumbers.  Very delicious and a nice light complement to the sushi.  Let's talk about this sea bean.  First time for me to try and completely not the taste/texture I expected.  I imagined it to be firm and hearty and it was hollow, slight sea salty taste and crispy - very good. More, please!
This was the first dish from Seth of the night. We were perplexed and a little amazed and my FAVORITE of the night.  What is this?  Grilled rice topped with uni (sea urchin) and a very thin slice of house cured "back fat."  Garnished with quail egg and a soy inflused gelatin. Sea urchin has always intimidated me and I wasn't sure I would enjoy it, but I was willing to give anything at try here.  If the thought of "back fat" sounds very unappealing or gross, get over it because it was divine.  The combination was simply perfect, the crispy plain rice with the slight grilled flavor coupled with the saltiness of the uni and the butter richness of the back fat - wow, give me more.  Two servings are really not enough for this girl!
This was a very innovative dish by Seth.  Kimchi grits (who knew such things existed) with tempura fried wasabi leaves sprinkled with bone marrow powder.  While this was my least favorite, I'm glad I had the opportunity to try such a unique dish.  The grit were very cheesy with a kick to them - a tad too cheesy for me - and the crisp-ness of the tempura was good. The bone marrow powder, I tried a little bit on it's own and was not a fan.  However, I had it again on a later dish and it worked so well that I liked it again. Ha! 

This was a sushi trio from Hori-san and another of my favorites for the night. The roll houses salmon and soft shelled crab.  On the closest one in the picture, it is topped with uni and microgreens.  As my second uni tasting of the night, well ever, I loved it.  The middle one is topped with a slice of scallop and very finely grated ginger topped off with a nice sear from a blow torch. My absolute favorite of the three. Delicious.  The right piece is topped with chopped toro and was smooth and butter, also very good.

And here, we have the foie gras! =)  It was rich yet light, buttery and creamy.  It was compacted with uni to give you a mix of flavors.  I think I could eat this for my meal with some crackers and a glass of wine. I HAPPY. On the left is braised unagi on top of season apples and pickled/candied? hibiscus leaves, topped with bone marrow powder.  I am not normally a fan of unagi simply due to it's very fishiness flavor but this was perfect!  The sweetness and the apples was a perfect combination.  If unagi was always served this way, I would be a long time fan.
This was the last dish before dessert and another unique offering by Seth.  Those black rounds are black garlic sasuage - omgosh so good. BUT, even better than that were those light brown nuggets of gnocchi goodness. Of course it's not just a normal gnocchi but he cooked the potatoes with hay so they would be infused with a smokey flavor and aroma. This was combined with edaname sprouts (a first and delicious - very similar to snow bean sprouts), purple carrot, peppers (can't remember what kind) and pickled veggies. We are absolutely stuffed at this point and I desperately wanted to finish eating this, but just couldn't.   
Oops! Here's another sushi trio we had earlier that I missed. The first one is beef tongue (slightly seared with a blow torch) with slivers of pickled ginger.  Very unique but honestly, tasted like beef!  The middle was my favorite - sushi with alaskan king crab - butteriness of the sushi combined with the saltiness of the crab was perfect.  The last one is hamachi with a sliver of jalapeno.  I think this is the first time for me to appreciate hamachi (aka amberjack) and it's firmer than salmon but still fairly butter.  Good kick with the jalapeno.  All three - gone in a few minutes!   

So remember how I mention that we were completely stuffed? Um, that didn't stop us from cleaning the dessert up! We're good eaters!  The is a chocolate cake with three different types of chocolate, or chocolate cubed as our waiter, Blake, referenced.  Very good, not too rich and it was drier than you expect by looking and smelling at it - but drier in a good way.  the middle was my favorite, black seame creme brulee topped with strawberry slices. I love creme brulee to begin with but I do love when you can actually see the vanilla and sesame seeds.  The last is a yuzu (japanese citrus) sorbet. SO refreshing!  I would eat between spoonfuls of the cake and the brulee.  It's light that normal citrus flavors and very airy.

My favorite of the night was the uni, back fat and fried rice. Second place was the foie gras and the third, by barely a thread from second, was the sushi trio of uni, scallop and hamachi. Oh, the alaskan salmon sashimi was divine too... Ah, so many good eatins, hard to rank! Overall, I give this place five stars again. Fantastic!


  1. Wow! I went there a while back for a work dinner and didn't have nearly the experience you did. Probably ordered wrong. Totally want to try omakase now!

  2. I'm sooooo HUNGRY now!!! LOVE Kata Robata! Thanks for introducing it to us. Going to have to go back now that he's got a different chef

  3. OMG! I am drooling reading/looking at your post! -Kat

  4. OMG! This is like the worst write up ever! I've been to Kata Robata many times and it's nowhere as good as the way you're describing it in your terrible blog. Come on, like get with the program missy!