Restaurant Review: ROKA, Canary Wharf in London
It’s a Thursday evening in Canary Wharf and the bars that line Canada Square are spilling over with office workers who are enjoying their evening against the first of the festive lights. Above one of these bars is the Canary Wharf branch of ROKA. Up in the lift, cocktail in hand by the bar, the pace up here at ROKA is notably slower as I sip on their interpretation of a porn star martini whilst my guest a grapefruit and vodka concoction.
The ROKA brand has firmly established itself within the London fine dining scene, but few know what is encapsulated within the name. Essentially ‘Roka’ is a meeting place whereby food and drinks are shared with friends (Ro) and heat, warmth and an all-embracing energy surround (Ka), this originates from the fishermen of Japan who would cook their fish on board their boats with different charcoals, sharing with one another using their oars. This is the inspiration behind their Robata grill which can be found in each branch.
We are seated at a small table to the side of the restaurant whilst the vibrations of the heat, steam and smells from the open flame Robata grill fill the room. We start with champagne to wash over our taste buds before delving into their dynamic and extensive menu. An aroma of truffle mixed with sharp citrus is planted before us, beautifully presented yellowtail sashimi dressed with yuzu truffle and pickled vegetables further added to a glamorous start.
Moving onto, in my opinion, what ROKA do best – their sushi plates. Generous maki roll servings are laid out on what can only be describes as shabby chic dishes. Vibrant, fatty tuna and spring onion is my favourite and is deliciously fresh whilst impressively eye catching soft shell crab maki with chilli mayo is crispy but soft and succulent inside. A classic, this was served with salmon, avocado and asparagus rolls.
A bit of spice to our evening were ROKA’s pirikara edamane beans that are scattered in sesame seeds and a red hot chilli sauce and create an almost meaty finish to the popular green bites. Licking our fingers; a stacked bowl of tempura pardon peppers arrive with a mayonnaise companion alongside meaty nuggets of fried smoked monkfish cheeks.
A Japanese favourite, gyoza filled with black cod, crab and crayfish is a tasty option for fish lovers, whilst presented on a dark, textured slate a generous scallop skewer each topped with wasabi and shiso. As we move through the evening the dishes increase in size as we arrive to what would be described as their main course plates. A grilled fillet of sea bream comes over with asparagus grilled simply with sweet soy and sesame, alongside a sweet potato baked in bamboo. We plateau with their robata meat dishes. Juicy lamb cutlets are dished up with distinctive Korean spices with a blushing beef fillet with chilli and spring onion.
From previous experience of a brunch at another ROKA I am already aware on how seriously they take dessert and before we know it we have a temple of sweet treats between us. Laid on a bed of ice, fresh fruits are accompanied by scoops of ice cream, an almond crème brulee and a gooey and undoubtedly delicious chocolate maccha pudding.
ROKA Canary Wharf is a creative culinary counterpart to this thriving business district of London. Fun, welcoming and a haven for foodies away from the saturated bars and pubs, ROKA Canary Wharf is filled with both small and large groups of diners enjoying themselves wrapped within the vibrancy of this modern Japanese eatery. Roka restaurants can be found at four locations across London; Mayfair, Charlotte Street, Canary Wharf and Aldwych with the Robata Grill that is located within the heart of each, an integral design element to their charismatic menus.
Address: 4, Park Pavilion, Canary Wharf Group, 40 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5FW, 020 7636 5228, www.rokarestaurant.com/roka-canary-wharf