Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lunching @ Robataya Oton - Part Three: Few Menu Additions

A few updates in Robataya Oton's lunch menu. I noticed some newer items earlier in the year and been slowly trying over the last several months. My first post when they had just started lunch service in 2011 can be read in Part-one here, and another update Part-two a year and half later here. Other mentions are randomly scattered about my blog as usual.

They've definitely gotten more popular as a lunch spot compared to the days I did those early posts. So if your group would like to sit in the cozy cubbyholes be sure to come early (I'm not sure if they take reservations during lunch). The smaller counter space up front is where I usually sit since I prefer the better light for photographing.

I was probably most into trying their Ten-don (Tempura Donburi, $10.50). Was a nice bowl with all the tempura made to order, hot and fresh. The shrimp had a good springy texture and the squid also soft, helped some by skilled knife scoring.

I love Shiitake (I've heard called 'the abalone of the forest' which I think is neat) and the Ooba green-shiso leaf battered on a side was happy to see. The oil used seems pretty neutral (no flavor or scent of sesame detected) and the sauce on the lighter side but it's not like I was expecting an Edomae experience. Its personality fit Oton's. The only small but unfortunate thing is it seems the unpretty head of mushy rice is rearing itself up again which I thought was dealt with during my second update post. It's not too bad but I really hope they fix this once and for all.

I almost forgot, your lunch starts with a small starter salad now, chilled and crisp. Since I enjoyed the tendon I tried next the Ten-soba (Tempura Soba) which is available as an Udon as well. Comes with two Inaris and not a bad deal at $8.50 I thought.

One thing I noticed earlier with their optional side mini-sobas was how the broth here seemed to have gone from very light Kansai-style to dark/robust Kanto overnight. I personally prefer this stronger Kanto flavoring so not complaining, just was a little surprised.

The noodles are off the shelf and so softer but there's something oddly calming and reassuring about it, haha. But don't get me wrong, I sure dream of a handmade teuchi shop to open in SD one day. I thought these shrimp could've been prepped better as they didn't seem to be strategically 'broken' in areas to fry straight. Being shaped a question mark the thicker end were tougher, but overall it was a pretty pleasant bowl despite.

They have Japanese Curry now (yay, hehe). The standard is $8 but this Kurobuta (Berkshire) Katsu Curry special was around ~$10 if I remember right. A much less viscous style, it's a very wa-fu rendition, created more with the intention of the Curry Udon (coming up). Was a little too light for me and the rice-to-curry ratio being off didn't help (I needed way more curry). They know how to fry here though and the pork cutlet was great, crispy on the out, moist and tender in, calculating carryover heat.

The Curry Udon I had most recent (twice) and the curry definitely matches this dish better. Has that good underlining but noticeable wa-fu dashi flavor and the aburaage (fried tofu skins) were a nice touch. Having said that I do prefer Okan's more concentrated version much more but Oton's is a good lighter alternative. Not bad, only different. The last new permanent addition is a Nigiri Sushi set but at $16.50 a bit over my lunch budget and didn't try for the post.

One day's special was a Kurobuta Katsudon that I did try. The katsu was a little smaller than I expected but nicely done otherwise. Eggs were not overcooked, still left a little wiggly in some areas. Overall a decent rendition but still not quite up there with the great one I had at Otafuku Noodle House in Gardena. Definitely one of the better had in San Diego though. I opted for the mini soba here which is an upgrade (also optional mini udon) in place of the miso soup for $2.

Other specials often seen were their bento boxes of Berkshire katsu and grilled mackerel, as well as (maybe my favorite) fried panko crusted sardines and sashimi.

The rice issue doesn't happen often enough that it prevents me from inviting friends. But hopefully the kitchen will resolve it once and for all. :) I'll be looking forward in having the Ten-don again but for the most part my favorite lunches at Oton remain the same. The Spicy Harami-don, budget conscious Tori Soboro-don and Yakitori-don.

Robataya Oton, 5447 Kearny Villa Rd # D, San Diego, CA 92123


caninecologne said...

Wow, you've tried so many dishes! Makes me want to go back to try those noodle dishes. The first and only time I went here was a couple of years ago with my daughter. we liked the finely ground chicken on top of rice. this was the place with the most awesome toilet ever!!!! the one that blows air and water!!! ha ha!

Junichi said...

Man, at first glance I thought the rice in the bento box was potato salad. Doesn't look appetizing at all!

Dennis K. said...

Hi CC! The visits were spread out a couple months or more. I remember you were really impressed with their toilet, haha!

Hey Junichi! Only a quarter of it was mushy but it's still annoying when it happens. (Btw, I took out the Instagram shot after realizing it was the same meal..)