Robatayaki: What It Is and Where To Try It

By Azeem Essa
Updated: April 15, 2024

Robatayaki, meaning fireside grilling, in its humble beginnings was a way to cook onboard boats and in the outdoors. It is now often found in high-end restaurants. A Japanese robatayaki restaurant is not your run-of-the-mill izakaya or a simple barbecue. Think intimate counter-style dining, a bit like kappo.

As with kappo cuisine, there is often an option for a set menu; however, in Japanese robatayaki, you can also choose from a fresh selection of ingredients and have the experience of the chef flame-grilling your meal right in front of you. 

What Is Robatayaki?

A robatayaki chef in blue samue, with his back turned to the camera

Robatayaki was invented by Japanese fishermen, as a means of preparing food during their long days at sea. The robata was designed to be able to prepare the coals during daylight and to be able to cook on the boat. Often, in Japanese robatayaki restaurants, you are served over-the-counter on a long wooden paddle. This is reminiscent of this bygone era when fishermen would use their oars to serve the fish. 

The art form has evolved, and preparing the binchotan, which is the white smokeless charcoal used in this style of cooking, is itself a skill. These highly-trained chefs know exactly how to create and maintain different heat zones on the robatayaki grill and this allows for a wide variety of meats to be prepared. The immensely popular robatayaki chicken is an example of this evolved use of robatayaki-style cooking.

Where To Eat Robatayaki

A chef checks on grilling fish at a robatayaki eatery

If you are intrigued and want to try robatayaki in Japan, we have curated a list of some great places for you to dine. 

Robatayaki in Tokyo

There are three top picks in the capital:


This restaurant is open daily for dinner, and a typical meal will cost between ¥5,000 - ¥5,999. There are lots of vegetarian and pescatarian options available, so it is a great choice for anyone with dietary restrictions. Here's what you can expect:

Book a seat at Robatasho.


Enjoy robatayaki in a 150-year-old traditional Japanese building. This is a great option for groups to experience robatayaki together as this venue has multiple robata grills. Sanrokuen is open for lunch and dinner every day except Wednesdays, and a meal will cost on average between ¥2,000 to ¥2,999. More information about Sanrokuen.

Robata Musashi Shinbashi

Robata Musashi Shinbashi is a real bargain. With dishes ranging from ¥300 upwards, you can expect to pay around ¥2,000 for a light dinner. Robata Musashi Shinbashi is open Monday to Saturday for evening meals. More information about Robata Musashi Shinbashi.

Robata Omoto Kagurazaka

Mouth-melting beef, pork and seafood from the birthplace of robatayaki take center stage here in this Kagurazaka restaurant.

Find a table at Robata Omoto.

Robatayaki in Osaka

We have two recommendations for robatayaki in Osaka:


Isaribi receives great reviews. It can be a bit tricky to find, just remember that it is below street level. Isaribi is open daily for dinner and a meal will cost around ¥5,000. More information about Robatayaki Isaribi.

Robatayaki Kakurechaya

This is another fan favorite. With dishes starting at ¥300 you can get real value for your money, but check prices with your server; high-end ingredients can bump up the meal cost. Robatayaki Kakurechaya is open daily from 4 pm to 11 pm. More information about Robatayaki Kakurechaya.

Robatayaki FAQs

A circle of skewered fish being cooked around a robata grill

We answer common questions about Japanese robatayaki.

What is a robata grill?

The Japanese robata grill is traditionally a grill with a stone encasement and a coal heat source. The ingredients don’t go directly on the heat, like they do on a Western griddle, and while it is similar to the yakitori grill, it is larger and accommodates a wider range of ingredients.

What Is the difference between robatayaki and hibachi?

You may have heard of hibachi grills as being synonymous with Western barbeque grills. Its original meaning was a traditional Japanese room heater. However, these days most Japanese people will understand Western usage of this word. 

While the hibachi in modern times is often an electric grill or a charcoal grill, the robata grill almost always uses binchotan coal as its heat source. Once the desired heat is created, robatayaki chefs use careful spacing of the ingredients to control the airflow and this maintains the ideal heat. The correct heat in robatayaki cooking is like the correct slicing technique in sushi and sashimi preparation.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Azeem Essa
Azeem travels to eat and once he finds a dish he enjoys, he relentlessly tries to recreate it. He spent most of his 20s traveling around Asia and hopes to be back there in the near future.
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