Don’t let the understated decor of Roka Akor fool you, for the true masterpiece awaits you the moment you take your seat. Simple furnishings — wood floors and tables and stone-like walls — let the cuisine take center stage.
The centerpiece of the restaurant is the massive robata grill powered by charcoal and maintained by attentive chefs who carefully grill, glaze and garnish. The grand grill sits in the middle of the restaurant, allowing guests to watch everything as it is being made.
Roka Akor has journeyed far to reach Scottsdale. The original restaurant opened in London, with other locations opening in Macau and recently in Hong Kong. With such an international resume, it seems surprising that this chain would choose Scottsdale to open its flagship U.S. location. Yet, here it is and we couldn’t be any happier to have it.
Described as Japanese Robatayaki cuisine, the menu has endless options to choose from. From traditional sushi to great grill items, Roka Akor has myriad dishes. We began the evening with a traditional component of a Japanese meal: edamame. The steamed edamame with sea salt was the perfect beginning for the feast that awaited us. Tasty cocktails were in abundance, with shochu infusions being the top draw. The vodka-like alcohol is distilled from wheat or barley and Roka Akor carries several flavors. The cocktails also serve a dual purpose, according to the menu: The raspberry shochu helps to improve memory, and the shiso lime schochu is listed as aiding in “great skin and blood tonic.”
Next, we selected appetizing snacks from the cold and warm starters. The butterfish tataki melted in your mouth and the white asparagus and yuzu shallot dressing rounded out the flavor. Favorites of the evening were the spicy beef and kimchi dumplings, lightly fried to crispy perfection. The grilled asparagus topped with sweet sesame and the grilled eggplant were also well received. When dining at a Japanese restaurant, sushi is always a must. We ordered a variety of familiar rolls, shrimp tempura, spicy tuna and softshell crab, to please the palate and none disappointed.
With plenty of delectable robata dishes to choose from, we settled on a range of flavors; a grilled salmon teriyaki, lamb cutlets, and duck breast basted with honey and sansho pepper. The lamb was everything you could ask for — tender, juicy and infused with Korean spices. But the pièce de résistance was the grilled Madagascan tiger prawn. The massive marine crustacean is the world’s largest species of prawn and was certainly the star of the meal. Grilled on the robata, the prawn was flavored with yuzu koshyu chili paste, a tangy spice that gave it just the right amount of zing.
Our meal was paired with a few tasty side dishes. One standout was the rice hot pot, precisely described as “Japanese risotto.” The rice dish was comprised of various mushrooms and wild plants cooked in harmony to create the quintessential texture of risotto.
If you’re not too worried about breaking the bank, for nearly $20 an ounce, the Japanese wagyu beef sirloin can only be expressed as exquisite. It is, after all, recognized as one of the best beefs in the world. Our small tasting was given compliments of the chef, thanks to a chance remark that caught his attention.
For dessert, we decided on the Roka Akor platter, which proved quite a sight to see. Served on a large stone plate, the platter included a wide variety of tastes, textures and colors to please all. Four delicate scoops of sorbet in flavors ranging from raspberry to green tea were placed on a huge cube of ice in the middle of the plate. For the chocolate lovers, the platter also included a moist, chocolate cake filled with a molten green tea center. A final unique taste found on the platter was the chawan mushi, a Japanese custard with strawberries and honeycomb.
Presentation is key to Roka Akor’s appeal. Everything is served on rustic stone plates, intentionally simple to draw attention to the food. With a no-fuss approach to making great-tasting food and serving it up in style, Roka Akor is sure to be in the Valley for the long haul. Welcome aboard.