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RBTA, Highland Park
Wonho Frank Lee

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This New Highland Park Robata Restaurant Fuses the Flavors of Los Angeles

The shoebox is Highland Park’s newest place to dine

Matthew Kang is the Lead Editor of Eater LA. He has covered dining, restaurants, food culture, and nightlife in Los Angeles since 2008. He's the host of K-Town, a YouTube series covering Korean food in America, and has been featured in Netflix's Street Food show.

Sometimes a little slice of Tokyo lands in Los Angeles and it’s a delightful find. RBTA, from chef Justin Baey and a collaboration with Allen Wong (Fat Dragon) and David Tewasart (Sticky Rice), opens tonight in the heart of Highland Park’s packed Figueroa Street. Just note that tonight’s opening isn’t quite official, which means they’ll still be smoothing out service as the week progresses. The main intrigue of the restaurant lies in grilled things on skewers, as the shortened robata name would suggest.

Justin Baey, who hails from Singapore, worked at Soi 7 in Downtown (where he met Tewasart) and put in time at Ricardo Zarate’s Picca, which sported a very good robata grill in its own right. While the menu (and the interior) evokes a kind of Tokyo back-alley eatery, the flavors aren’t strictly Japanese. There are elements of Peru, Thailand, Japan, and “Los Angeles,” which one assumes is a license of use any of the ingredients from the city’s collection of international cuisines. Interior design work comes from Ricki Kline, who gives the narrow space a futuristic feel.

Early looks on Instagram indicate a heavy lean on pickled ingredients, plus a preview dish of grilled black tiger shrimp with yuzu butter and pickled breakfast radish. Hours will run Tuesday to Sunday, 5 p.m. to midnight, adding a nice late night option to the Eastside neighborhood.

RBTA. 5629 12 Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90042. 323-259-6474

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