Roka Akor Old Orchard - Skokie
When is one of Chicago’s best steakhouses also one of the best places for seafood? When that Chicago steakhouse is Roka Akor, serving prime steak and pristine seafood. Chicago’s best steakhouses are also many times the best places for fish and seafood.
Roka Akor has received widespread recognition for their time-tested ability to source some of the most excellent meat and seafood in Chicago if not the entire Midwest. That recognition includes: • Michelin Guide Recommended – Chicago, 2013 • “Award of Excellence” – Wine Spectator • Chicago Magazine’s “Hot List” – Six Consecutive Months • “Top New Comer”– Zagat • “Best Sushi Restaurant in the US” – Travel & Leisure Magazine • “Top 10 Sushi Spots in the US” – Bon Appetit • “Top 10 Best Steakhouses in Chicago” – Crain’s Chicago Business •
But such acclamation means little if the restaurant doesn’t deliver, Believe us, Roka Akor delivers.
Roka Akor is a Japanese fine dining restaurant with a name derived from two words: “Ro” means hearth, a place where people gather to enjoy each other’s company and eat/drink; “Ka” is the energy of a burning fire. “Akor” is “Roka” spelled backward, suggesting that the ambience of the restaurant surrounds diners in the warm energy of a lively social gathering.
And the food is also fantastic, thanks in large part to Ce Bian, Corporate Chef of Roka Akor, which has multiple locations in places like Old Orchard, Scottsdale and San Francisco. Chef Ce Bian’s work is characterized by kitchen-crafted sauces and fresh truffles shaved tableside.
The robata grill is key to many of Ce Bian’s creations. Short for “robatayak,” and meaning “fireside cooking,” the robata grill is a kind of barbecue. Food items – frequently seafood and vegetable morsels – are placed on skewers and slow grilled over hot charcoal. At Roka Akor, Chef Ce Bian prepares robata-grilled Japanese shishito peppers, adding a bright vegetal note to any meal, as well as scallops, and there’s also a good selection of non-grilled items such as lobster and shrimp dumplings and red miso soup.
For lunch, there are some interesting bento offerings, including sushi and maki, as well as chicken teriyaki and grilled vegetables, for those with heartier appetites, grilled prime skirt steak. On chillier days, there are ramens to choose from, pork belly and seafood.
If you want to kick off dinner with something from the sea, you have a lot to choose from, including sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls of crispy prawn and chirashi, Hamachi serrano chili and soft shell crab. Premium sushi and nigiri include ora king salmon, sea urchin and fatty blue fin tuna.
If you’d like seafood as your entrée, there are some special Asian-influenced options including yuzu/miso-marinated black cod and Madagascan jumbo tiger prawns, as well as king crab that’s roasted, which brings out flavors not possible when this crustacean is simply steamed.
Prime beef filet, prime skirt steak, prime ribeye, prime New York strip loin are all excellent, but the piece de resistance is most likely the Japanese grade A5 Wagyu beef served with only artisan salt; with meat this superb, all you need is salt.
Japanese grade A5 Wagyu beef is in a class by itself. The very rare Black Kuroge breed of Wagyu cattle can be raised only in the Miyazaki Prefecture, generally accepted as the source for the finest of Japanese beef in Japan. A5 Wagyu has the highest possible ranking, and it’s the epitome of beef excellence, with grading based on color/brightness, firmness/texture, and the luster of the fat. Wagyu A5 is in many ways the ultimate in beef; it doesn’t get any better.
There are a number of inventive side dishes, including a Japanese wild mushroom rice hot pot and a crab rice hot pot.
For special occasions, you can have Chef Ce Bian create a “signature” dining experience with food, ingredients and courses designed specifically to your tastes. A step up from that is the “decadent” dining option which gives Chef Ce Bian the opportunity to serve you a variety of rare and exotic ingredients you will likely not find at any other restaurant in Chicago.
Traditional cocktails get an Asian twist with creations like lychee Bellini and blood orange Margarita, and there’s also a good selection of mocktails including a jasmine yuzu Palmer (a kind of Arnold palmer with jasmine tea, honey and yuzu) and a raspberry mule (fresh lime, raspberry syrup, ginger beer).
There is, of course, and extensive wine list and a jaw-dropping selection of premium sake, dozens of them, culminating in Dassai Beyond, a Junmai Daigingo from Yamaguchi Prefecture, requiring ten years to perfect and coaxing out flavors and depths of complexity rarely tasted in any sake anywhere.