Many years ago, when I first visited ROKC months after it opened, I was greeted to an intimate and unique dining experience. Set down a short flight of relatively nondescript stairs slightly beneath street level on Broadway in West Harlem…I walked right past it that first time! Ha! But once I turned around and descended the stairs, I settled in for one of a few stellar ROKC experiences. Admittedly, I’ve probably consumed more cocktails there than their ramen over the years, but to each their own. 😉
As many of my followers know, I am immunocompromised – I had my spleen removed in 2008. Good times! – and have been playing it extra safe during this pandemic. For a person that loves her restaurants and supporting her favorite food & drink businesses, it’s been a challenge for me to not enjoy my usual haunts. Since my followers are also aware that I work in Infection Control at a major NYC hospital and know COVID numbers a little too intimately nowadays (!), I avoid virtually all dining at restaurants that are opened, both outdoor and indoor. Luckily, I love to cook, but I would be lying if I didn’t say I miss a night out or a weekend afternoon at a nice cafe. Still, I have been taking advantage of take-out and delivery around my neighborhood more than ever, because I want to support our local businesses and…some nights, i just don’t have the energy to even microwave a frozen entree after a 10+ hour work day.
ROKC has recently reopened after a brief hiatus, and I am so happy I am able to enjoy their extraordinary meals and one – of – a – kind cocktails in the comfort of my own home. A peek at their menu left me weak in the knees and eager to indulge! Let me share my take-home experience with ROKC.
Food at ROKC
For starters, I went with the Pork Bun. It’s tried, true, and comforting. The texture of their bao is always pillowy and this was no exception. The pork belly shredded perfectly with each bite, with the homemade tartar sauce giving it the perfect extra zing. Though usually one for their Kyoto Bowl when I have eaten in-house – classic with the pork belly, bamboo shoots, and jammy egg – I opted to order their Sapporo for a change, a chicken-based ramen with corn, scallions, red pepper, black pepper, butter, and bean sprouts. This chicken-miso broth was as silky and luxurious as any tonkotsu broth I’ve ever had. The Sapporo – thankfully! – was not overwhelmingly salty, which is always a big minus in my book yet is an issue with far too many NYC-area ramen spots, in my opinion. ROKC flavors their ramen perfectly, and it’s one of the few ramen spots that doesn’t leave me feeling overly-full. Who can relate to having a little too much broth left in the bowl after you’ve finished, leaving you feeling a little guilty? Trust me, not a drop remains in the bowl when I’m finished with ROKC ramen.
Please forgive my styling skills in my ramen photos, as that isn’t my strongest suite, but all that matters is that it tasted amazing!
Cocktails at ROKC
An upside to this pandemic – I say that with my tongue firmly in my cheek – is that many establishments have been able to sell alcohol with take-out and delivery orders. Fantastic, because the cocktail menu at ROKC has always set a high bar. Even at home, I am impressed with their attention to detail: I ordered the Japanese Old Fashioned, and I was sent home with a large ice cube and decorative orange peel; I ordered the Flower – with lavender Japanese barley vodka, elderflower, and cranberry – and I was sent home with the most delicate small bouquet of dried flowers to decorate my drink with. That attention to detail had me FLOORED. The bottles ROKC uses for take-home cocktails are small and hardy; one of the bottles fell out of my paper delivery bag that was slightly rain-soaked the night I picked up this order, but it held strong against the sidewalk outside of the 103rd Street 1 Train Station! *phew*
This was my first time trying either of these two cocktails – I’ve tried other cocktails in-house before, Smoke being a favorite – and of course I was not disappointed! I’ll never turn down an Old Fashioned of any sort – I have become a brown liquor appreciator as the years go on – nor will I ever turn down fragrant calming lavender in my drinks; in addition, I love the tang of cranberry, especially in the autumn. Both are perfect for a chilly autumn evening at home, thought I wouldn’t sleep on any of the warm cocktails on their menu for my next order, such as the Apple, Choco + Mint, or – for post 9 p.m. orders – the Nightcap.
As we roll into the autumn and winter, more of us will likely start coming back home to eat again, with the temperatures getting colder and the prevalence of COVID cases rising. Please continue to support your favorite spots with take-out orders during this time, as I – and we! – want everyone to thrive business-wise. I cannot suggest take-out from ROKC highly enough, with their consistently great meals and cocktails. Set the mood at your apartment, and enjoy!
To order for delivery in the Harlem Area or for pick-up, click here for their Grub Hub site! They are located at 3452 Broadway in West Harlem. As permissions for outdoor and indoor dining allow – depending when you read this post! – there is limited indoor and outdoor seating available. Just remember to be mindful of safety restrictions, keep your masks on when not actively eating or drinking, and tip WELL. Stay SAFE, y’all! ❤️