Review: Roka Dubai
Can Zuma’s little sibling live up to the family name?
If there’s a culinary genius brave enough to take on the fine-dining scene in Dubai, it might as well be Zuma founder Rainer Becker. The chef and restauranteur already has four Roka outlets in London, and chose Dubai as the location of its first international venue.
It seems Roka Dubai hasn’t come in quietly either, taking a coveted spot in The Opus, designed by Zaha Hadid, in the recently opened ME Dubai Hotel. The restaurant opened soon after the hotel’s launch, but was quickly forced to close under the government’s precautionary restrictions.
As soon as it was safe to do so, Roka announced its reopening, with all the necessary safety measures in place. We are shown to a booth sandwiched between the open robata kitchen and the outdoor terrace, complete with all-important Burj Khalifa views.
The restaurant is busier than expected, with almost all of the two-metres-apart tables filled with hungry guests. Our knowledgeable server makes drinks recommendations and gives us a moment to check out the menu.
There’s plenty of choice, with one page dedicated to various methods of sushi, and another offering signature dishes, seafood and meat. The price point is reduced compared to Zuma, and the kitchen team use the same methods as its sibling, just with more accessible ingredients, we’re told.
We start off with the iceberg salad no wafu (Dhs45), a beautifully light dish which offers a teaser of the flavours to come. Shredded iceberg leaves are carefully positioned into a hill shape and drizzled with a sweet onion dressing, before being topped with seaweed.
Don’t skip the opportunity to try the gyuniku to goma no gyoza (Dhs56). Although, for the price, we would hope for more than four pieces, the pretty bitesized parcels are packed with flavour. Inside the soft dumplings are a balanced mix of minced beef with hints of ginger and sesame – simply delicious.
For the mains we opt for a meat and a fish dish. Sadly the arima sancho no hamachi (robata grilled kingfish), although beautifully presented, misses the mark as it’s far too salty. The hinadori no lemon miso yaki (Dhs110), however is accomplished. The cedar roast baby chicken is just the right mix of savoury and sweet thanks to its chilli and lemon seasoning.
The final showstopper is worth the trip to Business Bay on its own. Roka’s stunning dessert platters are sure to be coming to an Instagram Story near you, as they are a work of art. A four-tier masterpiece filled with exotic fresh fruits, homemade ice creams and sorbet, an unforgettable banana and caramel dish with ice-cream puffs as well as vanilla cheesecake and a unique twist on apple crumble. We wished we’d saved more room.
Roka, ME Dubai, The Opus, Business Bay, daily noon to 7pm. Tel: (04) 439 7171. rokarestaurant.com
Images: Jade Wills Photography