By Vera Wadugodapitiya
We walked into Robata Grill, Mövenpick. Instantly, what struck me about the place was the ambience; the amalgamation of decor, furnishing, ornaments and color schemes that represent Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Singaporean, Korean and Thai culture. Light instrumental music filled the room. Bamboo shoots, illustrations and paintings, along with the bright glazed ceramics that decorated the shelves also added a beautiful touch to the restaurant’s overall aura.
The staff immediately welcomed us with warm smiles and we were seated as soon as we entered the restaurant. A minute later we were greeted by two chefs who would decide which dishes Robata wanted to showcase to Yamu. Our first chef was Chef Heenkenda- in charge of Japanese cuisine. Chef Heenkenda is experienced in making a variety of sushi and maki rolls that represent wonderful feats of inventiveness and innovation. Then came Thai Mama, a well known Thai chef who has been commemorated for her authentic Thai dishes and recipes that have been enjoyed by many Sri Lankan palates to this day.
So what dishes did we try?
The Achcharu Cocktail
A new addition to their beverage menu, the Accharu Cocktail is an innovative new drink that definitely suits the Sri Lankan palate, while making you wonder how such different flavor combinations can work so well. The drink was presented in an elegant cocktail glass with a slice of ambarella and salt surrounding the surface edges of the glass. The ingredients were listed for us: gin, peach purée, lime, and orange.
One sip alone is enough to remind you of a day at the beach, where you’re snacking on a bag of accharu filled with those classic flavors of vinegar, salt, chili, and sugar. Couple those flavors with some cool gin and you’ve got an ideal cocktail for the weather- delicious, flavorful, and refreshing. My favorite part of the drink was definitely that subtle kick of chili that makes it stand out as an ingenious addition to their menu.
Priced at: LKR 1900
Combination Spicy Maki
As someone who lived in Japan for four years and ate quality sushi on-the-go anytime I wanted, one can imagine why I was a little skeptical about the first ever sushi plate I’d be trying again in Sri Lanka. Yet, chef Heenkenda certainly did not disappoint! I instantly felt nostalgic when tasting this maki roll which is jam packed with flavor- not to mention the chef’s SPECIAL SAUCE. The ingredients consist of tuna, salmon, crabstick, tempura crunch, nori (sea-weed), and a splattering of roe. The fish definitely tasted fresh and flavorful- especially the flavor of salmon shone through.
Not only did the sea-food items complement each other, but the special sauce brought these different elements to life- from the fresh fish, to the crunch of the tempura, the subtle nori flavor, and that burst of roe. Take it from someone who has walked the streets of Tokyo eager to repeatedly indulge in the consumption of authentic sushi- this dish is a 10/10 in my books!
priced at: LKR 2500
Thai Style Raw Papaya Salad With Peanuts
The first Thai dish presented by Thai Mama was a popular and authentic starter- a papaya salad. While salads are not usually my personal preference, I was very pleasantly surprised by the flavor profile of this fresh and crunchy Thai dish which is popular for being a go-to Thai starter. While I’ve had raw papaya salads before, what struck me about this particular dish at Robata was the kick of spice that comes through in that initial first bite itself. It has the undertones of a spicy pickle flavor that compliments the satisfying crisp of the raw papaya, along with the freshness of the sliced tomato and the crunch of the peanuts. The serving is also quite generous and one plate was more than enough for three people to share! Overall, Thai Mama definitely did not disappoint in presenting us our first authentic Thai dish.
Priced at: LKR 1500
Chicken- Stir Fry Cashew Nut with Dry Chilli
Now here’s a dish that could very well serve to be a crowd favorite! Packed with ingredients from the bell peppers, fried onion, dried chili, garlic, and thinly battered chicken, this dish gave us a flavor profile that definitely hits the spot. Bathed in a rich sweet, salty, garlicky, and spicy sauce, this stir fry chicken was a delight to the taste buds. It was not overpowering in terms of spice, which made it easy for all those other lovely flavor combinations to shine through. The chicken itself was juicy and tender- not dry at all! And even the other ingredients such as the bell peppers and sauteed onion stood out in the dish.
It was definitely different from the usual lemon-grass and lime coated flavor that a lot of Thai dishes have. As much as I love those flavors, it was nice to try something different from the variety of Thai dishes available on the menu. If you’re someone who loves a good, sticky, aromatic, and satisfying chicken dish, the Stir Fry Chicken Cashew Nut with Dry Chili is certainly for you!
Priced at: LKR 2400
Mövenpick Special Egg Fried Rice
To accompany the wonderful chicken stir fry dish was a simple but fitting Egg Fried Rice. The ingredients themselves were simple- white rice, clothed in sheath of egg omelet. The presentation itself was different from other kinds of fried rice that usually have the egg mixed in with the rice. In this dish, the flavor of the fried omelet added to the simplicity of the garlicky rice accompanied with a treat of deep fried onion, and fresh cucumber on the side as a palate cleanser.
The fried rice did a great job at allowing the flavors of the chicken stir fry to shine. With every bit of rice, omelet, and chicken stir fry, you get a satisfying taste of asian fusion cuisine which makes Robata unique. There was also a generous serving of rice which was enough for three people.
If you want a rice dish that will accompany any side dish whether it’s a stir fry or a thai green or red curry, we would definitely recommend the Egg Fried Rice as a base dish.
Priced at: LKR 2400
Pumpkin Custard With Honey
Here’s a unique and inventive dessert that certainly caters to those who have sweet tooths! Plated beautifully and simply, this dessert had a wonderful aroma that immediately floods your senses with coconut, honey, and sesame. It was my first time trying a pumpkin dessert and I must say that the pumpkin flavor certainly doesn’t disappoint. The custard is soft and creamy and almost provides this natural nutty flavor that usually comes through in cooked pumpkin. The honey and coconut cream glaze on top is perfect at sweetening and providing this unique flavor to the custard. This dessert was certainly a great way to end the meal and cool the palate from the spice of the papaya salad, and the chicken stir fry. For something different, I would 10/10 recommend this dish!
Priced at: LKR 650
Overall, our meal was extremely satisfying and inclusive of both classic Asian flavors as well as some new and inventive dishes that are worth trying out if you want an authentic and unique experience. Robata’s staff is very attentive and warm, which only added to the pleasant experience of dining in a five star hotel restaurant. The ambience itself is unique and high-toned- but the prices are quite reasonable when considering the high flavor profiles and Asian fusion combinations provided by their menu: whether its sushi and maki rolls, East Asian curries, spicy stir fries, or even their Teppanyaki grill selection.
Robata is definitely unique in its own right and we commend the chefs for their efforts towards making our experience as authentic and enjoyable as possible! So the next time you’re in Colombo, make sure to give Robata a try! You will not be disappointed.
Review Location: 24 Srimath Anagarika Dharmapala Mawatha, Colombo 00300
Opening hours: 12pm-3pm (Lunch) & 7pm-11pm (Dinner)
Price range: LKR 1500/- – LKR 4000 per person
Website: Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts
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Menu- Visit website- Robata Grill, Colombo | Asian Restaurant in Central Colombo