Why go here:
To try out Japanese Robatayaki dishes. For those that don’t know, Robatayaki cuisine means fire-side cooking and involves slow grilling meats and fish over hot charcoal. It’s like a version of barbecue, only without the overly sweet and sticky additives.
What it looks like:
The Canary Wharf branch that we went to was surprisingly big. The corridor to the dining area is lined with jars of sake. The walls were specially cool- they were like wooden motifs with the light behind the panels streaming in through the micro-pores. From a distance, you’d think they are just pretty floral-designed golden walls. Only when you come closer do you observe the thousands of mini crevices that have been drilled in to give the appearance of the patterns.
The menu is quite extensive and we found ourselves ordering a bit too much because we were too keen to try all the different dishes! We started off with some maki rolls of crispy prawn, avocado, soy and chrysanthemum. The roll comes sliced up, so it looks just like sushi. The combination of the crispy prawn with the creamy avocado worked really well. The chrysanthemum leaflets were stuck around the rice case and added a subtle floral hint to the dish.
Next came the Butterfish tataki with yuzu shallot dressing. This dish felt like a bit of a rip off because for the price, the amount served was too small. The butterfish was sliced so thin that I could hardly taste it. However, this really was the only disappointing dish I had., so I’m not holding it against Roka!
Our final starter was a dish of spicy fried soft shell crab with chilli and garlic. This is a must try. The crab was very crispy on the outside and oh so soft, juicy and sweet on the inside! The dish is also quite well presented, with the entire crab being fried up into a blooming flower-like structure and placed in a bowl of the red, tangy chilli-garlic sauce.
Moving onto mains, I ordered the seam bream robata which had been marinated in ryotei miso and then grilled to produce the best seabream I’d ever had. The fish was melt-in-your-mouth and had a slight smoky flavor which went well with the red onion salad on the side.
My friend ordered the robat beef ribeye was equally mouth-watering.
Finally, we go onto desserts and you don’t usually expect Japanese places to have that good desserts but Roka’s was some of the best I have ever had- both in terms of presentation and taste. I would go back just to have some of their desserts. I ordered their dark chocolate and green tea pudding with pear ice cream. The attention to detail in the dish was surprising. A square block of dark chocolate pudding with ‘Roka’ written all over the chocolate glaze on top. As you cut into the pudding, the gooey insides flow out and amazingly, the green macha tea and the chocolate come out separately and with the colors totally intact! The earthy sweet flavours of the creamy macha tea mix complement the what-appears-to-be molten chocolate sauce beautifully!
My friend orders a meringue bomb which as you break into, you discover the caramel, chocolate ganache, ice cream and more! This is really is a kid’s ultimate dream come true. How they would have prepared such a dish, I have no idea!
This is my favourite Japanese in London currently. The presentation, technique and taste of the dishes is really impressive. Highly recommended for those that would like to try Japanese food beyond sushi, specially Japanese BBQ. Of course, you can go here just for the desserts- they really are works of art!