After opening in early 2020, ROKA Dubai remains a relative newbie in the city’s burgeoning dining scene. However, much like its big sister in London, ROKA Dubai packs a punch when it comes to contemporary Japanese cuisine, setting the highest standard for those in search of sensational Robatayaki-style fare.
Following the enormous success of Zuma London, Rainer Becker quickly recognised a gap in the market for Robatayaki cuisine. This led him to open the first ROKA restaurant in Charlotte Street, London, in 2004. Together with chef Hamish Brown, the duo created an authentic yet contemporary menu to complement the sleek, Asian-inspired aesthetic of the venue.
Whether in the United Kingdom or the Middle East, the ROKA experience is underpinned by the idea that the restaurant is a meeting place where food and drinks are shared around the Robata (Ro) and where heat, warmth and an all-embracing energy permeate the space (Ka).
Just like in London, ROKA Dubai offers a casual yet refined dining experience that perfectly complements this distinctively inviting ambience. ROKA Dubai is the brand’s first international location, which opened shortly after the fifteenth anniversary of the flagship restaurant on Charlotte street. This marked the beginning of ROKA’s expansion to the Middle East, with additional venues launching recently in Riyadh and Kuwait.
ROKA Kuwait, the group’s latest outpost, was inaugurated earlier this month. Situated in the country’s first Waldorf Astoria hotel, it takes cues from its luxe address to offer a one-of-a-kind dining experience to those living in and visiting Kuwait. The Riyadh location, meanwhile, opened its doors back in 2021, and has since become one of the city’s top Japanese eateries. ROKA Riyadh has also cemented itself as one of the first key international brands to enter the up-and-coming food and beverage scene in Saudi Arabia.
The restaurant’s menu focuses primarily on cuisine cooked on the Robata grill, which not only forms an integral part of the space but is also considered the ‘beating heart’ of ROKA. The stunning grill originates from the traditional cooking methods of fishermen from Japan’s northern coastline, who’d grill the fish over various types of charcoal on the boat, and then share their fire-cooked catch from their oars with other fishermen.
As an ode to this custom, each restaurant revolves around the theatrics of the central open kitchen and Robata grill, with intimate counter seating allowing diners to have a first-hand view of the culinary artistry in action. With the sounds and smells of the flaming grill sizzling away in front of them, guests can look forward to sampling dishes such as yakitori-negima yaki (Robata-grilled chicken skewers with spring onion) and kankoku fu kohitsuji (moreish lamb cutlets doused in Korean spices and served with cucumber). ROKA Dubai also serves a variety of the brand’s signature dishes, such as kampachi sashimi no salada, a dish made famous in London that comprises yellowtail sashimi with a yuzu-truffle dressing. Another fan favourite is the sake no taru taru, a salmon tartare with den miso and yuzu.
Located in the Opus building by Zaha Hadid in Business Bay, ROKA Dubai is every inch as design-led as this architectural marvel it calls home. The aesthetic boasts a clever blend of earthy tones, contrasting textures, and natural and industrial elements such as brushed concrete, raw wood, brass and stone, as well as traditional Japanese touches, making ROKA Dubai a statement venue.
Albeit that each of the ten ROKA restaurants peppered around the globe has its own distinct characteristics, they are all intrinsically linked through their cuisine and design. Conceived by Japanese interior designer Noriyoshi Muramatsu, the Dubai space is edgy and elegant while offering a cocoon-like experience. It’s a place that feels warm, welcoming and hospitable, with ROKA’s grill concept, and thus the element of fire, omnipresent.
The Dubai location also offers a breathtaking outside terrace that seats 64 diners. With panoramic views of the city’s skyline as the backdrop and DJ beats filling the air, it’s the ideal venue for an eating experience bursting with flair and flavour. Exuding the same personality, energy and uncompromising flavours as its flagship venue in London, ROKA Dubai has fast become a dining and nightlife hotspot in the DIFC district.