Robata Jones is a fun and tasty Japanese izakaya located in a "Little Japan" area of Artarmon. There you'll find super tasty and unusual Japanese treats like stingray jerky, toothfish neck or you can order sashimi and skewers of beef or lamb! They're also dog and winter friendly with a heated outdoor eating section.
It was an impromptu dinner decision spurred on by an unseasonably warm Winter's day. Late one Sunday afternoon I said to Mr NQN, "I know we said we wouldn't do anything but I need some eating out stories so how about we take Teddy for a walk Northside and then have some Japanese food? There's an outdoor section". I have to pitch eating out just right to him, if there's Japanese food, outdoor seating and we can get Teddy's run over and done with then that's a thumbs up from him.
We pull up to the little alleyway just near Artarmon station where there's a little enclave of Japanese shops and restaurants. We've eaten at Rahmen Genki but we are here to try its izakaya neighbour Robata Jones. An izakaya is a convivial, informal Japanese drinking and food establishment popular with people for after work food and drink. Its not quite like a pub although the comparisons can be drawn there but an izakaya's food menu is usually comprehensive with plenty of food options. When I lived in Japan most of the times that we went out to eat it was at izakayas.
Robata Jones opened up just before COVID and is a sister restaurant to Sushi Jones in Alexandria and North Sydney as well as Sushi Den in Rose Bay and Vaucluse and Sushi Taro next door to Robata Jones. Mai Nagashima, a member of the family that owns Robata Jones explains, "The name is a tribute to my dad's long business partner "Bob Jones". Robata meaning grill in Japanese, so we decided "Grill Jones"! Dad thought Jones would be catchy and easy for locals to catch on." They decided to focus on dishes that are not often seen in Australia. Mr NQN and I booked a table outside and a little tip: do book because we watch them turn away quite a few people. It's very popular especially around 6:30pm. The outdoor tables are all dog friendly and they're barriered from the wind with glass panels and diners are kept warm with outdoor heaters.
I'm taken straight back to Japan with the all-picture izakaya menu. I am completely smitten with the selections with its unusual choices like stingray jerky, crunchy chicken cartilage and there is a range of fish heads too but even if you're not an adventurous eater there are plenty of choices from miso eggplant, assorted sashimi and chicken teriyaki. Service is absolutely lovely and timely and when I ask they are happy to make recommendations.
Stingray Jerky $7.20
We have peach sodas and start with stingray jerky, thin strips of chewy stingray jerky. These have a mild fishy flavour and a flavoursome, sweet taste. It's very good and perfect beer food and even Mr NQN who finds jerky a bit dry enjoys this.
Crunchy Chicken Cartilage Bone $7.20
I always used to order crunchy chicken cartilage at izakayas because I love the crunchy white bone part of chicken. I used to have this with lots of lemon and Tabasco suace but here they serve it with a cod roe sauce which lends it a nice flavour similar to taramasalata. The bones are satisfyingly crunchy and tasty like pieces of crunchy deep fried chicken.
Salmon Tartare $12.80
We both love the salmon tartare "tacos" which are sashimi salmon cubes marinated with spicy miso sauce with small sheets of sesame seaweed. You scoop some of the perfectly seasoned sashimi onto the pieces of nori and fashion yourself a delicious little taco. There's enough for 6 pieces so it can be shared.
Seared Vinegar Mackerel $8
Vinegar mackerel is a really popular dish in Japan but you don't see it much here in Australia so when I see it I always order it. It is thin mackerel slices marinated in a sweet vinegar and then seared or torched. It's really good as part of an izakaya meal to help cut through any fatty or oily dishes and a great accompaniment with beer.
Boiled Hokkaido Crab 2 for $9.80
The boiled Hokkaido crab are two small crabs that are boiled and served with vinegar. It takes quite a bit of patience to pick at these with the pick provided but Mr NQN is a very patient person while I move into the other goodies.
Mushrooms with Truffle Onion Sauce $4.50 each
Whatever you do you must order the mushrooms with truffle onion sauce. There are three enormous, fat and juicy mushrooms per skewer and they're just so incredibly juicy and delicious that you are left wondering why aren't my mushrooms like this? They sit in some truffle onion sauce and I recommend ordering at least one skewer per person they're that good.
Pork Belly With Sauce or Salt Pepper $4.60 each
We also love the pork belly which you can order with tare sauce or salt and pepper so we have one of each as there's a minimum order of two. I think I slightly prefer the saucy version but the salt and pepper one is also tasty and there's just the right amount of meat to fat here so that it isn't dry or too fatty.
Toothfish Neck $20.90
We're down to our mains (and yes I over ordered but Your Honour I was very excited). There are a lot of seafood dishes on the menu but the most popular is the Toothfish neck with saikyo miso or sweet miso sauce. It has a beautiful sweet and salty flavour to it plus the neck has a luscious amount of fat and is easy to eat as the bones are large.
Grilled Eel Bowl Medium $19.80
There are also quite a few eel dishes and I had my eye set on the grilled eel bowl that sits on a layer of shredded egg and rice. The eel is so luscious and springy in texture and the shredded egg and rice is the perfect complement to the saucy fish. We've ordered way too much but they pack all of our leftovers up and I can't wait to have the eel that next day for lunch.
Hoji Cha Ice Cream $6
The hoji cha ice cream is a special treat from the owner Mai as we find out that she's a reader of the blog! It's a hojicha ice cream, creamy and rich with two chocolate wafers. I love hojicha tea and if matcha tea isn't your thing then give hojicha tea a try as it is roasted and less grassy than matcha. And even little Teddy Elliott gets a tiny taste of this for being such a good boy.
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever been to an izakaya? Are you an adventurous eater or less so?
This meal was independently paid for.
8 Wilkes Ave, Artarmon NSW 2064
Tuesday to Thursday 5–9pm
Friday to Sunday 11:30am–2:30pm, 5–9:30pm (9pm Sundays)
Phone: (02) 9299 4999