Please note that the meal was complimentary. However, the opinions expressed in my blog are 100% my own!
Last Friday, I was invited at ROKI Le Izakaya a new Japanese brasserie just opened 2 weeks ago by Keiko Ono Aoki and Executive Chef Koji Hagihara. This is a spin off of Benihana, Keiko being the wife of late founder of that famous Japanese chain, Hiroaki Aoki, known in the US as Rocky Aoki. I had the chance to meet with Keiko and Chef Koji who welcomed us in this incredible space where the main attraction is the kitchen in the middle where one can admire the Chef and his crew not only cook delicious food, but also present it in a beautiful way.
Yes, this is not your regular Japanese joint: of course, you can have some sushi and sashimi, but they also propose other choices that will satisfy a larger crowd, some of the dishes definitely showing some creativity and with an elegant flair as you will see later in this post.
Back to the restaurant first: big, with two rows of tables at the entrance, the main dining room in the center, with its central kitchen that you can face if you sit at the counter, that I highly recommend. I also noticed a large painting of Marilyn Monroe on one side as well as large communal tables and a private dining room further back. It has an elegant but casual feel and I truly appreciated that the lights were not dimmed, so I could admire the aesthetics of the dishes.
I should mention that at the time we went, they did not have their liquor license, but you can bring your own bottle(s) if you wish...So, food wise, we tried quite a lot of items from their menu. Here is what we tried:
Japanese canapés: in cooking, canapé is a slice of bread that can be toasted, topped with various savory items. At ROKI, the bread is replaced by crispy rice that gave an incredible texture to the whole thing, being both crunchy and chewy at the same time.
They propose 9 different types, three being vegetarian. We chose:
Uni - Sea urchin and flying fish roe:
Kani - Snow crab and avocado:
Unagi - eel and Japanese pepper:
Spicy maguro - tuna and spicy mayonnaise:
Truffle and mushroom:
Guacamole - avoado, mountain caviar and tomato.
I could then not miss the next dish considering my French roots: powdered foie gras over duck chasiu. Basically, it is a two components dish: on one hand is the duck that was delicious on its own, perfectly cooked with some nice fat. On the other hand, you have a bloc of foie gras that will be grated like you would parmesan on a pasta dish. I am not sure if I got a special treatment, but when the Chef grated the foes gras, I was really wondering when he would stop, although, let's be honest, I did not want him to stop anyway! It was really good, rich, delightfully fatty, a perfect dish if, like me, you love duck.
The next dish was beautifully presented on a bed of crushed ice: kanpachi carpaccio. Kanpachi, also called yellow tail or amberjack, is a leaner fish than tuna (they also propose a tuna carpaccio with goji berries) and has a pink color with lines that look like grapefruit. This carpaccio was delicious: the fish was soft and the dish had a nice acidity thanks to the ponzu sauce. I recommend it if you like raw fish.
Then came a classic: pork belly buns. But I admit that the presentation was great: first of all, the buns had a different shape than the classic round one. Then, it is a "do it yourself", a bit messy, but still nice, as Jodi enjoyed one of the buns without the pork belly that she does not like. On my side, I assembled it, putting a generous amount of mayonnaise between the meat and the bun. And that meat was delightfully fatty, with the bun being perfectly soft.
Another small dish was the truffle croquette, made with potato, butter, mushroom and truffle, a great dish for mushrooms lovers.
Last was the chashu tonkotsu premium ramen made with chicken and pork broth, pork belly, sliced pork, egg and seasoned vegetables (know that they also have a vegetarian ramen). The ramen came without the broth that they poured at the table, giving an elegant touch to a fairly popular dish. The broth was very flavorful and it was overall a great ramen. I was glad that in term of quantity, although of a good size, it was not too much.
Last was dessert. We got to try:
The Earl Grey creme brûlée:
And the roasted white sesame seed ice cream:
The desserts ended the meal on a high note: the creme brûlée was perfectly set, with a nice hint of earl grey, but I admit that my favorite was the ice cream that had a nice nuttiness and was creamy and rich.
This was a fantastic experience and I am glad that I had to meet with Chef Koji Hagihara who prepared a succulent meal for us. I should also mention that the service was on point, not just with us, but with other customers, where I observed that the staff was very attentive. They were also quite knowledgeable about the menu that is always a good thing when there are so many interesting dishes making the choice difficult. Roki le Izakaya is a nice addition to the Japanese brasserie scene and I highly recommend it.
Enjoy (I did)!
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