Roka is sister to Zuma and oozes style. There is a central open kitchen with a wooden counter and seats all around this, as well as conventional tables, and the bar downstairs is particularly well laid out. Eight years on from its opening in 2004, Roka continues to pack in the diners, with its formula of casual yet up-market dining, smooth service and western-friendly take on Japanese food.
Today a salmon tempura roll was pleasant, the rice served at the correct temperature, though the salmon had limited flavour (13/20). Tuna salad had a good, slightly acidic apple and ponzu dressing which nicely balanced the inherent richness of the fish. The tuna was yellowfin, which is more sustainable but sadly lacks the flavour of bluefin (14/20). Grilled mackerel had pieces of mackerel rather than a whole fish, and was nice enough, though a pale imitation of the version at Kiraku.
The bill for three little courses and a bottle of water came to £37, and it is a measure of London prices that mineral water at £3.90 no longer seems excessive. Objectively this is quite a lot of money for what appears on the plate, the cooking accurate but the ingredient quality nothing special. However, the room certainly has a good atmosphere, and service was as slick as ever.
The notes below are from a meal in 2008.
Sashimi tuna was excellent, the flesh firm but in no way chewy (14/20) while eel was lightly cooked in soy and had rich flavour (14/20). A roll of soft-shell crab, cucumber, kim chi and chilli mayonnaise had enjoyable, room temperature rice rolls (i.e. as they should be) and just enough chilli bite to lift the crab (15/20). Tuna salad was superb, with an apple and mustard dressing for the fresh leaves, and prettily presented (15/20). Tempura rock shrimp has a grease-free batter but was not as gossamer-light as the very best can be (13/20).
The least successful dish was a rice hot pot with king crab and wasabi, where the flavour of the crab was lost within the spicy rice (12/20). However a simple dish of field mushrooms with garlic was very tasty (14/20), while scallop skewers with wasabi and shiso (a Japanese leaf a little like mint without the pungent aroma) had beautifully cooked scallops (15/20).
Below are brief notes from a meal in April 2005.
Tuna sashimi was stunningly good, of the highest quality (easily 15/20). Sushi of soft shell crab was excellent (14/20). Salomon teriyaki was of somewhat similar style to the Nobu blackened cod, with a rich teriyaki sauce (15/20). Prawns in their shell were pleasant though not in the same league (13/20) while tempura of vegetables was rather ordinary (12/20).
New tonight for me was quail, served on and off the bone, which was very tender (14/20). Service from an Australian waitress was excellent. Clearly a place that is the height of fashion, judging by the profusion of pretty girls dressed in black.