Friday, May 04, 2007

Roku-Roku Japanese Restaurant – Guangzhou

*All the pictures in this post were shot with my still new Nokia N95.

Roku-Roku Japanese Restaurant, located only a stones throw away from Guangzhou’s Citic Plaza is probably one of the cities best Japanese eateries. I have passed by there a number of times but have never ventured in for a meal. Although the exterior design of the establishment does not scream extravagance, I have heard the prices on the menu are quite hefty, although any person who has told me so has also added that that it is justifiably so.

Last Sunday, after an extremely heavy night out clubbing and nursing some pretty nasty hangovers, a couple of friends and I meandered into Roku-Roku for a very late lunch. Upon entering the establishment, we were immediately confronted with a fresh sushi bar. Roku-Roku is known for serving extremely fresh sushi. The bar is manned by 2 chefs, and although there are large cuts of seafood in the bar, they do not prepare any dishes before hand. They are all made to order.

Roku-Roku also boasts a large selection of Japanese rice wines, or ‘sake’ displayed in this elegant case. The interior of the restaurant is decorated in a sort of minimalist manner using mostly glass, steel and grey rock elements. This gives the room a very open flow where light and aromas are free to waft around. On the left of the room is where the sashimi or sushi area is and on the right there are glass cubicles that serve as private rooms for Tepenyaki dining.

We went for the Tepenyaki. Sitting in the little glass room kind of reminded me of the TV show 24. I felt like I was in Jack Bauer’s office in the CTU. There were 3 of us ding but they had a whole entourage of staff tending to us. I really enjoyed the small touches of Japanese design.

The assistant head chef was preparing our meal for us. Her name is Jenny. We ordered a couple of set Tepenyaki menus and a few other side dishes to boot. Dude, we were hungry. Plus I made the guys walk there so they were not too impressed.

For those of you not familiar with the Tepenyaki, it is a style of Japanese cooking where the food is prepared before the customer on a hot metal sheet. They cook a variety of meats in various sauces ranging from chicken, beef, and duck, to lobsters, prawns, squid, and fish. There is an acquired art to Tepanyaki cooking as with all other forms of Japanese cuisine. One of my favorite items on the Tepenyaki has to be the fried garlic. I can just munch on that stuff all day.

What is Japanese food without a good Japanese beer? Had it been late evening I might have gone for some hot ‘sake’ but being late afternoon and that I had just woken up, cold beer works damn fine. This large bottle of chilled Kinsai hit the spot.

Fortunately I was very thirsty and the Kinsai lasted all of 3 minutes. So we ordered a bottle of Asahi to chase it. Asahi is probably one of Japans most well known beers. I personally love the flavor. It is smooth yet flavorful and a damn good complement to Japanese cooking.

Here I was comparing the flavors of Asahi on the left, and Kinsai on the right. I prefer the flavor of Asahi any day. It reminds me of eating fresh sashimi on the beach. You can also see that the Asahi looks a lot lighter in color.

First up on the menu were these huge prawns. I have no size reference in the picture but these puppies were as long as my forearm! Watch Jenny slice and dice these prawns with fantastic skill. It is not easy preparing a prawn in this manner. She finished them up with a soya butter sauce. Off the hook I tell you. The flesh cooked pretty fast but she let the heads cook all the way to the end of the meal before serving them. And I have never really enjoyed eating prawn brains, but it was pretty good.

While Jenny was hard at work over the hot plate, we received our first order, grilled UNAGI or eel. OH MY GOD! Unagi has never tasted so good. These thin slices of meat just melted in my mouth. I have usually eaten eel in regular sushi bars and I never imagined when properly prepared it could be so awesome. And Roku-Roku makes their own fresh wasabi to boot that dissolves perfectly into the soya sauce with just one stir. I don’t even need to mention how tasty that was.

As part of the set menu we were served scallops. I am not going to pretend to know what a scallop is. I have eaten them on numerous occasions as part of a meal I have ordered but even though I have scuba dived, if I came across a scallop, I would have no idea what it is. Nonetheless Jenny cooked up some scallops on the pan then placed them in these shells to simmer a while with some seasoning. What I really liked about the Tepenyaki so far is that none of the items had been doused in sauces or seasoning leaving them with a very natural and palatable flavor.

Tepanyaki is a great way to enjoy a slow meal over good conversation and a few drinks. Each item is prepared one by one while the diner watches. Then he or she can savor the flavor and preparation of the dish. We were too hungry to sit back and wait for each item as it rolled of the hotplate, so we ordered a bunch of fillers to keep us occupied during the gaps. This range of Tempura (fried goodies) was so fresh and crispy. I nab not begin to compliment the quality of servings at Roku-Roku. Once again the dipping sauce was also perfection.

This small selection of sushi we ordered was also some of the best I have sampled in a very long time. I am particularly for of MAGURO, or tuna. That is the red one. It was marvelous! I am running out of adjectives to describe the food.

There were other items we toyed with that titillated and tantalized our taste buds, but the pinnacle, the proverbial ‘cherry on the cake’ was the Kobe Beef. These cows have been reared drinking only fresh milk and beer, listening to a continuous stream of Japanese classical music. This style of rearing provides them to live such a stress free and relaxed life that when they are actually slaughtered they are too chilled out to contract their muscles. This insures that the beef is as tender as possible. Yes, don’t you love the nihilistic nature of man? But seriously, all moral and overly passionate personal issues aside, Kobe Beef is the best fucking meat I have had in my entire life. It does not even taste like normal beef or US Prime cuts for that mater. It has a totally unique and unadulterated flavor. To understand it you would really have to try it for yourself. Check out Jenny preparing this awesome cut of beef. This is seriously worth watching, although I will warn you that you might end up drooling all over your keyboard.

Once the Kobe Beef was prepared medium, the small bite size pieces were laid out on a slice of rye bread. I have personally never seen Japanese food served with bread before. In fact I think I could safely say that I have never seen any steak served on bread before. The bread was great in soaking up whatever juices flowed from the meat keeping the presentation neat and tidy. It also went down great for flavor once all the Kobe Beef was devoured.

The overall experience at Roku-Roku was awesome. A healthy meal there could set you back a good $100 per head, but for the standard of service and quality of food they provide is worth it. Kobe Beef is a delicacy and will cost you a hefty sum anywhere you have it, but the stuff I had here is way better than the Kobe Beef I tasted in the Grand Hyatt Jakarta. The staff was very friendly and we were even visited by the head chefs. I will admit that at certain points I even felt uncomfortable with the number of people watching me eat. But they seemed truly content with the way I enjoyed their food. A meal at Roku-Roku is worth every cent if you are into that sort of thing.

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