When Masako "Peggy" Kamata opened her hibachi and sushi restaurant Shogun (2325 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, 504-833-7477; www.shogunneworleans.com
) in 1981, she dreamed of having a section dedicated to robata, a style of Japanese cooking where skewered snacks are cooked over a charcoal grill.
But she felt the timing wasn’t right, and so, the Metairie spot — the oldest Japanese restaurant in the city — built a solid reputation for its griddle-top hibachi and, later, sushi.
But as of June 28, Kamata’s dream is back. Hibachi and sushi dining areas have remained untouched, but a tiny room — previously used for private parties — in the rear corner now serves a separate robata menu. It is helmed by the restaurant’s longtime general manager, Tony Toyonishi.
The tiny room can accommodate just under 20 people, most of which are at a wraparound bar that overlooks Toyonishi on his grill (the restaurant uses gas, not charcoal). Strips of meat, vegetables and seafood get skewered on long wooden sticks, grilled and handed over the counter to diners.
“It’s really meant to be more like drinking food, small things you eat one at a time,” Toyonishi says of the menu, which has already changed several times since its inception, while he evaluates what customers prefer.
So far, the list has included seafood selections like white eel drizzled with wasabi soy sauce, spicy squid and mackerel. Vegetables might include daikon radish with miso glaze or shiitake mushrooms coated in thick shrimp paste. For carnivores, there are beef and foie gras skewers, chicken meatballs in demi-glace, pork belly with plum paste and shiso and a slew of bacon-wrapped selections, including scallops, oysters and enoki mushrooms.
Toyonishi says part of the fun is offering a daily special, which he chooses based on what strikes his fancy at the market. Recently, specials have included skewered roasted duck and sea snails, or whelks, which he fills with fish stock, herbs and shiitake mushrooms and tops with a quail egg.
The hours for the robata room differ from the main restaurant, but guests will usually be able to grab a seat between 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.
For more information, visit the restaurant’s website here.