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Out There :: We Wine, We Dine

by Roberto Friedman
Sunday Jul 14, 2013
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Bar manager Daniel Hyatt greeted us at the Roka Bar, down a sleek set of stairs from the brand-new Roka Akor restaurant in Jackson Square. We like a dining spot that’s also a palindrome, and we like a bar with very low lighting, so low it feels like our very own man cave. The bar’s darkness did not disappoint. A thick block of custom-made ice glowed with changing colored light from below. Hyatt hand-carved ice cubes with a fetishy-looking ice saw. We’ve had bartenders explain what the deal is with fancy ice: cubes with no air bubbles in them melt more slowly, don’t water down your drink. Which you wouldn’t want with your Crimson Tide, the first cocktail Hyatt served: Campari, sweet vermouth, lavender-infused ice, a splash of seltzer. That hits the spot.

Upstairs, the stylish dining room surrounds the open charcoal Robata grill. Coming at us: 16 dishes served in four courses and dessert.

Oh, steamed edamame with sea salt, crispy fried squid with chili and lime, butterfish tataki with white asparagus and yuzu, you kid!

My, Mendocino uni with lime and chicharrones, tuna tataki with chili ponzu and red onion, too-too tataki!

Rrrr, red sea bream with cherry blossom, scallop with black truffle, deluxe sashimi platter - so shoo me!

Whoa, whole Boston lobster tempura with spicy ponzu and wasabi, wagyu flat iron with maitake mushroom and egg yolk, yuzu miso marinated black cod wrapped in magnolia leaf, sweet corn with soy garlic butter. and Japanese mushroom rice hotpot with black truffle, no trifle!

Sweet things: House-made truffles, ice cream and sorbet. To wash down, more of Hyatt’s confections: the Prickly Heat, rum with watermelon agua fresca; the Lima Bean, a wittily titled blend of the pure grape brandy Encanto Pisco, lime, honey, Peruvian bitters, and salt.

Despite his menu being a sort of blend of Japanese nouveau with Mexican overtones, executive chef Roman Petry turned out to be German, and recognized photographer James’ sporty German jumpsuit right away. Apparently, all young German men wear a variant of it at some point in their youth. General manager Kiet Anh Lee introduced the new restaurant and invited us to the opening party tonight (Thurs., July 11). We’re there.

High-end Chinese restaurant Hakkasan San Francisco invited us to a Sommelier Tasting last week as Hakkasan sommeliers selected new wines to pair with the restaurant’s modern Chinese food. Senior sommelier Cara Patricia and her master sommeliers discussed their process and the latest trends in wines.

First, in blind tests, we tried flights of five whites and five reds. From these we culled five wines to match with four courses: mild (scallop shu mai), savory (braised pork belly with aged vinegar sauce), sweet (crispy duck salad) and spicy (black-pepper rib eye). The aim was to find wines that pair well with every shared plate on the table. Out There discovered a Grenache blanc, a pinot noir and a lemony sauvignon blanc that seemed to fill the bill. The custom wine list for Hakkasan San Francisco includes boutique and large producers, unusual grape varieties, old world and new world wines. The wine program also features a Sommelier Bar where you can have your very own personal instruction.

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