ROKA Dubai, its first Middle East restaurant, one of London’s favourite Asian eateries, known for its award winning contemporary Japanese robatayaki cuisine, opened in mid-2020 by the famed restauranteur & chef Rainer Becker (founder of Zuma), at the iconic The Opus – Business Bay.
At the entrance, a large type of art called Japanese manga combines cartoons and comic is displayed, so beautiful with vibrant colors, and proceeded to take the elevator to the first floor, the very friendly and warm staff greeted us, and guided us to the table at the terrace. So magnificent.
ROKA, the modern Japanese restaurant is known for its robatayaki, or grilled dishes, which are prepared over a traditional charcoal grill. Roka has a meaningful purpose in its name. Ro – a meeting place to share good food and drinks with friends around the robata. Ka – the heat, warmth, and an all-embracing energy surround.
The stylish decor and interior design was carried out by the renowned Japanese firm of Muramatsu, 7,437 square feet of pure “warm and inviting” atmosphere, space for 100 diners, as well as a “chic look”, beautiful 64-cover terrace adorned with plants, superb ambience and with fabulous views of the Burj Khalifa with views of Business Bay gleaming towers, enjoyed the sights, sounds, and tastes of ROKA.
The space is divided into different sections, including a main dining room, a bar, terrace and a robatayaki counter, where guests can watch the chefs at work. The decor is minimal and sophisticated, creating an atmosphere of elegance and luxury. The light glows off of the surfaces, creating a serene and luxurious ambiance. The hushed conversations and calm atmosphere make ROKA the perfect place to enjoy a sophisticated meal and experience the best of Japanese cuisine with friends, family or business.
Rainer Becker commented at the opening, “After being so warmly with Zuma in 2008, we felt it was a good time to bring its sibling Roka into the region. We are very much looking forward to showcasing more of the robata experience which is at the heart of the restaurant, making a relaxed and edgy vibe for dining. Moving into the Zaha Hadid designed, The Opus is very exciting for us all and we hope we can create a cool and multi-dimensional dining experience with a neighbourhood feel for the Dubai community.”
“Roka was born through the success of Zuma,” he says. “My business partner [Arjun Waney] said ‘let’s do another restaurant in London, let’s do another Zuma’, but I wanted to try something different,” said Rainer Becker.
The menu is essentially Japanese in origin, with the main focus being on Japanese-style sushi and sashimi and Japanese-style tempura. In the Roka section, all of the restaurant’s signature dishes can be found, while in the Robata section, Japanese-style charcoal grilling featuring meat, fish and vegetables is available.
Roka has the best and exotic range of malt beverages imported directly from Japan, or settle the cocktails and savouring the delectable dishes.
We started to indulge in the spinach salad, the crisp vibrant baby spinach leaves which complemented the irresistibly flavorful sesame-dressing, with aromatic asian flavours, as this salad was the fusion of Asian tastes with distinct elements.
The delicious dressing complemented the freshness of the spinach leaves, as the creamy sesame dressing added the luxurious texture that seamlessly balanced the refreshing crunch of the spinach leaves. This sesame-dressed spinach salad is the irresistible journey of creamy indulgence and exotic Asian flavors, inviting you to take a delightful bite.
I started with the extraordinarily dish, called the bekudopoteto, contents ofcourse the baked potato, well-crafted and served with yuzu cream & chives. The dish is composed of a triple-fried skin that encloses fluffy innards. On top, there is a cream that initially gives the impression of sour cream but unfolds to reveal a richer and more playful flavor. When the dish is brought to your table, it is mashed together in front of you, and I devoured the entire dish.
The cocktail menu was so extensive, with a focus on Japanese spirits like sake and shochu, we all went berserk over the cocktails. One of the signature cocktails is the Sakura Sour, made with gin, cherry blossom liqueur, lemon juice, and egg white. It’s light and refreshing, with a hint of floral flavor. If you prefer something non-alcoholic, the fresh-pressed juices are also delicious!
My favorite cocktail was the Sobatcha sour, uniquely prepared sesame whiskey, citrus blend, buckwheat, maraschino, egg white, a power cocktail.
As the appetite was building, we ordered a few more dishes. One of them was the warm eggplant with sesame miso, topped with katsuobushi flakes. These flakes dance as they react to the warmth of the eggplant, creating an enticing visual display. Another dish was the succulent and flavorful rosuto bone marrow, which is to be enjoyed by mashing the light creamy garlic confit onto a miso bun and then adding the savory bone marrow on top, paired with the fresh tang of the shallots.
