Photos and words by A Girl has to Eat and myself.
The chain of Roka restaurants offer a unique style of contemporary Japanese robatayaki cuisine, a cooking method where items of food are slowly grilled over hot charcoal. The original branch of Roka opened on Charlotte Street to much success and subsequent branches followed in Canary Wharf, Mayfair and on Aldwych. But the menu extends beyond just robata dishes. There is also a delectable selection of sashimi and nigiri, fried options including tempura, snacks, soups and rice dishes such as hot pots with lobster and miso butter.
We visited Roka Aldwych which opened last November. Designed by Claudio Silvestrin who was also responsible for L’anima and Alan Yau’s Princi on Wardour Street, the restaurant is spacious and grand with a sleek, contemporary minimalist look, a style for which Silvestrin is well known. Like all the other Rokas, the robata grill plays centre stage at Roka Aldwych, and in addition to the tables in the main dining room, guests can also eat in the lounge area and at the robata bar.
We started with the yellowtail sashimi with truffle yuzu dressing, mizuna and pickled vegetables (£14.60), and the spectacular scent of truffle immediately caught our attention when the dish arrived at our table. This dish was pure perfection. The quality of the fish and the balance of the truffle yuzu dressing was absolutely flawless. It was an exquisite dish and we enjoyed it immensely. If you only order one thing at Roka Aldwych, this has to be it.
We followed this with the 5-piece sashimi selection and the tuna tartare. The sashimi included salmon, tuna, sea bream, yellow tail and sweet shrimp (£26.60) and was delectable. The quality, taste and texture of the sashimi were sublime, and the fish was unquestionably of the highest grade.
The tuna tartare with oscietra caviar and quail egg yolk (£12.60) was a clever spin on a French favourite. The French tradition was not lost as we ceremoniously combined fish with the egg and caviar to enjoy the tartare in its entirety. This was served with a lovely piece of crunchy crispbread which added contrast. Again, this was as marvellous as the previous dishes.
From the tataki section, the seared beef striploin with black truffle dressing, cucumber, daikon pickle and miso tapioca crisp (£13.00) was another enjoyable dish. The beef was wonderfully tender and tasty, although the black truffle dressing was not as aromatic as that of the truffle ponzu dressing in the yellowtail sashimi dish.
The rock shrimp tempura with wasabi pea seasoning and chilli mayonnaise (£14.30) came with rock shrimp that was sweet and plump. As for the batter, it wasn’t a traditional tempura batter, but it was very enjoyable nevertheless as it was light and crispy. This was a tasty modern recreation of a traditional favourite with a solid dipping sauce.