HomeFeaturesOn the Scene with Nadine › Ring in 2012 at Scottsdale's Roka Akor

Television personality and AZfoothills.com columnist Nadine Toren is scouring the area, finding savvy Valley features, bringing readers “on the scene.” Every day she’ll introduce you to celebrities, athletes, and give you an inside look into local events and hot spots. She'll touch on topical issues, and keep AZ fans posted on all the big talkers around town.

rsz sushi-platter-medium

Want a unique hot-spot to bid farewell to 2011?  Here's your scoop inside Scottsdale's premiere sushi-steak restaurant, Roka Akor.

Have you heard of Shochu?  Well, it’s a Japanese distilled spirit, similar to vodka.  Turns out, it’s quite tasty, so I’m now surrendering my early 20s Saki-bomb skills for a mature glass of strong Shochu, preferably with a hint of pineapple.

Let me explain.

Last week, the fiancé and I had the opportunity to experience Roka Akor, a Scottsdale eatery known to be one of the top ten sushi spots in the country, according to Bon Appétit Magazine

And it falls nothing short of that.

The restaurant sports a Los Angeles lounge-like physique—very chic and modern.  We were greeted by Leilani, who showed us around the impressive atmosphere; note: there’s a big block of ice in the middle of the bar.  All your drinks flaunt that freshly cut ice.  (A pretty cool feature.)

After being seated, we got a mini lesson in Shochu 101.  The popular Japanese drink is made from a variety of fruit, raw sugar, grains, and sweet potatoes, and each dose has subtle differences.  At Roka, you can get plain Shochu on the rocks, or you can opt for a little pop of flavor.  The fiancé went for the straight stuff.

However, Leilani was kind enough to bring us a beautifully presented 3-part-taster of honeycomb, pear, and pineapple Shochu, all tasting ever-so-sweet.  (Truly, it wasn’t like drinking alcohol, which is kind of concerning—LOL.)  The Shochu shots came prepared in a wooden box topped with a fresh Gerber daisy; oddly, my favorite flower.

After toasting to our meal ahead, Executive Chef Jason Alford stopped by our table.  The Northwest born cooking pro said he loved the Roka concept from the get-go, and enjoys creating creative culinary magic in its kitchen. 

Following our chat with Chef Alford, came the Butterfish Tataki.  In layman’s terms, consider this tapas-like appetizer the sweetest candy-like fish you’ve ever had.  It was topped with asparagus and Yuzu-Shallots—a perfect pairing for your pellet.

And then came the Kumamoto oysters with caviar.  They were delicious.

Roka Akor features the most fabulous of steak and sushi, so the whole time I was wondering how the two would be combined.  Well, out came the Chef’s Premium Sashimi Selection, featuring the fresh seafood you’d imagine (like tuna and salmon), along with another roll you might find surprising.  Yep, out stood two beef tartare sushi rolls, and of course, I was a little hesitant.  However, I gave it a go, and I am happy to report it was excellent!    Two thumbs up.

After eating everything on our sashimi plate, the main course arrived.  (Even though I was almost full!)  Leilani brought out Yuzu-Miso Marinated Black Cod (with pickled red onion); Robata Grilled Domestic Wagyu Hangar Steak (with Wafu dressing); and Cremini Mushrooms (with soy-garlic butter).  It was quite an array of tastes—I can’t say I ever had cod before Roka.  (And it was really good!)  The steak was juicy, and the mushrooms were delectable.  The whole meal was quite a delightful ensemble.

And then came dessert.

We were served vanilla panna cotta and berries topped with house-made yuzu ice cream.  It was definitely a bitter twist to dessert, but surely refreshing after our multi-course dinner!

Have you noticed “Akor” is “Roka” spelled backwards?  Well, the name is surely fitting.  The words translate to “warm gathering.”  (Thanks for the scoop, Leilani!)

The only other Roka in the United States is in Chicago, so it’s surely a hot spot unique to the Valley AND West Coast.  To get the ultimate experience, you might want to consider booking your NYE dinner reservations at the restaurant—ask for the holiday special!  For more information, visit: www.rokaakor.com.

rsz nadine