PaperCity Magazine

September 2017 - Houston

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F or months, we've watched the construction of the 40-story luxury h i g h - r i s e 2 9 2 9 Weslayan at the corner o f We s t Alabama a n d We s l a y a n . O u r curiosity was amply rewarded when the paper signs on the ground-floor windows were peeled away to reveal the sprawling, w o o d - c l a d i n t e r i o r s and open wraparound kitchen of Japanese restaurant Roka Akor — the fifth outpost of the the Arizona export from JNK Concepts, which operates global-cuisine restaurants across the country. The name hearkens to the Japanese words ro (hearth or gathering place) and ka (fire and energy) — and, indeed, grilled wonders come off a scorching-hot robata grill, a centuries-old technique developed in Northern Japan. If you're fortunate enough to snag one of only six seats at the sushi bar, you'll be privy to special dishes that can only be ordered there. Or, put yourself in the hands of the sushi chef and order Omakase, a parade of courses inspired by the chef's whims and the freshest catch of the day ($128 per person). Roka Akor serves both traditional and modern sushi (sashimi, nigiri, maki); cold plates include escolar takaki with white asparagus and yuzu ($12) and yellowtail sashimi with green chili, shallots, and poached garlic chips ($18). Hot plates include robata-grilled pork belly with pickled breakfast radish and tarragon-infused miso ($14) and spicy Korean-inspired lamb chops ($38). Roka Akor is one of those rare places that serve certified Kobe from Tajima, Miyazaki from Kysho Island, and Shiga raised in Hokkaido — prized Japanese imports that fetch market prices. I indulged in the Snake River Farm wagyu — a 6-ounce sirloin seared and served alongside a grilled bone, the marrow seasoned with a house- made spicy garlic soy ($38). Sweet endings include Valrhona cake oozing with almond caramel and Japanese- style cheesecake with a jasmine-poached peach ($12 each). Open for lunch Monday through Friday, and dinner daily. Self-park on the second floor, or valet at the door. Roka Akor, 2929 Weslayan St., 713.622.1777, rokaakor. com/houston. Laurann Claridge JACK THOMPSON FIREAND ICE Robata-grilled lamb chops The new Roka Akor 192

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