Japanese and Korean casual fine dining at Roboto in Calangute

Chef Oishik Neogy’s Roboto is a Japanese izakaya-style restaurant in Calangute with a focus on sustainability and a minimal carbon footprint. 
The entrance to roboto, a japanese and korean restaurant in calangute. Image: preeti verma lal
The entrance to Roboto, a Japanese and Korean restaurant in Calangute. Image: Preeti Verma Lal

On the way to Calangute beach, ignore the sculpted dolphins huddled at the roundabout, drive past St Alex Church and keep an eye out for a tubby robot in a kimono. He has travelled around the world and now lives in Goa. His name: Roboto. Yes, that globe-trotting fictional robot lends his name to Roboto, the one-year-old Japanese and Korean contemporary street style and izakaya style restaurant that is bringing the gourmand to its grey/off-white yard. 

The restaurant’s large grey door opens into a sun-kissed courtyard where white frangipani and white lotus bloom while large white flowers are painted on the wooden boundary separator. There are teal and yellow cushions, an old-fashioned chest of drawers and money plants hanging from the ledge. Amidst all this are the tales of Chef Oishik Neogy who is serving the best ramens and donburis this side of town. 

With a four-year degree in hotel management from Manipal, and stints in Phu Quoc (Vietnam) and 1-Michelin star Gaa (Bangkok), Chef Neogy donned the Roboto toque five months ago. Though he has not visited Japan or Korea, the chef brought along all the Japanese food conversations and lessons that he picked up in the beach-side shack in Vietnam. Lessons about the joys of making everything in-house and combining it with local flavours. 

“After my internship in the 1-Michelin star Bangkok restaurant, I was planning to head to Japan, but the pandemic dramatically changed my itinerary. Roboto was up and running, the menu was ready and when the call came, I decided to troop down from my home in Kolkata to this izakaya. It has barely been five months since I donned the black apron here, but the journey has been exhilarating,” says Chef Neogy.

Chef oishik neogy of roboto has previously worked in vietnam and bangkok
Chef Oishik Neogy of Roboto has previously worked in Vietnam and Bangkok. Image: Preeti Verma Lal

In the 50-cover restaurant that sits on the ground floor of Red Thread boutique hotel, the Ramens and the Donburis are the most ordered. There’s the Miso Ramen with bamboo shoot, mushroom and nori; the spicy cold Kongguksu with dressed cucumber, mushroom, carrot and choice of tofu/shrimp/chicken. In the creamy bone broth of Tonkotsu Ramen float chashu pork and shoyu tare. For the Donburi, you can take your pick from tofu/chicken/pork Katsudon or Terikayi fish with an accompaniments basket including smoked cherry tomatoes, huaguay, steamed vegetables and furikake (a dry condiment). 

Nasu dengaku (smoked aubergine, miso glaze, nasu tare & butter) is one of the many vegan options at roboto. Image: preeti verma lal
Nasu Dengaku (smoked aubergine, miso glaze, nasu tare & butter) is one of the many vegan options at Roboto. Image: Preeti Verma Lal

Of the many on the menu, Chef Neogy’s favourites are Nasu Dengaku, Teriyaki Fish Donburi, and the Crusted fish from the Small Plates list, though he says Tonkatsu Ramen and Chawanmushi (savoury custard with prawns or tofu) are the biggest crowd pullers. 

Those with a sweet tooth might be a tad disappointed in Roboto — there are only two dessert options: ginger cookie served with mango sorbet (Rs 350) and a black banana bread accompanied by miso chocolate ganache and sesame dulche de leche (Rs 300).

The best-selling chawanmushi at roboto
The best-selling Chawanmushi at Roboto

At Roboto, the dishes are the closet approximation to what one would get in a Japanese izakaya. What lends an edge is Chef Neogy’s commitment to sustainability and a minimal carbon footprint. Most of the ingredients are sourced from South Goa; the furthest they go is about 120 kilometres to pick zucchini, English cucumber, baby bok choy and a few exotic vegetables. 

“In the current situation, it is important to adhere to the farm-to-table notion of sustainability. We do not import anything; instead, we source the imported items from stores within India. Also, since we make our noodles, miso, basically everything in-house, the ingredient inventory is always fresh,” adds Chef Neogy. 

Roboto’s bar is small but efficient. The choices aren’t countless but enough to satiate Bacchus. There are sharing cocktails, too — Yuzu Spritzer: Rs 2,200, Wasabi Mary: Rs 2,000, Party set of shots: Rs 1,200. Currently, the restaurant does not offer food/beverage pairings but offers in-house plum/apricot liqueurs and bitters. 

Ginger cookie with mango sorbet at roboto
Ginger cookie with mango sorbet at Roboto

The portions at Roboto are reasonable, as is the price. The vegetarian options are by default vegan. The service is quick and the ambience delightful. Chef Neogy plans to add more vegan and vegetarian options in the next quarter.

“In the first quarter of 2022, the menu will be more engagingly expansive. Beyond the current vegan options in tataki, gyoza, karaage, there will be added alternatives in a bowl. The new menu is still under wraps but keep your palates ready for more toothsome dishes,” he says. 

Hopefully, at Roboto, there’ll be additions for the sweet toothed too.

Restaurant vocabulary 

  • Tataki: Meat or fish either seared or pounded
  • Gyoza: Pan-fried dumplings
  • Kaarage: Ingredient lightly coated with flour and deep-fried
  • Donburi: Literally ‘bowl’, it is a rice bowl dish topped with various ingredients
  • Okonomiyaki: Savoury pancake made of wheat flour batter and other ingredients
  • Katsudon: A bowl of rice topped with a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet, egg, vegetables, and condiments in a Japanese rice bowl

Suggested read: Decoding the DNA of Goa, India’s capital of coolth

Good to know

Address: 5/2, Naikawaddo, near Dolphin Circle, Calangute, Goa 403516

Timings: 12 noon to 11 pm

Vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free options available

Reservation: 10% discount if you book on eazydiner.in. Restaurant phone: 080-108 31200.

Buy bottled Kombucha: 4 flavours available (200 ml, price: Rs 280) 

Read more. 

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