One of San Francisco’s most highly regarded sushi restaurants makes a big leap down the Peninsula today. Robin Menlo Park, a second restaurant from the team behind Michelin Guide-listed Robin in Hayes Valley, opens Wednesday, September 20 in a stunning space from Lundberg Design. The restaurant will be open for dinner from 5 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and reservations are already available via Resy. The only thing you won’t find on-site is a menu.
Chef Adam Tortosa, who opened the original Robin back in 2017, says he and the Menlo Park team, including operations and managing partner Michael Huffman and strategic partner Lloyd Sacks, hope Robin’s menu-less dining experience will make omakase more approachable for diners — whether they’ve eaten at similar chef-driven sushi restaurants before or not. As at the San Francisco restaurant, Robin Menlo Park won’t have a written menu for customers to peruse. Instead, staff will guide them through the meal based on their dining preferences and budget, with dinner available on a sliding scale between $109-$189. “It’s definitely not a traditional omakase experience,” Tortosa says. “We’re not trying to transport you to Japan.”
Because of the restaurant’s bespoke approach to omakase, diners are unlikely to ever have the same experience more than once. But the restaurant does have some signature offerings, which will be ported down to Menlo Park from San Francisco. On the nigiri front, expect to see Mt. Lassen Steelhead paired with yellow peach and local Half Moon Bay wasabi and, for a luxurious bite, saltwater-stored Japanese uni crowned with white sturgeon caviar from Sacramento. Sashimi might include hirame kombujime, or California halibut cured in Japanese kombu served with coconut and kabosu verjus, jicama, and smoked pineapple. The kitchen, led by head sushi chef Kentaro Ikuta, will also put out plates such as toro tartare made with morel reduced soy and sesame noodles dressed in Japanese “chimichurri” and black truffle.
Huffman says the extra space in both the kitchen and dining room — for example, there’s a separate private dining space and seats for about 50 diners in Menlo Park — will allow the second restaurant to get even more creative, although, for the first few weeks, they’re keeping things relatively tight. “So many of the limitations at Robin San Francisco are based on square footage,” Huffman says. “So [Menlo Park] will be familiar, but with more bells and whistles.”
One such “bell”? A full liquor license. Unlike at the San Francisco restaurant, Menlo Park diners will be able to order a couple of fingers of Japanese or American whiskey or a glass or bottle of sake. The restaurant partnered with Suntory to acquire one of those fancy highball machines, so they’ll be pushing carbonation into cocktails to order. The sake and wine list favors selections from the Bay Area including sake from San Francisco’s Sequoia and Den in Oakland. But those who want a bottle of grower Champagne or an old-world white, you’ll have options for that, too.
As for the space, the team says they wanted Robin Menlo Park to have its own identity but the general vibe — dark, modern, moody — will be familiar to those who’ve been to the San Francisco original. They used a roster of local artisans to create a dining room that feels eons away from the empty, new-build white box they started with. Ceramicists Nicole Pilar and Asato Ikeda crafted custom dishes and sake glasses, respectively, and Caroline Lizarraga filled one wall with a mural that echoes the one found in the first restaurant. Additional art comes from Ferris Plock, Michelle Morby, and Stan Zienka.
Huffman and Tortosa say they’ve been eyeing a second project together pretty much since they opened Robin in Hayes Valley. The restaurant has been an undeniable hit, even in a city crowded with top-notch sushi and Japanese dining options. What they say diners can find at Robin that isn’t necessarily the case elsewhere is an environment that’s intentionally more relaxed. Omakase can be intimidating and “unfun,” Tortosa concedes, but at Robin, they’re taking a “Northern California approach” — both when it comes to featuring non-traditional local ingredients and the approach to service. “We just want you to enjoy yourself,” Tortosa says.
Robin Menlo Park at Springline (1300 El Camino Real, Suite C) opens September 20 and will serve dinner from 5-9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.