A Good Grilling: The Robata Grill at Lío, Ibiza


The robata grill is a traditional Japanese dining custom now honoured at Lío exclusively in Ibiza for the very first time.

TO envisage Japanese cuisine is to undoubtedly think of sushi; the exquisitely presented little rice packages emblematic of Japanese culture. Sashimi, nigiri and maki are slightly less familiar forms. But robata? Robata is another culinary concept entirely.

Translated as ‘around the fireplace’, robata’s ancient Japanese tradition of cooking over naked flames in full view of the customer descends from coastal settlements, where Japanese fishermen would grill their catch over an open fire. Fresh fish, meat and vegetables were barbequed on the charcoal hearth and, apart from a light sprinkling of salt, seasoning was kept to a minimum. Back then dining robata style meant sharing and sampling small portions of food and, today, most robata establishments remain faithful to this subtle, simplistic custom.

Until now robata was virtually unheard of in Ibiza. You would have needed to head to Tokyo, or more recently London, to sample the authentic robata experience. This summer, however, restaurant and cabaret club Lío has tapped into the robata trend and is introducing it to Ibiza for the very first time.

Lío is the remarkable new seaside dining concept set in the Ibiza Marina and the brainchild of Pacha owner Ricardo Urgell. The venue has replicated the Japanese robata grill on a stunning outdoor terrace overlooking the sea, recreating what has become a very elegant and fashionable freestyle dining form, but which still maintains its
rustic qualities.

With the guidance of robata specialists from Tokyo, the team at Lío have carefully reproduced the atmosphere of the Japanese robata – an energetic system that is perfectly suited to Lío’s dynamic setting. Waiters shout out to chefs across a dining counter and the practice becomes a performance within itself with everyone getting involved. The ritual fits perfectly with Lío’s cabaret atmosphere and the ambience of the traditional robata grill.

Lío’s grill menu maintains the minimalist leanings of the traditional robata but with striking visual impact: large plates with colourful garnishes infuse a European influence to appeal to Ibiza’s international clientele. The food is authentically flavoured and served very simply but with an exotic Mediterranean twist.

The best way to experience the robata concept at Lío is to let the staff map out your menu for you. That’s the Japanese custom. The informative staff will give you a tour of the assorted plates and sauces, offering a variation of dishes to suit your particular palette. All you have to do is inform the waiter of any allergies, and let them do all the work.

Four international robata specialists have been involved in bringing the robata flavours to Ibiza and to “reproduce the atmosphere” of the robata grill in Japan. Says one: “In a traditional robata setting the waiters shout out the orders and the chefs shout back. Robata is all about entertainment. Waiters shout and the chefs respond. Here people want to relax and chill out. It’s not fine dining, it’s loosened up a bit, to recreate a unique atmosphere.”

Diners at Lío can watch specialist robata chefs from Tokyo and London prepare fish, meat and vegetable cuisine from the comfort of their table, bar stool or lounger on the stunning outdoor terrace and be entertained by the flaming theatrics of the open air kitchen. The robata grill at Lío is an amazing way to experience the flamboyance of live entertainment and the time-honoured tastes of authentic Japanese fare without even leaving Ibiza.

First published in Pacha Magazine, Ibiza, July 2011.
© Abbey Stirling