Friday 15 February 2008

Pre Valentine's Day Roka Extravaganza

I had promised to take Cowie to Tsunami in Clapham for our pre-Valentine's day meal. But I never booked it. Instead I was really sneaky and booked us into Roka which we had wanted to go to for ages.

We've got a history of trying to surprise each other but we normally either get too excited and spill the beans too early or the we see through each other and guess! But not this time. I managed to get Cowie hook line and sinker.

We met on Charlotte Street and went for a casual drink in a pub next to Finos and guzzled down some wine that meant we saved a few quid rather than paying through the nose in "Tsunami/Roka". The more time passed the more itchy Cowie's feet became until it was pretty obvious we couldn't make it to Clapham in time for our booking at Tsunami.

I smiled at Cowie and explained my surprise, but before I could say where we were going instead she had guess it! That's the closest I've got to surprising her properly!

We pottered up to Roka with a very bouncy spring in our steps: partly to do with the booze, a bit to do with the excitement of the surprise and also because we had been dying to go to Roka ever since we heard of it.

You can always tell it's going to be a good meal when we ask to move seats and are plonked in the best spot. This time we were moved from the goldfish bowl seats by the window to prime real estate at the central bar overlooking the chefs doing their BBQing. It's a great site to see such amazing chefs cooking live in front of you. It must be a great way of getting people to buy extra things just because they see them being cooked! Flames. Action. Food porn!

After gasping at the price of the set menu we soon realised that we would be better off going off piste and constructing our own meal. Who needs vegetarian dishes when these guys are so good at fish and meat.

We kicked off with some yellow fin tuna tataki which was light, fresh, zingy and beautfiully textured. The only question mark we had next to it was the way it tasted very strongly of the kind of bad pre-ground pepper you got at school.

Then came some well salted edamame and otoro tuna sashimi which was delicious. By far the best I've ever had. I love the feel of it as it almost disolves in your mouth. Who needs teeth when you've got otoro!

Cowie's miso soup with scallops was a great success too. Warming, delicately flavoured and very subtle. It's a great broth that is as full of unami as it is lacking in colour. Pale and unasumming. But very pleasant indeed.

Things got really exciting when our grilled quail with a tart plum compote arrived. The meat was beautifully charred and almost raw. There's nothing quite like a bit of medium rare poultry to divide opinion. In this instance it was sensational. But I know a lot of people would have complained. The plum lifted the sweetness of the quail and cut through the oily skin leaving your mouth craving more. What a shame quails are so small!

If we thought our quail was good, the salmon teryaki took us up to another level. It was only £10 but was the best thing we ate. The salmon flesh was almost raw and fell apart at the very sight of a chopstick. The teryaki sauce was rich, dark and deep. The skin was crispy and a shinning example to the entire world about how to cook fish skin. There are few finer tastes than properly cooked fish skin. Gorgeous.

Beef and asparagus skewers were very vanilla. Perfectly fine but Wags do them just as well for less. And yuzu soy tuna was a bit dry but I enjoyed my first experience of yuzu. Kind of like tangerine but a lot more expensive!

We boycotted the wine and instead had green tea which meant that we spent well under £100 and left feeling perfectly full, deleriously happy and super keen to come back.

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