A Hardhat Look at Roka Akor


The grill and counter. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.


The downstairs bar, made of walnut. Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.


Daniel Hyatt pouring cocktails (nothing says hardhat like plastic cups). Photo: Dana Massey-Todd. © tablehopper.com.

A report by Dana Massey-Todd. As previously noted on tablehopper, international chain ~ROKA AKOR~ is opening an outpost of their well-regarded Japanese steakhouse and sushi empire here in San Francisco. Their new location, at 801 Montgomery St., is the former home of Cypress Club, Scott Howard, and Zinnia, and they’re giving it quite the revamp. Right now they’re in the middle of a major renovation, and I had a chance to take a peek (hardhat on, of course) last week.

The new space has two levels—the main dining room at street level and a subterranean bar—and has been designed by Arcanum Architecture. Take a look at this rendering to get a sense of how the two spaces will work together. The upstairs dining room’s main focus is the very large robata charcoal grill, where meats will be prepared over an open flame. The grill faces counter seating for 10, which should be a great place to watch the grill in action. The dining room seats 118, and the wall opposite the grill will have large windows at street level, to take full advantage of the natural light. The wood is primarily poplar, beech, and Monterey cypress, and a few of these light wood touches were visible during the hardhat tour. The mood is kept light with seafoam-green glass throughout, including over the very large hood above the grill.

Below the dining area is the Roka Bar, which is much darker and moodier than the upstairs space. The large L-shaped bar is made from reclaimed walnut, and the rest of the materials in the bar are also dark and a bit sexy. There is very little light below ground, and the goal of this space is to be quite timeless—you really shouldn’t know what time of day it is while you’re drinking here. The bar program is being run by former Alembic bar manager Daniel Hyatt. There will be a full list of cocktails, with infused liquors and Japanese whiskies as the highlight. Hyatt is excited to offer service that is hospitable, not stuffy or pretentious. He wants customers to feel comfortable ordering what they want to drink, not what they think they should want to drink. He’s been experimenting with infusions, particularly of shochu, and the infused spirits will be displayed in handblown glass jars along one wall of the bar area. They’ve also invested in an ice machine that produces 300-pound ice blocks, which will be hand-cut by the bar staff.

The executive chef of the project is Roman Petry, who also opened Roka Akor locations in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Hong Kong. He will be utilizing classic Japanese techniques, but with California products, which he is quite excited to have the opportunity to do. There isn’t a menu for the San Francisco location yet, but we do know the focus will be on grilled meats and seafood, and sushi, with some tempura and appetizers as well. The bar will have a separate menu of smaller bites to go along with all those expertly mixed cocktails. For a hint of how the menu will look, take a peek at the Chicago location’s current menu. They’re planning an opening in July, with hours in the dining room of Sun-Thu 5:30pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5:30pm-11pm. Look for lunch service in the fall. The bar will be open Mon-Thu 3:30pm-12am and Fri-Sat 5pm-2am. 801 Montgomery St. at Pacific.