Tipsy on sparkling sake @ROKA, Charlotte street

ROKA is one of those uncommon destinations that I’ve kept for special occasions since my very first birthday dinner there back in 2015. This time I was trying to impress an old friend I haven’t seen for many years.

The ambiance was upbeat as is usual. The staff was speed-walking across the floor with loaded plates, and the chefs were buzzing around the open flames in the kitchen. It may have not looked like it, but everything was in order.

I’d tactically booked two seats by the bar in close proximity of the open kitchen to have the full experience. We had a prime view of Chef Alessandro orchestrating a group of sous-chefs, waiters and waitresses, whilst occasionally rolling his sleeves up to help out. Can’t quite put my finger on it, but there is something sexy about a chef who’s shouting Japanese food names with a ninja-like headband tied around his head.

After a long back and forth, we settled for the Seasonal Tasting menu. Accidentally this menu included all my favourites from kuruma-ebi (black tiger prawn tempura with chilly mayo) to yaki asparagus (grilled asparagus with sweet soy and sesame) so I was an easy one to enchant. These simple, but divine flavours always carry a pinch of je ne sais quoi and they never fail to please. By the end I was well tipsy on sparkling sake and super high on the ROKA experience once again. As a bonus, Charlotte street has a hidden gem downstairs with Shochu, a rustic-chic cellar cocktail bar that is dressed up in pink Japanese blossom. We washed down dinner with a quick Whiskey Sour.

And whilst the tasting menu seemed short on paper, it was feeding us for two whole hours, one plate after another, and to the point when I just wanted to go back to bed. With or without the shouty head chef.