Lastly, we had the sea bream fillet (Tai no miso-yaki), lightly covered in ryotei miso and red onion. The delicately seasoned sea bream fillet, subtle umami flavours offered the distinct texture, tenderness, and smoky flavor, highlighting the reason of the sensational robata grill of Japan to the world.
The food so amazing, we ordered their specialities, like the yellow-tail sashimi with truffle, which tasted even better than it looked. The silky texture of the fish perfectly complemented the earthy aroma of truffle. Skillfully displayed, the sashimi is adorned with a sprinkle of rocket leaves, adding a touch of freshness and a hint of peppery flavor. Additionally, the prawn and crab gyoza, delicate in their crispiness, irresistibly melt in your mouth with each bite.
The ROKA highball is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional Japanese whisky highball, not a James Bond cocktail, featuring Toki whisky paired with a homemade palo-santo, jasmine and lemongrass soda, and garnished with lemon oils. It’s a straightforward, sophisticated, and delightful introduction to whisky.
I love the sleek and modern space with a sophisticated atmosphere. The decor is minimal and elegant, with a focus on natural elements & materials like wood, stone, and metal.
Further on, we immersed ourselves in an unrivalled gastronomic experience with the sashimi platter, wagyu sushi and wagyu tempura maki. Meticulously curated layers of pristine, expertly sliced fish sourced from Japan are artfully positioned atop a glistening, meticulously carved ice block, which elegantly preserves their utmost freshness. As you indulge in each delicate bite, the interplay of textures and flavors will transport you to the renowned sushi bars of Tokyo, where every culinary masterpiece is created with utmost precision.
All of the charcoal used for grilling on our robata is exclusively imported from Japan for an unbeatable authentic robatayaki experience.
The yakitori negima sizzled on the grill, the aroma was exquisite. The meat was tender, slightly crunchy and sweet, with a complex combination of char and sweetness. The flavours are excellent, particularly the bitter char against the sweet sauce. A crucial component, the scallions provide a vibrant contrast to the chicken’s umami-dense flavor.
I love mushrooms and from Japan, I literally danced. The Maitake mushrooms are renowned for their immune-boosting properties. In Japanese, ‘Maitake’ translates to ‘dancing,’ and it is said that people danced with joy when they discovered these mushrooms. Renowned for their heartiness and thickness, Maitake mushrooms offered an abundance of umami and substance, and the delightful slight burn from grilling, Maitake mushrooms may indeed make you want to dance with joy.
The gyuniku to goma no gyoza (in simple english, known as the “beef and sesame gyoza), the pretty bite sized parcels are packed with flavour. The harmonious blend of ginger-infused minced beef and sesame– irresistibly delicious, just melted.
The star of the evening was the Kankoku fu kohitsuji, succulent lamb cutlets served with Korean spices and sesame cucumber. These perfectly cooked cutlets, with a hint of spice and pink color, were truly the highlight of the evening, boasting a juicy and tender texture.
For the past 16 years, the Black Cod dish has been a beloved signature at ROKA Dubai. This exquisite creation involves marinating the cod in yuzu miso for over 48 hours, marbled with fat and grilled to perfection, infusing it with a delectable blend of flavors. Served alongside pickled radish and sprinkled with black sesame seeds, the cod is then expertly grilled on a traditional robata, imparting a delicate hint of smokiness and a tantalizing touch of sweetness.
The desserts served by ROKA are a delightful complement to the exquisite timepieces on display. The desserts are artfully crafted, incorporating unique flavors and premium ingredients. I raved about the innovative and luxurious desserts, which are a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. Whether it’s a classic dessert with a twist or a completely new creation, ROKA’s desserts are sure to impress even the most discerning palate.
A four-tier masterpiece, the generous servings, the ROKA platter featured with exotic fresh fruits, homemade ice creams and sorbet, an unforgettable banana and caramel dish with ice-cream puffs as well as vanilla cheesecake and a unique twist on apple crumble.
The dark chocolate, green tea pudding, garnished with crunchy jivara and paired with pear ice cream is unbelievably tasty.
Hokkaido cheesecake with hazelnut crumble, the type of cotton soft cheesecake robata nashi pear and cream cheese ice cream, are some of the desserts a must compulsory to cherish.
The service at ROKA and the staff is knowledgeable and attentive, and they are happy to answer any questions about the menu or the preparation of the dishes. They take pride in providing a memorable dining experience for every guest. They even know how to pair the perfect drink with each dish, so you can ask for their recommendations if you’d like.