(Restaurant now closed)
Roka might seem like the lesser sister of Zuma, but she is also the humbler, brighter, business-class sister of the family. The menu is built around the Japanese robatayaki grill. Marinated meats, fish, shellfish, and vegetables are charred over white-hot charcoal on the stage that is their open kitchen. With a similar design to Zuma, they display fresh produce on ice and feature wrap around counter seating perfect for the Pacific Place office crowd looking for a posh and non-fussy lunch.
When we went, the dining room was filled with the foodie curious. So much so, there was a wait for a table. (Note to self: make a reservation next visit). The thin bar was a nice haven to try some Shochu, a Japanese spirit distilled from barley, potato or rice. We immediately noticed there were less suits here then at Zuma, instead the crowd were mainly small groups of friendly 20- to 30-somethings looking for an alternative to Central. The soft lighting made everyone look radiant while the upbeat soundtrack offered a reason to sway in your seats, intentional no doubt to make everyone here feel like a winner. Roka, in two words, serves the beautiful and the moneyed.
At the counter we ordered several robatayaki specialties. Kiritanpo ($40), a rice square sweetened with onion sauce, was the first to arrive. Rice on a stick may not sound appetising, but the short grains lacquered with sweet glaze gently introduced our tongues to the flavours of the evening. The nankotsu no teriyaki (soft bone chicken with chilli teriyaki, $50) was more crunch then soft, more teriyaki than chilli. We say skip this one for their pirikara no tebasaki (chicken wing with spicy sauce, $65) as it is deliciously spicy. Their gyu niku to asupara no kushiyaki (tenderloin beef with asparagus, $70) was perfectly seasoned and you could really taste the charcoal flavour in each bite. It comes two skewers per order, with each order enough for a main. The gindara saikyo-zuke no kushiyaki (black cod, $120) is a classic, and this time it was marinated in gingered saikyo miso. The ko nasu (eggplant in mirin, ginger and soy, $60) had a sweet-bitter charring to the skin, while the soft pulpy flesh was sweet and loaded with ginger flavour.
We had taken the concept of small eats and applied it to our dessert ordering. This was a mistake, as they serve full, very-sharable portions of their sweet endings. Their Valrhona chocolate, espresso and hazelnut pudding with banana ice cream ($68) was good, but of standard fare. The banana ice cream gets a special nod as it was fresh, not too loaded with sweeteners, and a fair pale yellow, not artificially coloured by dye as is sometimes the case. The strawberry, jasmine sundae with yuzu granite ($58) was refreshing mouth cleanser for all the salt we consumed.
In sum, the staff here do a wonderful job of liquoring up their customers, and showing that first-class service does actually exist in Hong Kong. Alan Wong
Nankotsu no teriyaki $50
Gyu niku to asupara no kushiyaki $70
Gindara saikyo-zuke no kushiyaki $120
Valrhona chocolate, espresso and hazelnut pudding with banana ice cream $68
|Venue name:||Roka (CLOSED)|
The Venetian Macao