I originally had a fear that I would miss out on this year’s Chicago Restaurant Week deals, but thankfully managed to grab a coveted seat during the frenzy. If you aren’t familiar with CRW, it’s when the masses come out to try out restaurants they have not been to yet or take in great deals. When else can you get a $22 lunch or $33-$44 dinner, both prix fixe? Pretty great right?
A friend made me very jealous having gotten a reservation for the much-buzzed ING (third brainchild of chef Homaro Cantu, following Moto and Otom), gushing on her great experience. Have no fear; I am saving myself for a celebratory dinner there soon.
I invited said friend to Roka Akor with me. They opened last summer on the corner of a building that had been newly constructed, but left uninhabited for at least a year in an area that’s truly become a dining Mecca over the last few years. Roka Akor has a sister restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ that’s been around since 2008. We walked into this very sexy feel of a space with lots of warm wood accents complementing the modern feel. Our server explained that Roka Akor is steakhouse and “roka akor” means to ‘cook around a fire,’ based on the Japanese words “ro” (social gathering place), and “ka” (heat/warmth/fire). We were seated kitty corner to the fire pit and were able to see the food cooking in front of our eyes. For my next visit, I’ll grab a seat at the bar surrounding the pit – as long as I don’t mind smelling like grilled meat for a while after.
We were amazed at the turnout, as it was pretty full for a Thursday night. Guess you can say we lucked out with getting a 4-course tasting for the $44 price tag. The food just kept coming out, a feast for kings with each bite tastier than the last. Each dish is meant to share, so we started with steamed edamame and white miso soup. Next we had a crispy butterfish roll and a seasonal Japanese wild mushroom and green bean salad. We were a bit overzealous and ordered an additional roll, the dynamite scallops, but we managed to finish those as well, since they were just that yummy. Third course was the salmon teriyaki and the glazed pork ribs. Dessert, yes dessert, was light and beautiful. The green tea custard had a banana element and sugar crust, almost like a crème brûlée. The poached pear and tapioca pudding with sweet red bean had candied citrus that combined perfectly and was irresistible.
I’d definitely return for a swanky night out at the bar and a few rolls to boot, along with some great cocktails to share among friends.
Don’t stop there people…
Don’t be upset if you missed CRW 2012, as there are plenty more food events to look forward to. Next up is Chicago Chef Week from March 18-23. Launched in 2009, now with over 50 participating restaurants, it’s the next “chef fest” on the bill. Later this fall, from September 28-30, Chicago Gourmet will take over Millennium Park and bring The Hamburger Hop with it. The Chicago feeding frenzy never ends.
Bring on the Chefs! Monika
Amber Tillett & Monika Lotter – Chicago
When we decided to launch Flight Chicago, a backstage-pass tour of
Chicago’s hottest restaurants, we went from casual food lovers to
professionals. With yin and yang backgrounds and viewpoints, we like to
think of ourselves as one whole enchilada. Monika was born and raised
in Chicago, Amber came here from North Carolina. Together, we’re able
to look at the Illinois food culture as both a native and a visitor. We
love dressing up to hit the glittery new downtown spots, but also get a
thrill biking to remote mofongo stands in way-west Humboldt Park. We’re
all over the place, and we can’t wait to take you with us.