Roka Akor Chicago – One of the Top 10 New Sushi Spots in the Country?

Salmon Nigiri Sushi with chopsticks, 2008.
Image via Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago I was downtown near River North and had a craving for sushi. It was Sunday around 6pm so any of the normal lunch sushi places that come to mind were not open. I have been wanting to try a place up north but my appetite wasn’t having it so thought, Sunda. I know what I am getting, I like it and it won’t be crazy crowded. Walking there I looked across the street and noticed a restaurant that I had never seen before.

I crossed the street to check it out and noticed it was huge, easily over 5,000-square-feet. The design drew me in enough to pique my curiosity and look at the menu. Once stepping inside it was decided, why not try a new spot? After chatting with the waiter I learned that Roka Akor is a chain but not with the “bad” connotations that chain restaurants can have.  In fact, Bon Appetit lists this as one of the Top 10 Sushi Spots.

I guess I came at the right time as there was not wait and the restaurant was not crowded as I’ve read it has been after it opened. I am glad that I came in not having any expectations or knowing the history of the restaurant. Having been open for less than two weeks you could tell the staff, although well-trained, was still getting a feel for the service they were presenting. I am one that does not necessarily “require” the wait staff to be hyper attentive. It’s okay if my water-glass is half-full or my plate not cleared the second I am finished. Someone was there the second after I finished or had less than “enough” water. It wasn’t annoying just noticeable and I do know that there are a lot of people who like their service this way. This really would be my only complaint and it really isn’t even that, more an observation.

Along with sushi Roka Akor is known for its robata grill. The second half of the menu is dedicated to grilled items.

The drink menu is extensive and by extensive I mean about 45 pages. Sake, wine, cocktails and beer. I had the Blood Orange Margarita. It was delicious. Any drink that uses fresh juice is automatically going to be good and the chili salt/sugar rim was a great finisher to the drink.

Dinner:

Wagyu Beef Kimchi Dumplings – Very tasty. Kimchi was just the right bitterness for the rich Wagyu

Maki Roll, Hamachi Serrano Chili Roll – One of the rolls that was further way from the traditional rolls you see on every menu. The chili on top was just enough for a kick but not overpowering.

Prime Skirt Steak (8 oz.) with Sweet Garlic Soy – The flavor and texture were the best I have tasted in a while in Chicago.

Salmon Nigiri – Very fresh, the melt in your mouth fresh that seems to be hit-or-miss in Chicago.

Dessert – Chocolate cake with roasted coffee beans and coffee ice-cream

Overall I would recommend this place for those that want an alternative to Sunda, have both sushi and steak eaters and don’t mind spending some money. I would like to see how the lounge/bar area of the restaurant pans out, will it be a cool place to hang out and they will throw a dj in there or just a place to wait before dinner?  The music they played in the dining room was very modern and even had some hip-hop thrown in. Menu is extensive so you can go back again and again and work your way through it. Good for a date or dinner with friends but for me, not for your everyday. I don’t think Roka Akor is top 10 but does rank highly with solid sushi.

P.S. Since this was an impromptu outing I did not have a good camera with me so the pictures are a bit off as I used my phone.

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