The ultra-glam temple to Japanese food you see before you is the first SF outpost of Roka Akor, opening tonight in Jackson Square. It's the third outlet for the upscale mini-chain, which also has locations in Chicago and Scottsdale, Arizona, as well as a planned fourth location in Skokie, Illinois. The former Zinnia and Scott Howard space is considered one of SF's most famously cursed, but the big guns have been brought in to break the spell: chef Roman Petry, who's worked at Michelin-starred spots in London and Spain; bar star Daniel Hyatt, long the driving force behind the Alembic; and a knockout design from Anthony Fish of Arcanum Architecture.
On the food side, Petry's menu centers around the open robata grill, from which he'll offer a variety of steaks as well as salmon, black cod, prawns, ribs, and lamb chops, accompanied by fusion-y sides like heirloom squash with miso and butter-soy corn. Other offerings include a vegetable tempura, lobster miso soup, grilled scallops and pork belly, and Wagyu beef and kimchi dumplings. Mike Lim, a Morimoto Napa alum, helms the sushi program, which features fish flown in four times a week from Japan. All the usual suspects are available, plus creative nigiri (scallop with black truffle, spot prawn with uni and caviar) and rolls (hamachi with serrano chili, tuna with green chili aioli). Here's the dinner menu and the dessert menu (the latter is from Redd alum Alexander Ruiz).
Downstairs in the Roka Bar, Hyatt's drink menu emphasizes Japanese flavors, with options like a Yamazaki manhattan with ginger-seaweed-plum cordial, or applejack with barley tea. He's also doing an extensive program of house-infused shochus, in flavors like huckleberry and candy cap mushroom. The whiskey offering is extensive, with lots of rare bottlings and Japanese distillates, and there's also a sizable wine list. The bar also offers a food menu featuring a selection of appetizers and sushi drawn from upstairs (diners can also request anything they want from the regular menu), plus a few bar-only offerings like a burger and fried chicken. Food is served downstairs until 2 am on weekends, which is great news for night owls. Here's Hyatt's cocktail menu, and the bar bites menu.
The space is sizable, with 118 seats upstairs in the dining room and another 68 downstairs in the bar. Notable features include the dramatic counter made of charred birch wood, custom elm chairs and Sonoma poplar tables, and an undulating wall made of wood slats in the private dining room. Downstairs is darker and more sultry, with lots of glass and steel and a big walnut bar backed by a custom lighting installation showcasing the jars of shochu. Hours for the restaurant are Sunday-Thursday, 5:30-10 pm, and Friday-Saturday, 5:30-11 pm. The bar is open Monday-Thursday from 3:30 pm-12 am, Friday from 3:30 pm-2 am, and Saturday from 5 pm-2 am. In keeping with the fanciness factor, they'll also have valet parking. Lunch is scheduled to come online in the fall; they gave us a preview of that menu as well.
· Chef Roman Petry Talks Roka Akor, Opening June 27 [~ ESF ~]
· Roka Akor Adds Daniel Hyatt as Bar Manager [~ ESF ~]
· More On Roka Akor, Targeting A Spring 2013 Opening [~ ESF ~]
· Roka Akor San Francisco [Official website]