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On a rectangular silver platter are a mound of pink onions, a swath of yellow sauce and a portion of seared white fish.
Blog, Lifestyle, Taste & Sip

Roka Akor: Romance and Robata Cuisine on the Menu

For a romantic date night, your table awaits at the Japanese-inspired, fine dining Roka Akor steakhouse, seafood and sushi restaurant. The boutique restaurant chain presents six locations around the country, each worthy of a celebration.

My husband and I were invited to dine at Roka Akor in Oakbrook Center, where the ambiance is warm and embracing, and the menu pairs innovative, contemporary robata-grilled cuisine with impeccable service. It’s a memorable fine dining experience where you could fall in love again. I know, because we did.

Roka Akor restaurants specialize in robatayaki, or robata for short, which is a slow grilling method using a unique white oak charcoal that burns cleanly and at insanely high temperatures. While you are waiting for your order, you’re welcome to watch the chefs and sushi masters and chat them up while they are at work in the open kitchen. Such friendly interaction is only fitting for a restaurant with a name derived from the words “ro” and “ka.” The first word means “hearth” or “gathering place.” The second stands for a burning fire and projecting energy.

A chef stands before a three-tier indoor grill.
View your meal being prepared on a three-tiered robata grill at Roka Akor.

On the menu are a litany of hot and cold shareable plates; prime steaks, and American and Japanese wagyu beef; a revolving selection of just-flown-in seafood; and freshly created sashimi, nigiri and maki. Perhaps you will indulge in omakase, the chef’s premium tasting menu of familiar and exotic flavors personalized to your individual palate. We look forward to doing that another time. On this night, we explored the diverse menu and delighted in the creative presentation of each offering–food and beverage.

Roka Akor restaurants also offer several signature dishes, which include the mushroom rice hot pot with tableside shaved black truffle, and Korean spiced lamb cutlets with smoked eggplant and cucumber.

A steaming portion of wagyu beef atop a bamboo charger accompanied by a trio of exotic salts.
Wagyu beef steak accompanied by exotic salts, photo by Roka Akor.

Our choices were the roasted beet salad with whipped tofu, hazelnuts and ginger yuzu dressing, and the yuzu miso black marinated block cod with pickled red onion. Every dish awed us with a symphony of flavors and artistic presentation.

That thoughtfulness carries over to the beverage program, which features an international wine list, premium sake, barrel selections and flights of limited bourbon, and a vast selection of rare Japanese whisky and legendary scotch.

The Roka Fashion, a take on the classic old-fashioned cocktail, was properly chilled with a singular oversized ice cube to slow the melting process. The Blood Orange Margarita was robust with complex fruitiness.

An orange cocktail in an inverted triangular glass rimmed with salt, the glass is topped with a slice of deep-colored orange
Blood orange margarita at Roka Akor.

For dessert, we would have overlooked the ube pot de creme because of the unfamiliar ingredients, but our server’s enthusiastic recommendation convinced us otherwise. We’re certainly glad we did. Ube, as we learned, is a sweet purple yam, and bubu arare tuile is a delicate, crunchy rice cookie. Sprinkled with citrus and berry bits, it was a lovely finish to our date night.

Looking down on a bowl of purple creme dressed with sliced strawberries, bits of fruit and two rice crackers.
Fruit-forward ube pot de creme is a sweet ending to a romantic dinner at Roka Akor.

At Roka Akor, you can be as social–or not–as you wish. Be a part of the conviviality in the center of the softly lit main dining room, or nestle into the intimate alcoves and banquettes along the perimeter. Other seating options are the enclosed front patio, private dining room, and the bar.

A restaurant dining room with an open kitchen at the back.
The main dining room at Roka Akor in Oakbrook Center has seating options for privacy or conviviality. Photo by Roka Akor.

Roka Akor, which is owned by JNK Concepts of Phoenix, Roka Akor has six restaurant locations across the country, three of which are in the Chicago area: Oak Brook, Old Orchard and River North. The others are in Scottsdale, San Francisco and Houston. The JNK portfolio also includes Marigold Maison Indian Cuisine in Chicago; Bannockburn, Illinois; and Phoenix; Enolo Wine Cafe in Chicago; and Nobuo in Phoenix. More globally influenced restaurants are in the works.

Roka Akor Oak Brook is located at 166 Oakbrook Center and open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday. For more information, call 630-348-9210 or visit Roka Akor or Roka Akor Oak Brook.

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