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Santa Monica’s Wild New Japanese Robata Does an Insane Nightly Light Show

For real, this place is nuts

Lights at The Robata
The Robata
Farley Elliott is the Senior Editor at Eater LA and the author of Los Angeles Street Food: A History From Tamaleros to Taco Trucks. He covers restaurants in every form, from breaking news to the culture, people, and history that surrounds LA's dining landscape.

A wild new Japanese restaurant has joined the Santa Monica fray, opening Wednesday night in the former Cadet space along Wilshire Boulevard. It’s called The Robata, and it marks the big first foray into the American dining market for one of Asia’s largest and most diversified companies. It also just might be the most insane new restaurant design LA has seen in this year.

The Robata comes to the West Coast by way of LDH, a massive conglomerate involved in everything from apparel to modeling agencies to martial arts. Their restaurant and nightlife wing is known as LDH Kitchen, and represents more than a dozen different brands under that umbrella — now including The Robata.

This new project is focused on robatayaki-format dining, meaning lots of quickly-cooked dishes grilled over hot charcoal and served fast and direct to customers. It’s a common cooking style found across the city at places high and low, and this menu combines seared meats and sides with options like fried chicken katsu cutlets, sushi rolls, and a full cocktail bar with a focus on sake.

Sushi rolls and fire

But really its all about the insane space, considering the light show that goes on nightly inside. The entire restaurant has been outfitted with what is essentially stage lighting, allowing sweeps and swirls of color along the walls, changing landscape images in the dining room, and some generally trippy visuals. LDH Kitchen sure seems eager to make an LA entrance.

The Robata is now open along Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. The restaurant has been doing some limited nights of friends and family service before now, but moving forward will keep hours from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

The Robata. 2518 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA.

Faux treescapes
Quick light changes
The way to the bathroom
Bar seating