Talking SCHOP! Rock with ROKC

KYSHA HARRIS Food Editor, @SCHOPgirl | 8/20/2020, midnight
All of my ramen, Japanese food and craft cocktail lovers, hold on to your togarashi and your hats because I ...
Selections from Harlem Japanese ramen cocktail bar ROKC Kysha Harris photo

While bowling alleys, theaters and gyms (no thanks!) are back, we are still in a worldwide pandemic. Our low infection rate is incrementally growing and scientists are predicting a new surge in the fall. Please continue to do your part: wear a mask, socially distance and refrain from unnecessary gatherings and travel. Help get us all to a vaccine.

Let me not waste any words. All of my ramen, Japanese food and craft cocktail lovers, hold on to your togarashi and your hats because I am about to blow…your…minds.

Those that know, pre-COVID, one had to get to the Harlem Japanese ramen cocktail bar ROKC (3452 Broadway, 332.217.8755, rokcnyc.com) when they opened for dinner service at 5 p.m. to get a seat, inside only. If not, a wait of up to two hours would be well worth it.

Post-COVID, ROKC owner, Shigefumi Kabashima, pivoted operations introducing outdoor dining while still using his signature drinking vessels, reintroducing oyster happy hour and updating his contemporary-Japanese menu. “My hope is that when visiting or ordering to-go, guests feel as though they are experiencing Japan’s cuisine and cocktail culture, without ever leaving Manhattan,” says Kabashima.

I was asked to try some of the new menu items created by ROKC’s new chef, Takashi Igarashi. He is an internationally recognized chef in Kaiseki cooking (like omakase but dependent on seasonal produce). The menu was inspiring so I mostly left the choices to them.

I opened my contactless delivery to appetizers of summer garden salad ($13) and spicy fried chicken bun ($7). The salad of quinoa, kale, roasted brussels sprouts, avocado, cauliflower, mint, pumpkin seeds, lemon, truffle oil and wasabi was a unique hearty surprise and that chicken bun needs to be sold in quantity with cold beer!

For main dishes I started with pork charsiu rice bowl ($15) of pork belly, seasoned egg, avocado, pickles and mayo. Then two of their new ramen dishes, both soupless. The first, the filling Yokosuka curry ($16) of noodles in a rich coconut milk, shrimp paste and green curry broth topped with shrimp, shrimp oil, fried shallot, cauliflower and cilantro.

The second, Hiroshima summer cold ramen ($15), is most indicative of chef Igarashi’s expertise and my favorite of the lot. Soy sauce flavored cold broth with shredded daikon, pork belly, cucumber, seasoned egg, spicy bamboo shoot, seaweed and pickled yuzu zest. With a healthy addition of chili oil, this dish hits all the notes and left me full but feeling refreshed. This one is a must!

And Mr. Kabashima gets the last sip here with my two craft cocktails, Ginger and Flower ($13 each). Lavender Japanese barley vodka, elderflower and cranberry comprised the latter. Ginger gave me life with ginger cardamom vodka and lime base, to be mixed with my fave Fever Tree ginger ale. Genius!

Domo arigato gozaimashita ROKC!

Stay safe, wear a mask, eat well and thanks for reading!

Kysha Harris is a food writer and editor, culinary producer, consultant and owner of SCHOP!, a personalized food service in NYC for over 15 years. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram, @SCHOPgirl, on Facebook, /SCHOPnyc, and her blog, www.talkingSCHOP.wordpress.com. Questions? Comments? Requests? Feedback? Invitations! Email AmNewsFOOD at AmNewsFOOD@SCHOPnyc.com. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook @NYAmNewsFOOD and tag us with #SoAmNewsFOOD with your food finds!