In 2015, I wrote of "the anticipated summertime opening" of JNK Concepts' small restaurant chain Roka Akor. So it was an extra year of waiting for the 40-story 2929 Weslayan high-rise in River Oaks to be ready to welcome the restaurant. Most guests will argue that it was worth the wait. The restaurant finally opened on Monday, June 26.
Roka Akor, which already has restaurants in Scottsdale, San Francisco, Chicago and Skokie, Illinois, centers its menu around a robata. The open-flame grill that uses a unique mix of charcoals to produce its signature flavor also lends the restaurant its name. Roka means "hearth," and diners are invited to sit around the grill, just one of the elements of the open kitchen, which also includes a sit-in sushi bar that offers an omakase dinner. Essentially, this is Japanese surf-and-turf, using only premium ingredients.
Corporate chef Ce Bian and executive sushi chef Mike Lim are currently training local cooks to take over preparing their highly technical menu. But not everything is forbiddingly upscale. The happy hour at Roka Bar, from 4:30-6 p.m. is an excellent choice, with $8 cocktails, $5 sake and dishes that range from robatayaki skewers to sushi and salads for between $4-8. Click through these photos to see what else you can expect from Roka Akor at any time of day.