Salt & Fire Robatayaki is for the special evenings: evenings of celebration and times of lavish indulgence. This new restaurant on the first floor of the equally extravagant Dragon Hotel on ShuguangRoad is perhaps Hangzhou's pièce de résistanceof fine Japanese dining.
As you'd expect from an authentic Japanese restaurant, there is an open kitchen where guests can sit and admire the food as it is being prepped and cooked in front of them. If you prefer, as well as regular table seating in private rooms, there are also several private traditional Japanese dining areas with plenty of legless chairs on tatami mats surrounding low-set pine tables lit by low hanging lights.
When we visited, we opted for the table and chairs – considering that I can't cross my legs for more than ten minutes without fidgeting. We indulged ourselves in an assortment of different dishes: Seasonal Winter Bamboo Shoots (时令冬笋, 68RMB), which you cook yourself on a small but hulking stone BBQ; Curried Udon Noodles (咖哩乌东面, 58RMB); Tomato Sashimi (暴力番茄刺身, 28RMB); Flame Conch, a beautifully cooked large mollusc (火焰海螺,78RMB); and succulent CharcoalWagyu Beef (碳烤黑毛和牛, 98RMB).
If afterwards you need a little time to let your food settle, there's a sophisticated backlit bar that serves a range of eccentrically presented cocktails (ranging from 70-85RMB), a number of exquisite Japanese whiskeys (ranging from 70-200RMB depending on age and brand), and severalShōchū Japanese spirits, of which Ikkomon (一刻者)was my favourite and is maybe one of the best spirits to be had (400RMB, 700ml bottle). If you aren't feeling adventurous, there is also a small selection of red and white wines, as well as a few bottled beers, including the refreshing Japanese rice lager beersKirin and Asahi (both 35RMB per bottle).
Smoking indoors is permitted, although it's not noticeable due to having several private rooms and booths, and there is plenty of parking available in the hotel car park. This restaurant is divine, but be prepared for a game of food roulette as there is no English provided on the menu and nobody who can speak English. But trust me, there is no such thing as a losing gamble at Robatayaki Salt & Pepper!