Today Roka Akor's Sunny Mehra shares many more details on the impending San Francisco branch of the high-end, Bon Appetit-approved, Japanese steak/sushi chain where he serves as director of development. The decor and menu will mirror the brand as displayed in Phoenix and Chicago, but with a markedly local angle. To being with, Arcanum Architects (Poggio, Niebaum Coppola) is leveling the interior of the former Zinnia/Scott Howard space. "It will bear absolutely no resemblance to the restaurants that were here before," Mehra explains.
Mehra is particularly excited about the 25-seat sidewalk patio with glass doors they're building out on the Jackson Street side of the restaurant. The formerly unused basement area is being transformed into a 75-seat, subterranean, booth-filled lounge with a "speakeasy feel;" while the 5000-square-foot ground level will be repurposed as a 120-seat, light wood-toned dining room with Roka Akor's 10-foot-long, internally-lit robata hood as the focal point. Have a look at this beast in the Chicago design, and know that its color slowly changes from yellow to red to pink and so on, throughout the night. "You'll be able to see it from the street," adds Mehra. Speaking of the street, Roka Akor will change the physical address from 500 Jackson to 801 Montgomery Street, with the entrance situated very close to the corner of Jackson and Montgomery.
Executive chef Roman Petry (video here) lives in San Francisco, and has been with Roka Akor since they opened in Phoenix in 2008—save for a year-and-a-half-long stint working for Ozumo here in San Francisco. Petry says the Jackson Square menu will be slightly smaller, more seasonal, and less meat-heavy than the one in Chicago. Fifty percent of its options come from the robata grill, which burns Japanese binchotan charcoal mixed with a touch of native wood for flavor. Other menu hallmarks include a sushi menu dialed to 14 options "for quality control," hot pots, rice plates, a cocktail program with fancy ice, and Japanese-inflected desserts made by a French pastry chef. Take a look at the Chicago menu for more of what to expect.
Why did Roka Akor choose San Francisco? Mehra says the next step up for them was either New York or here, and since Petry has lived here with his wife for the past six years, and many of the restaurants investors are relatively close by in Phoenix, SF was the natural choice. As permitting and local vendor interviews move forward, the team is looking at Spring of 2013 for its debut.
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