Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Business Lunch @ Roka Akor

Last week, I reviewed Roka Akor, not for the experience of dining at the restaurant, but rather, for the incredible takeout sushi we had delivered one night at my office.  As I said in that review, there really does not exist better takeout sushi in San Francisco.

But takeout is not what Roka Akor does.  They are a fine dining establishment.  Since being blown away by the takeout, I've been wanting to go to the restaurant for a real meal.  Known primarily for their pricy decadent omakase, I've been eager to also try out their more affordable option: lunch.  But, lunch is only offered weekdays, and I'm provided lunch at work.  It took some time for the opportunity to come up, but finally, on President's day, I was able to visit at lunch time.

At lunch, the regular a la carte menu is offered, but the incredible value lays in the business lunches.  Your choice of several appetizers, a main dish, rice, and miso soup, for only $22.  The appetizers included are normally priced at $12-18 and the mains $18-24.  The portions do not seem to be reduced sizes, and the choices are good ones.  This is a crazy good deal.  I even think two people could split one of these meals for a lighter lunch.

If you'd like to check out Roka Akor, and don't want to commit to a pricey dinner, I highly recommend trying the business lunch.  It is an incredible amount of quality food for the price.  I don't think you can do better than this for a full sit down lunch in the Financial District.  I'm still a bit stunned.

Next, I'm really going to have to splurge and go for a real dinner.
Open Kitchen.
The space is very open, including the kitchen, where you can watch food being cooked over the open flames.
Bright room, large windows, blond tables.
During the day, it is very bright and airy, with large windows and plenty of light.  No idea what the ambiance is like at night, but it was lovely by day.

The table was set with white napkins, but when Emil arrived in a black suit, his napkin was quickly switched out for a matching black one.  Attention to little details like this were very surprising, particularly for a lunch service!

One thing we all noted is that we were not provided warm towels to clean our hands before the meal.  We had just returned from Tokyo, so perhaps we were expecting this more than a regular diner.  Fairly standard practice for Japanese restaurants even in the US though, isn't it?
Miso Soup.
Our lunch sets all started with miso soup, normally $4.50.

I didn't care for it, but I'm not a soup girl.  Very standard miso, and both the tofu and green onion inside seemed a bit overcooked and mushy.  I wouldn't order it again, but as part of my lunch set, it was fine.
Santa Barbara Uni with Lime, Daikon Sprouts and Chicharrones. $15.
Emil decided to order one additional appetizer, the uni.  Because, when there is uni and chicharrones on the menu, how do you not?

The presentation was stunning, served in concentric wooden boxes.  The outermost one contained ice.

Inside the smallest box was the chicharrones, not exactly something I've ever had with uni before, but the bacon-y flavor does work well with uni.  They were super crunchy, and a very fun item to put the uni on.

Alongside was grilled lime, and a squirt of lime juice helped liven everything up.

The uni was either from Santa Barbara or Mendocino, I'm not sure which, since I'm pretty sure we were told both.  It wasn't my favorite.  It was creamy, and I think pretty fresh, but had a bit of funk to it. I think I've realized that I really prefer Hokkiado uni, which is unfortunate given that I live in the Bay Area.

The $15 price for a stunning presentation and generous amount of uni was fine.
Yellowtail Sashimi with Shallots and Poached Garlic Ponzu.
For our appetizers, we all picked the yellowtail sashimi, although the other options were a butterfish tataki or beet salad.

I really liked the butterfish tataki when I had it before, but I was trying to mix it up and try something different.  And who picks beets when there are raw seafood options?

We each received 4 generous slices of yellowtail, drizzled with ponzu, topped with some sort of onion based gremolada and crispy garlic slivers, and served with a side of greens, I believe watercress.

The fish was fresh, and I liked the delicate ponzu, but, I remembered at this point that I don't really like yellowtail that much.  Whoops.  I really wished I had picked the butterfish, since I knew I had enjoyed it so much before.  The onion in the gremolada was a bit too harsh, contrasting sharply with the delicate fish.  The greens were too bitter for me, particularly without a dressing.  My dining companions enjoyed their dishes, and it was fresh fish, this just wasn't quite for me.

Normally $18 when ordered separately, which is a bit high for 4 slices of fish, but included in the set lunch it was an incredible value.  I'm feeling like a broken record here, but it is worth repeating.
Salmon Teriyaki with Pickled Cucumbers.
For our mains, we could choose between a beef dish, very tempting sounding miso black cod skewers with mizuna salad, or salmon teriyaki.

Normally, I'd order the black cod in a heartbeat, as I love black cod, and I love miso, but I just had miso black cod two days before.  Hard life, I know.  So I went for the salmon.

The portion size was insane.  A huge, huge filet of salmon.  Well roasted, tender, flaky, but fully cooked.  I prefer my salmon mid-rare, but I know that is hard to achieve over a grill, and I didn't specify how to cook it.  It had incredible crispy skin on top and was served wrapped in a grilled leaf.

The salmon was lightly glazed with teriyaki, with a separate container of additional sauce provided to dip into as you ate.  Which, I did regularly.  It was sweet and delicious.  Emil, who doesn't eat sweets, was happy this was left on the side, as he could ignore it completely.  His loss!

The pickled cucumbers on the side I didn't love, they were a bit mushy, and not very acidic.

We were also all given a small bowl of rice, unremarkable, a bit mushy.  None of us really touched it.

One of my dining companions did pick the miso cod skewers, so I got to try a bite of them as well.  The cod was tender, beautifully cooked, and the miso glaze was absolutely delicious.  The serving was also generous, 3 full skewers!  If I were to get the business lunch again, I'd likely go for that option, although the same was quite good.

The salmon is normally $24, so the value as part of the lunch set is totally insane.
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