6/26/17 | HoustonPress
It’s been a banner year for the Houston restaurant scene, and it’s not stopping anytime soon. Just when we thought that we’d seen it all, a new restaurant comes along that’s ready to take Houston by storm. Roka Akor, which opens to the public today, June 26, is definitely up to the challenge.
A high-end sushi and Japanese robata steakhouse with locations in San Francisco, Scottsdale and Chicago, Roka Akor has been named one of the Top 10 Sushi Spots in the country by Bon Appétit Magazine and one of the Best Sushi Restaurants in the U.S. by Travel + Leisure Magazine .
Love Uchi Houston, Kata Robata and MF Sushi? Roka Akor will be giving Houston’s best sushi restaurants a run for their money with gorgeously plated and ingeniously designed signature sashimi platters, in which slices of sashimi — many imported from Japan — are arranged attractively on a bed of crushed ice, with an illuminated mini ice-sculpture as the centerpiece.
A selection of nigiri sushi and maki, or rolls will also be available to order both à la carte and in an omakase-style chef’s tasting. Overseeing the sushi side of the house is 17-year sushi veteran and corporate chef Mike Lim, whose years of experience in the Bay area include time as one of the lead sushi chefs at Morimoto in Napa Valley.
On the steak and seafood front, Roka Akor offers an entirely new experience centered around its exhibition-style, 12-foot robata grill, which utilizes maple wood, charcoal and Japanese bincho tan coals. Patrons will be able to choose marbled, prime cuts of steak sourced from Snake River Farms and buttery, A5-grade Wagyu from Japan, accompanied by housemade sauces that take the flavor of a meat to another level
Additionally — and this is an important point — Roka Akor is one of only two restaurants in Houston (and one of 17 restaurants in the entire nation) that will be offering authentic Kobe beef sourced from Tajima cows in the Hyoko Prefecture, which are identifiable via a ten-digit code on the official Kobe Beef website.
“We only get one Kobe loin a week,” says Roka Akor corporate chef Ce Bian, who has worked all around the world. “The loin is 6.5 pounds, about 100 ounces, and the minimum order is three ounces,” he says, adding that those who want the Kobe can expect to pay almost double the price of Wagyu.
“Opening price Monday will be $55 an ounce, versus about $30 to $35 an ounce for A5 Wagyu that we have from Hokkaido, Miyazaki and Kumamoto.” In other words, if you want to experience this extremely prized, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth beef without flying to Japan, you’d better act quickly.
Rounding out the menu are beautifully plated appetizers such as the signature beef tataki and the toro tartare with Osetra caviar. There is also a section for seafood, with notable items such as Madagascar tiger prawn and Alaskan king crab, a selection of vegetable sides, and tempura.
For dessert, patrons can have the option of a chef’s dessert tasting — in which the kitchen decides what to send out, at $15 per person — or individual desserts such as the Valrhona molten chocolate cake or the mango shaved ice.
As if that isn’t enough, there’s a robust beverage program with a pleasing selection of craft cocktails, an impressive wine list that has received praise from Wine Spectator, and a killer lineup for Japanese whisky fanatics.
Design-wise, the L-shaped, 6,500-square-foot space, conceived by the principals at parent company JNK Concepts, makes wonderful use of natural light by day, incorporating pale wooden floors and tabletops with clean glass and mixed metal motifs. Patrons can choose to dine in one of three distinct areas — the bar, the sushi bar or the dining room, which wraps around the corner with seats overlooking the robata grill.
On a final note, Roka Akor’s menu is one of those that can be a little overwhelming for the first-time visitor. To streamline the experience, the restaurant offers the Roka Akor omakase, in which you trust the chef and let him handle the experience for you, which is available with a two-person minimum, for $128 per person. The omakase will take you through a sampling of the appetizers, sushi, sashimi, steak and sides, and is a nice way to experience the restaurant’s greatest hits.