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 in which skewered snacks are cooked over a charcoal grill. She felt the timing wasn't right, so the Metairie spot — the oldest Japanese restaurant in the area — built a reputation on its griddle-top hibachi and, later sushi.
But as of June 28, Kamata's dream is back. Hibachi and sushi dining areas remained untouched, but a small room — previously used for private parties — in the back of the restaurant now serves a separate robata menu. It is helmed by the restaurant's longtime general manager, Tony Toyonishi.
The room can accommodate roughly 20 people, most of which are at a wraparound bar that overlooks the grill (the restaurant uses gas, not charcoal). Strips of meat, vegetables and seafood are skewered on long wooden sticks, grilled and handed to diners over the counter.
"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 changed several times since its inception.
So far, the list has included seafood selections like white eel drizzled with wasabi soy sauce, spicy squid and mackerel. Veg- etables have included 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 usually will be able to dine at the robata grill from 5:30 p.m. to 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.