Cozy, comfortable and local.
These three words formed the basis of the concept of Roka Bar and Asian Flavors, which recently opened at 1615 S. Utica Ave. in Tulsa. While the idea sounds simple, the care and dedication to the concept shows through the restaurant.
Chad Stanger, operating partner for Roka, says almost a year passed between the forming of the idea for Roka and the restaurant’s opening on Feb. 4. The interior of the building was completely torn out and remodeled – the actual construction on the restaurant took four months.
The restaurant features a variety of seating options, including high-backed booths with walls for privacy. The building is dividing into different areas, including two main dining rooms, a bar and two banquet rooms. Every aspect of the restaurant’s design was carefully thought out, including the music being played through 36 speakers divided into 10 different zones. The system allows for a high degree of volume control through the restaurant, Stanger says.
“We wanted clear, crisp music that doesn’t affect conversation,” he says.
The concept used for the design of the building helped inspire Damon Holdeman, executive chef for Roka, when creating the menu.
“We wanted to do a menu that matched the building,” he says. “We wanted a menu that was a chef’s menu and had a lot of skill put into it.
The menu features a large selection of Asian dishes pulled from every Asian culture, Stanger says. Holdeman talked to chefs who specialize in all the styles used to guarantee the authenticity of the menu. Staying with the idea of being a restaurant that focused on being local, many of the dishes are made with ingredients from Oklahoma farms and markets.
The menu includes dishes like rice paper salmon, fire grilled duck breast and bulgogi beef. Everything in the dishes – including the hoisin citrus sauce used in the rice paper salmon and the sweet potato noodles in the bulgogi beef – is made from scratch in the restaurant.
“We spent a lot of time and effort on this menu,” Stanger says. “It was a long process.”
They also spent time and effort on the restaurant’s bar area, named Sami’s Bar in honor of the large sculpture of a samurai that immediately draws a visitor’s attention when entering. The bar has a menu of lighter fare and features specialty craft cocktails created by the Roka staff, including a maple bourbon martini.
“It’s what people are looking for right now,” Holdeman says. “Craft cocktails are on the rise, and people like a little more skill put into their drinks.
The bar also features more than 40 wines and 24 types of beer, with 10 types of beer on tap. The same focus on using local ingredients in the menu was brought to the bar – bartenders make drinks using Prairie Wolf vodka, produced in Guthrie, and Maehs gin, produced in Moore, and eight of the beers served are Oklahoma beers. Even Sami, the samurai statue, is a local product created by Oklahoma chainsaw artist Clayton Coss.
No matter how full the bar is, noise-reducing panels prevent the sound from traveling into the restaurant. Stanger says despite a lively crowd during the Super Bowl, it was possible to step into the restaurant and not hear any of the bar noise.
Whether you’re looking for lunch, dinner or a drink or two for happy hour, the staff of Roka have worked hard to create an atmosphere that matches their concept: cozy, comfortably and local.
Roka Bar and Asian Flavor
1616 S Utica Ave., Tulsa
11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday