While it’s easy to find a place for takeout sushi in Hudson County, it’s harder to find a place to sit down, spread out, and enjoy a wide menu. Robongi, with its locations in Hoboken and Weehawken, emphasizes the freshest, highest quality fish and provides a wide variety of Japanese delights in a restaurant setting.
The first location opened nine years ago at 520 Washington St. It has become quite popular, and reservations for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights are recommended, said manager Ivan Sze. Two and a half years ago, a second location was opened inside the ferry terminal at Port Imperial in Weehawken, which boasts a patio with waterfront views.
“We’re very concerned about the quality of the fish,” said Sze on a recent afternoon, noting that what separates Robongi from the other restaurants is the quality and quantity. “It must be fresh,” he said. “We get delivery six days a week, except Sunday. We pay a higher price for the fish. Customers try it and know it’s a much better fish. Secondly, quantity. It’s not small. We keep it a nice size. The third thing is service.”
The menu boasts more than 150 dishes and rolls. One of the favorites is not even on the menu: The volcano roll, which contains grilled salmon, spicy mayo, tobiko, scallions, king crab, snow crab, and kani (crab steak). Robongi sells 150 of those per day on weekdays and 200 to 250 per day on weekends, Sze said.
Their most popular rolls on the menu are Sex on the Beach (“I don’t know if they like the name, or the roll”), with black tobiko and crab tempura, and I-Mate, soft shell crab and king crab wrapped in a colorful soy paper.
During a recent visit, it was hard to choose just one appetizer off the menu. The price range for appetizers is $4 to $11 and they range from edamame (soybeans) to garlic shrimp.
The regular sushi rolls run from $3.50 to about $6.50. We sampled the California roll (a traditional roll with crabmeat, avocado, and cucumber). The California has no raw meat, so it’s a good one for the sushi beginner. I enjoyed the combination of flavors, and it definitely tasted fresh. The roll was $4.50. I also tried a Dragon roll, also somewhat traditional. At $11, it contained eel and cucumber, with avocado slices wrapped around the outside to brighten things up. The eel was delicious in its special sweet sauce. It was a good contrast to the vegetables.
But I had to try the special rolls as well – particularly the I-Mate. I enjoyed the mix of flavors in the I-Mate, the crunch of the soft shelled crab and the softness of the avocado. It was tangy and delicious and was also intriguing looking in its thin, pink soy wrap. I also tested out the Zab’s roll (spicy white tuna, avocado, cucumber, masango, kani and soy wrapper, $13). Like the Dragon and the I-Mate, it was a perfect combination that fit just right into the mouth.
Other rolls on the menu range from black yellowtail to Maine lobster.
The menu also boasts some Japanese non-sushi dishes such as teriyaki (you can even get lobster or sea bass teriyaki), tempura (fried in a delicate batter), donburi (rice bowl), and salads. Prices range from $11 to $25 for most.
The waiter also served long pieces of fresh fish: tuna, striped bass, salmon, yellowtail, Spanish mackerel. The raw fish without rice is known as sashimi. Draped atop a hill of rice, it’s called sushi, and when rolled up, it’s a sushi roll.
Desserts and more
Does Robongi have dessert? Sure! The Hoboken menu boasts tempura ice cream, chocolate mousse cake, and chocolate lava cake for $5.25 to $6.50.
Robongi’s Hoboken location is at 520 Washington St. Call (201) 222-8388, (201) 386-8806, or (201) 386-8892. In Weehawken, it’s located at 4800 Ave. at Port Imperial, in the Port Imperial Ferry Terminal. Call (201) 558-1818 or (201) 558-1888.
To check them out on the web, go to www.robongijapan.com.
Caren Matzner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org