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Roka is a modern uber stylish Japanese restaurant located on Charlotte Street. We arrived during lunch time and was incredibly busy, full of birthdays or posh work lunches. In the centre of the restaurant is a Robata grill, where the diners can see how the chefs are creating their dishes.
We were lead around the tables and sat by the window. The place is light as it has glass walls. The bamboo colour tables and white tiled flooring also add to the light fresh atmosphere.
The dishes on the menu are small and therefore you are encouraged to order a mixture of dishes and share them between the table. We started with both warm and cold sake.
We also ordered a selection of dishes to be served altogether but these came out slowly and in an almost structured order. Firstly we were served Kim Chi, which is rolled cabbage leaves soaked in a spicy chilli marinade, it was delicious, spicy but delicious, we could have eaten this all day. This is a typically Korean dish but Roka doesn’t contain itself solely to Japanese cuisine although it is their main focus.
Next we were served yellow tail sashimi, with truffle yuzu dressing, this was served slightly scorched but red raw in most of the centre and was paper thin. The truffle oil was golden and had been soaked up by the tuna; incredible is the only word to describe this.
Then we were served sushi with soft shell crab, cucumber kim chi and chilli mayonnaise, sushi with prawn tempura and teriyaki eel sushi. These came out on long thin slate platters and were clearly made fresh by the chefs in the centre of the room. The eel sushi melted in the mouth and was sweet yet light. We found the prawn tempura sushi to be awkward to eat and overly greasy yet although the soft shell crab was difficult to eat as its huge legs sprung out of the rolled sushi it was too good not to devour immediately. The crab legs were crisp yet light and almost nutty in flavour.
We then ordered the Roka favourite (by that we mean, everyone who visits Roka recommends this dish) black cod marinated in yuzu miso. This was served on a banana leaf. Once prised apart, the white milky cod just flaked with the slightest touch against the chopstick. It was such an incredible taste, a mix of crispy skin, sweet sticky marinade and the meaty white fish. With this we had white rice and a bok choy in garlic and miso sauce.
Needless to say we didn’t require a dessert and instead went for another sake – well why not?
The food in Roka is fantastic and probably the best gourmet Japanese food you will get this side of the Atlantic. The service is professional, food is delicate but incorporates the most intense flavours and it is great to see the chefs in action making the most intricate dishes. The crowded restaurant and the few weaknesses in service such as a small wait to order and wrong sake hindered our visit ever so slightly. Saying that we have been Roka in Canary Wharf and that was much quieter in the evening and more luxurious and rich in décor unlike the light and airy (although just as nice) Charlotte Street alternative. Roka deserves:
Food Atmosphere Service