No need to go hungry after a long day on the slopes at Zao Onsen! Make your way to Robata, a lamb BBQ restaurant.
The Japanese call this style "Mongolian BBQ", or "Jingisukan", ie Genghis Khan". I gave it a try and it was very good!
From the outside Robata restaurant looks nothing special. If there was no sign announcing "eating place, sleeping place and onsen place" above the entrance, you would think that you enter an apartment block.
However, once you step in, the smell of roasted meat makes your mouth water and the vapor of steamy air makes your glasses, if you wear any, film over.
You are guided to a table with a built-in hot frying pan. The fire is not on yet and the table is empty.
What is served here is lamb meat which is eaten roasted by dipping the mouth-sized pieces into a sauce and then letting the meat melt in your mouth. This is definitely a meat-heavy meal, although there are some vegetables, which will also be fried, that accompany the meal.
Once you have ordered (an English menu is available), a large plate with raw lamb meat arrives as well as a pot with sauce and some small dishes with pickles. The meat is presented on a bed of cabbage and other vegetables, including green paper, mushrooms and pumpkin.
Now the action starts: the fire is switched on and you are given a large apron which you bind around your neck.
With your chopsticks you put the meat and vegetables on the pre-heated pan and watch it roast. From time to time you turn it around until it is roasted to your liking.
Although the roasted lamb meat is the main dish on offer, there comes rice and a miso soup with it, if you like.
The "Jingisukan" course costs you yen 1,200. If you like rice and miso soup in addition to the meat and vegetables, then expect to pay yen 1,500.
Robata is more than a restaurant though. What looks like an apartment block from the outside actually houses a pension and a hot spring, in addition to the restaurant.
There is also a "foot onsen" in front of the building where you can warm up your cold feet before getting your food.
You can print out of a voucher from their website which entitles you to a 5% discount on BBQ meals or a 3% discount on your stay.
This is THE place where you can power up for the next day's fun on the slopes.