Restaurant Insider with Anne Lee: Robata JINYA and LBD Japanese Bar & LoungeRestaurant Insider
March 5, 2023
Story By: Anne Lee | Photos by: LAWRENCE TABUDLO
ANNE LEE speaks with Robata JINYA executive chef MASAKI NAKAYAMA
JINYA Ramen Bar, Robata JINYA and LBD Japanese Bar & Lounge, housed in the former 8,000-square-foot Nobu space, are three new concepts rooted in authentic Japanese cuisine. Robata JINYA offers an izakaya-style dining experience and serves Japanese tapas, a wide selection of kushiyaki, fusion-style sashimi dishes, nigiri sushi, hand rolls, and a large selection of domestic and imported beers, shochu and specialty sake to complement the dishes. I met with executive chef Masaki Nakayama, who oversees the culinary execution of the three restaurants, and sampled some of the eatery’s newest offerings.
AL: Can you tell me about Robata JINYA?
MN: The first original Robata JINYA location opened in California, with the Hawaii location being the second location to ever open. This is also the first time that our company has opened all three concepts in one location. Robata JINYA also is the central kitchen to execute all of the dishes from the three brands and serves dinner and a more upscale sophisticated menu.
AL: Robata JINYA has a sushi bar and a well-known sushi chef. Can you tell me more?
MN: We have a really popular sushi chef; his name is Q. Many know him from Sushi Sasabune, as he was there for 10 years and created the sauces. I love his food and would ask if he would join our team many times.
Guests can have traditional sushi omakase with Q at the sushi bar five days a week. (He is off Sundays and Mondays.)
AL: Tell me about your culinary background.
MN: I grew up in Japan and moved to New York City because I wanted to be a jazz musician. Being a starving artist, I found work at one of the best restaurants at the time, a Japanese kaiseki. The menu changed monthly, as well as with the seasons. I then worked at a steakhouse and became familiar with different types of meats, then on to a yasuda, a sushi restaurant. I wanted to move to a Hawaii to learn more about the culture, as it’s so unique. I came here in 2015 and started at the Hawaii Convention Center, where I was able to learn techniques from many talented local chefs. I then went on to work with Zetton Restaurants and opened Zigu, where I helped create many local dishes with locally sourced products. Due to COVID, we had to shut down, and I worked as a private chef. Then, this opportunity came along. When I was speaking with our owner, Tomo Takahashi, we had similar vision and wanted to help him promote the JINYA brand.
AL: What dishes did you create for us to try?
MN: We have a few different types of omakase options. Our Nigiri & Otsumami Omakase ($140) is served only at the sushi counter. I prepared a JINYA Signature Omakase ($120). This is made up of a few signature JINYA dishes, like our lamb chop, scallops, JINYA Tacos and A5 Wagyu Tartare.
We have an extensive Robatataki Menu with items ranging from A5 Wagyu Rib-eye Skewer ($20) to Foie Gras ($18). These are items using a special skewer grilling technique, similar to yakitori. Our lead bartender, Japheth, prepared the Grand Lava Margarita ($19) — which features Roca Patron silver tequila, grand mariner, lime juice and honey jasmine syrup — and the J. boy ($18) with Remy Martin 1739 Cognac, lime juice, almond orgeat syrup and bitters.
AL: Anything you want to share?
MN: We have happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m., and encourage making reservations (for sushi omakase, we have limited seating as it’s served only at the sushi bar).
Our founder, Tomo, grew up in the industry — his family owned a robatayaki restaurant in Japan. He developed an appreciation of food and the philosophy of kaizen, continuous improvement and hospitality.
At Robata JINYA and at any of our restaurants, you will experience that level of quality and service.