By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
Tying in with the tenth anniversary of ROKA’s first restaurant on London’s Charlotte Street, ROKA Aldwych opened its doors last Summer. Marking the newest and biggest of the ROKA restaurants from Rainer Becker and Arjun Waney, the team behind Zuma. Situated just moments from The Strand and London’s Theatre District, offering a reasonable pre-theatre menu, it’s no wonder that the restaurant has become so popular over the past year. Upon entering on our recent visit, we ended up partaking in a drink at the bar in order to take advantage of the incredible drinks list in which Japanese Whiskey is featured heavily (as is the less-popular Japanese Rum), so we began proceedings with a cocktail – Hiro’s Ghost – served in a quirky retro Milk bottle as ROKA’s take on the classic Zombie, and ROKA’s take on the classic Negroni.
Moving on to the restaurant, we found ourselves seated alongside the Robata, with front-row seats to experience the theatric cooking of the open kitchen. Entrnaced by as he skilfully slices Spring Onions into paper-thin slices at light speed with Ninja precision, our waiter advises that we allow the Kitchen to provide a selection of their best dishes for us to sample during our lunchtime visit. A round of Yellow-fin Tuna Tataki is a welcome starter, accompanied by a flavoursome Truffle Oil dressing, while the following Sashimi platter features just about every Fish known to man, and is plentiful to serve at least four to start, accompanied by a Sommelier chosen glass of Sake to accompany.
Next, the dishes that create our main course are exquisite. Sticky Black Cod (one of this writer’s favourite dishes) is magnificent, the lightly spiced Lamb Cutlets are served chargrilled, yet bravely retain an internal shade of perfect Bubblegum Pink, and the Black Cod, Crayfish and Crab Dumplings are also delicious, albeit an unnecessary accompaniment to a wholesome lunch. Not forgetting the Robata grilled Sweet Potato dish: wrapped in leaves and served like a rich Japanese Jacket Potato, soft and creamy with Chilli and Nori Butter.
Somehow, once the time for Dessert had arrived, we managed to find space to devour the majority of the Dessert Platter between two. The highlight of which is – most definitely – the rich Dark Chocolate Pudding that oozes with Green Tea, topped with crunchy Jivara and Pear Ice Cream. Japanese restaurants of this caliber rarely deliver such vast portions, but it’s safe to say that both of members of our party left feeling fully-fed until the next day, at the very earliest.
For Japanese food and Sashimi fanatics, ROKA is a must. Be sure to try-out the Lunch and Pre-Theatre menu, which includes Iceberg Lettuce with Caramelised Onion dressing, a selection of assorted Tempura, Spicy mixed Sashimi Tempura, and one dish from the Robata or Kitchen: either Salmon Fillet Teriyaki, Rice Hot Pot with seasonal Truffle, or Beef Sirloin, Chilli and Spring Onion, including complimentary Green Tea, and Steamed Rice. All of this for the princely sum of £27 per person. And if Theatre is what you’re really after, be sure to grab a seat at the Robata Grill.
ROKA Aldwych can be found at 71 Aldwych, London, WC2B 4HN.