Whenever I walk past the original ROKA in Charlotte Street it’s totally heaving. On our Saturday early lunchtime visit it’s no different – after 10 minutes of the doors being flung open the place is packed.
We’re seated at the wooden counter overlooking the open kitchen with robata grill – the chefs are non stop. Definitely sit at the counter if you can. Service is fast and efficient which is impressive considering the size of the place.
Sushi-wise we order fatty tuna (£14) and salmon (£7.30) nigiri which are perfectly formed little treats. The tuna, known as ‘o-toro’, has flavour galore. You almost don’t need wasabi or soy sauce.
Unagi maki (£9.60), that’s freshwater eel, and crispy prawn with avocado maki (£9.60), again are both fine examples of sushi. Flavour and textures in abundance.
Tiger prawn tempura (£13) are less special. The prawns are just slightly undercooked giving them a pappy texture and the tempura batter is less crisp than I’d hoped.
Beef, ginger and sesame dumplings (£9.30) bring things back to brilliant. Half crunchy, half moreishly gelatinous. And the sprinkled sesame seeds are a nice touch.
Black cod marinated in yuzu miso (£37.60) is a signature dish and one which I’d thoroughly recommend you ordering – even if the price is a tad steep. The cod has an indulgently fatty texture and flavour yet it doesn’t turn to mush – each piece flakes off and holds together. It’s a marvellous thing.
Lamb cutlets (£25.30) are another lavishly priced signature dish but if lamb is your thing, you’ll love ’em. The meat comes pink yet the fat is crisp and charred. We nibble the bone ’til there’s nothing left. The accompanying cucumber baton stack feels a bit naff though.
Skewered chicken wings (£5.90) come with lime which brilliantly cuts through the richness of the spices. The chick is juicy as anything. Grilled Black Angus rib (£21.30) has the bone it has come from on the side. The tiny slices of meat are so fatty and flavoursome they’re reminiscent of wagyu.
For pud, we share a banana and chocolate concoction which arrives in a ROKA branded wooden box filled with ice. There’s a biscuit cigar, frozen yoghurt and banana ice cream (which tastes of real banana and not the pick ‘n’ mix sweets). It’s lovely stuff.
Friends told us we’d love ROKA before we went – “it’s bloody expensive but it’s brilliant” – and they weren’t wrong. On both counts. But judging purely on the quality of ingredients and their cooking, it’s really rather impressive.
Would we go back? Yes.
We dined as guests of the restaurant