The fare at Roka Akor defies definition. One might say it is Japanese cuisine seen through a European lens. Or perhaps it’s simply sushi for the timid. Call it what you will, this sleek new outpost of the London-based chain promises good times at the corner of Jackson and Montgomery streets.
Stepping inside is akin to arriving at an underground nightclub, where black walls are punctuated with clusters of pinhole lights and a glowing staircase. Past a slatted wood wall, the dining room is contemporary and spare, with bare wood tables, concrete floors, and a chill soundtrack and modern textural walls that set the stage for the fun, fusion-like dishes coming from the fiery robata grill stations and open kitchen.
It is here that chef Roman Petry, who cut his teeth in the Michelin-starred kitchens of Europe, is crafting a menu that means to surprise and satisfy a variety of tastes. His appetizer of butterfish tataki is wrapped around spears of white asparagus and dressed in yuzu. Other standouts include a cheeky combination of chicharrones with fresh Mendocino uni and an impressively huge, sweet Madagascan tiger prawn that’s grilled and served like lobster in a split shell with yuzu koshu chili and lemon.
Twice weekly, unusual items such as white tuna and hamachi belly are imported from Tokyo’s Tsukiji market to become lavish sashimi presentations at the deft hand of sushi chef Mike Lim (formerly of Morimoto Napa). Meanwhile, pastry chef Alexander Ruiz (Redd) turns out jubilant, birthday-worthy desserts. His frozen creations—like an apricot-vanilla usugiri (right) with roasted fruit, or the punchy yuzu “snowball” with coconut and summer berries—are especially memorable.
Locals who remember the old Zinnia space will forget it altogether upon descending into Roka Akor’s sexy subterannean bar and lounge, where former Alembic bar manager Daniel Hyatt is mixing expertly balanced drinks. Try his Lima Bean—an unexpected twist on the Pisco sour.
This article was published in 7x7's September issue. Click here to subscribe.