If you have never heard of a “cocktail omakase” you should head to Roka Bar to experience one for yourself! An “omakase” is a Japanese term meaning, “I’ll leave it up to you,” and in this case, it is left up to the bartender to carefully curate a selection of five to seven alcoholic drinks, varying in size and style, but crafted around a theme. The latest theme for Roka Bar’s cocktail omakase is based on traditional Japanese festivals: Sakura Festival; the Great Japan Beer Festival; the Yamayaki Festival; the Yuki Matsuri; and the Kanto Matsuri. The area at the bar where one experiences these delights feels like the equivalent of sitting at the Chef’s Table, but in this case, the Chef is the Lead Bartender, whose style is conversational, educational, and entertaining. Along with the five to seven drinks, there is a Chinese style tea service half way through. One can choose just the cocktails for $55 per person or for an additional $55 per person you may add signature food items that are intended to complement the cocktails.
To follow is my best attempt at presenting all of the cocktails included in this experience.
Sakura Festival – Cherry Blossom Festival – This lovely cocktail was a perfect starter. It included cherry blossom leaf, flower-infused wine, purple rice sake, butterfly pea flower tea, and sweet pickled cherry leaves and blossoms. It was gentle, fragrant, refreshing and pretty.
Great Japan Beer Festival – a festival in Yokohama where you can buy a glass and taste up to 300 beers, mostly Japanese with some worldwide offerings. This cocktail was awesome! It included Nitrogen-charged craft IPA, egg whites and a gentle essence of Centennial Hops that offered the aromatics of the Hops without an overwhelming bitterness to distract from the cocktail. The sweet foam of the egg white co-mingled with the foam of the IPA in a very playful way. This was a refreshing yet intriguing cocktail.
Wakakusa Yamayaki Festival – a festival during which the grass on the hillside of Nara’s Mount Wakakusayama is set on fire for several nights. The accompanying cocktail was the bartender’s variation on a Sazerac with Rittenhouse Rye, cognac and Peychaud’s bitters. His intention was to literally add smoke to the cocktail using a special smoke infusing machine which decided to malfunction that evening, so instead he tried to capture smoke under glass to impart the smokey flavor into the cocktail. Aside from the technical mishap, this cocktail was simply unbalanced and much to strong and overpowering as compared to the other balanced and restrained cocktails.
Akita Kanto Matsuri Festival – a festival held in Imelda, Japan, includes a parade through the city with bamboo poles centered around local harvest and hopes for an abundant harvest season. So, in keeping with our own local harvest season, this next round of drinks were wine-based and had a lovely finesse that took the edge of the previous fire-based drink.
Yuki Matsuri Festival – a snow festival in which tons of competitors gather to design elaborate ice sculptures of an architectural and artistic nature. This beautiful and tongue-satisfying final cocktail included Heirloom melon sorbet, lemon-basil shaved ice, honey caviar and heirloom-melon-infused Soju.
The food selections included Pot Stickers; Chef’s Selection Nigiri; Grilled Sweet Corn; and Wagyu Beef Filet to complement the distinctive flavors of the cocktails, however, at an additional $55, we found them to not be worth it. I suggest either eating dinner upstairs or having your favorite Ramen elsewhere before indulging in these cocktails.
In all, Roka Bar’s 90-minute cocktail omakase is a unique cocktail experience that is best suited for a celebration night such as a Birthday or other special night, especially for people who really enjoy cocktails and who are willing to be delighted and surprised by the bartender. I highly suggest you make a reservation soon, but, “I’ll leave it up to you!”
The cocktail omakase is available Thursday through Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m. The cocktail omakase is priced at $55 per person and the food pairing is priced at $55 per person, not including taxes and gratuity. Reservations are limited to five seats per evening and can be made through Resy.com.