Since I’ll be eating my way through Italy next week — gorging myself on piles of pasta and fresh cheese — it only makes sense to share a few non-Italian spots with you before I leave, right?
And today’s spot has been one of my favorites for YEARS.
Meet Roka Akor.
A Japanese restaurant with several locations around the country serving up fresh grilled robata dishes, incredible sushi maki rolls, and surprisingly solid steaks.
Don’t be deterred by the fact that Roka Akor is technically a “chain restaurant” — the dishes are prepared with the thought and care you’d find at a family-run sushi spot.
And are some of my favorite dishes in all of Chicago!
But it’s been YEARS since my last visit and I was curious to see what had changed!
So my good friend Starr and I arrived for a very early dinner last month to try their new spring menu offerings (and some old favorites!).
First of all, I love the space. It’s swanky but also minimal. And all centered around the open-air robata grill!
We started with some lovely cocktails while we looked over the menu.
I’d love to tell you which we ordered but I can’t seem to find a cocktail menu on their website.
Both were fruity, delicious, and paired well with our meal.
Which started with this gorgeous trio of tatakis.
Roka Akor does quite a few tatakis and ALL of them are positively delicious.
Think of them as small bites packing MAJOR flavor.
My favorite being this Beet Cured Ora King Salmon Tataki with enoki and sudachi matsutake.
It’s one of their newer offerings and, apart from being beautiful to look at, is truly delicious to eat.
We also tried the Escolar Tataki with white asparagus and yuzu shallot dressing.
And another tataki which I believe was hamachi though, again, I can’t find a proper description so I’ll have to let the photo speak for itself.
All three were SPECTACULAR.
And such a great start to our dinner!
Which continued with a new scallop “tartare” dish.
Which was buried under a beautiful bed of shaved truffle.
It was HEAVENLY.
And something I sincerely hope they keep on the menu in the coming months because it was so different. I can’t think of one dish similar to this in all of Chicago… and that’s saying something!
Our next course was also one of Roka’s newest dishes: Grilled Octopus with meyer lemon and squid ink aioli.
Not only was the squid ink aioli incredibly silky, but it provided a great depth and balance to the charred octopus.
Which was sooooo tender.
This may have been our favorite dish of the evening — especially based on how quickly we ate it!
But when it comes to main courses, most people either come to Roka Akor for steak or sushi.
I come for the sushi.
Which never disappoints!
This is one of Roka Akor’s newest maki rolls: The Poached Lobster Maki.
A shrimp tempura, avocado, and asparagus roll topped with wasabi tobiko and fresh poached lobster.
It’s such a beautiful roll!
But tastes even BETTER than it looks.
And pairs nicely with my all-time favorite maki at Roka Akor: The Signature Dynamite Scallop Maki!
This roll has been one of my favorite dishes in Chicago since at least 2015. The charring on the scallops is sheer perfection. As is the spice in the sauce.
I love this roll in a way that’s hard to describe with words so hopefully my photos will properly convey my adoration.
Because this roll is SO. DAMN. GOOD.
We ended our meal with this beautiful Chilean Sea Bass with carrot miso which I hardly snapped any photos of because I was too busy eating.
And another one of my favorites at Roka Akor: the Japanese Mushroom Rice Hot Pot.
This hot pot is served tableside and fresh truffles are shaved on top just before you eat it.
It’s almost like an indulgent Japanese risotto because it’s so creamy and rich. And the truffle just makes it SING.
And if you go to Roka Akor, you MUST try the Ube Pot de Crème.
Not only is this one of the prettiest desserts in Chicago, it’s also one of the most delicious.
The texture is creamy and silky. And the ube is so unique with it’s rich purple hue.
All-in-all our meal was spectacular and a great reminder of WHY I love this particular spot so much.
I’ve been recommending Roka Akor for years because:
a) I’ve never had a bad meal here,
b) the servers are always prompt and knowledgable,
c) the dishes are incredibly unique,
d) and the quality of their sushi is INCREDIBLE.
If you’re looking for a no-fail meal in River North that’s guaranteed to have something different than any other spot around, look no further than Roka Akor!
Disclosure: I received a complimentary meal at Roka Akor to facilitate this post but I was not monetarily compensated, and all opinions expressed are my own. I only ever write about places and experiences that I have personally tried and wholeheartedly recommend. I would happily send friends and family here for a meal in the future.