Roka Dubai Restaurant Review
Sultry and sophisticated, Roka Dubai easily tops our list of favourite restaurants for right now. The Sandpit was lucky enough to be invited to the opening night, just hours before Dubai locked down for two months, and the memory of the crispy prawn sushi and black cod kept us going through those long, lonely nights of dining at home. Suffice to say we were among the first through the doors as the restaurant re-opened for business.
Where is it?
Roka Dubai is located in The Opus, a slinky, curvaceous building designed by world-famous architect Dame Zaha Hadid, in the heart of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa district. You enter through an anonymous door, and immediately ascend up to the first floor. The buzz builds as you enter the spacious dining room, designed to put the chefs centre stage. Flames from the robatayaki charcoal fires lend energetic elan to the space, occasionally dragging the eye away from the glittering cityscape that takes up one wall.
A rebellious Japanese lovechild?
The brainchild of Zuma founder Rainer Becker, Roka Dubai could be described as the rebellious lovechild of the original izakaya-style eatery. Certainly it has a more youthful vibe; the waiting staff are charismatic and friendly, and the cocktails are colourful and ironically served in expressive Tiki mugs. But the music is too quiet to make it a party destination, and the city’s see-and-be-seen clientèle are yet to descend en masse. Perhaps we should blame the pandemic for the slightly muted mood.
And in many ways, who cares about the tunes, because what Roka Dubai really nails is the food. Every mouthful makes you “Mmmm!”. We found ourselves nodding at each other enthusiastically as we chewed, and frequently closed our eyes to focus on the flavours.
So what should you order?
Start with the signature ‘Kampachi yellowtail sashimi with yuzu-truffle dressing‘, and then try the ‘kinoko no kamameshi‘ rice hotpot with Japanese mushrooms, mountain vegetables and shaved truffle; a wonderful, warming dish that tastes and feels like a hug from your favourite fat Japanese aunt (even if you haven’t got one). The Sandpit also loved the crunchy freshness of the ‘iceberg salad no wafu’ with caramelised onion dressing, the creamy mouth-feel of the ‘bekudopoteto’ baked potato with yuzu cream and spring onion, and the stridently flavoured ‘gyuhireniku no pirikara yakiniku’ beef fillet with chilli, ginger and spring onion.
Be sure to leave space for desert because they’re all astonishing, in particular the ‘sumi fuumi no kokonattsu tamago’, a robata smoked coconut parfait with passion fruit, raspberry and lychee, which we chose on the exemplary recommendation of our waiter.
Further good news arrives with the bill. It’s certainly not a cheap night out, but the prices aren’t as eye-watering as Zuma, and the food is worth every, single dirham. Plus if you’re on a budget, don’t miss the Business Lunch, which is AED 115 per person.
The Sandpit Blog Restaurant Review
- Food: 5/5
- Ambience: 3/5 (But: Covid)
- Value: 5/5