Vegetable Mixed Grill
Steven Raichlen's travels on the barbecue trail have taken him to some pretty remarkable restaurants, but none has been as unabashedly theatrical as Tokyo's Inakaya. The moment you enter, a waiter in a blue robe announces your arrival; his colleagues repeat the announcement in voices that could rouse the dead. You take your seat amid more shouting ("the customer is sitting down"; "The customer is ordering") at a U-shaped bar facing a large display of meat, seafood and vegetables. You point to the ingredients that strike your fancy and the robabta-yaki begins. This style of simple heart cooking takes its name from the Japanese words ro (the hearth around which peasants once gathered for warmth and cooking) and yaki (grilled).
The most remarkable aspect of robata-yaki is the utter simplicity of the preparation: most of the fare is seasoned solely with salt and sesame oil, so each ingredient tastes like itself, only more so. This mixed grill of vegetables has many virtues, not the least of which is that it's the best way Raichlen has found to cook okra.