Tucked away in an unassuming storefront along Figueroa Street is the Japanese-inspired bar-food haven you’ve been searching for. RBTA Highland Park is a new robata-style restaurant serving up meat skewers and other small bites in a very low-key environment. RBTA Highland Park
A collaborative effort from chef Justin Baey, Allen Wong from Fat Dragon, and David Tewasart from Sticky Rice, RBTA serves tasty food meant to pair well with a specially selected assortment of sake, beer, chuhai and shochu to choose from.
The interior, created by famed bar and restaurant designer Ricki Kline, resembles a back-alley Japanese eatery, with a futuristic twist. Narrow spaces between the bar, the few tables and long wall creates an intimate atmosphere akin to the hustle-and-bustle that Japan is known for, while remaining subtle enough enjoy your food in peace.
Robata is a Japanese style of cooking that closely resembles barbecue. Shortened from the word robatayaki – which literally means “fireside cooking” – this style of cooking is characterized by the extremely hot charcoal grill the food is prepared on.
Various meats and seafood are skewered or placed as is on the grill and seasoned with house-made soy sauce, spicy salt or sometimes brazed with miso paste. The selection of robata servings includes ribeye steak, spot prawn, and U10 diver scallops.
Although the the cooking style is of Japanese influenced, the majority of the menu takes from different areas of Asia and the world. You’ll see and taste culinary influences from as far as Thailand, Peru and Los Angeles.
Aside from the assortment of skewered barbecue options, RBTA offers an array of starters, rice, noodle and cold dishes. For starters, the curry rice balls are a great way to get your meal going in the right direction. The freshly caught and prepared Hamachi sashimi served with blood orange ponzu sauce is a good way to go if something cold is your preference. If you’re in the mood for a known favorite with a twist, try the Unagi garlic fried rice.