When two brands get together, it’s a recipe for romance — especially during the holidays. Roka Akor, the Japanese-style restaurant chain known for sushi and steak, has partnered with The Macallan – one of the world’s best-known Scotch distilleries – for an unusual dining and drinking experience in River North.
Roka has converted Enolo Wine Cafe, which closed during the pandemic, into a new space called the M Room. The idea has grown from a pop-up into what’s touted as The Macallan’s first permanent location (the company calls them “spiritual homes”). Customers will find food and rare Scotch when the bar debuts on Monday, December 19 at 450 N. Clark Street next door to Roka Akor.
“We’ve been enjoying a really nice relationship with [The] Macallan so we’re strengthening that relationship through collaboration,” says Roka Akor president Sunny Mehra. “Our chefs have held multiple dinners [with The Macallan] over the years and it started to make sense: why can’t we have a concept that brings these selections of whiskies and cocktails and brings Roka to the table? We can make it a complete experience rather than just a few drinks.”
The brands have joined forces in the hope of luring both The Macallan aficionados and the whiskey-curious with a 10-course menu ($185) that cross pollinates executive chef Ce Bian’s Japanese culinary influences with the flavors and ingredients that are central to the whisky making process – think barley, yeast, and oak. Bian transforms those components into dishes like toro sashimi with baked Macallan yeast seasoning and wasabi zuki, as well as a wagyu filet Wellington with mushroom duxelles, prosciutto, and Macallan demi-glace.
Pairing sushi with whisky isn’t a novel idea, but patrons will likely want more than just a whiff of The Macallan with their meals. Naturally, the M Room has assembled a menu of beverage pairings for $145. The pairings include cocktails and neat pours of hard-to-find varieties from the distillery including The Macallan Rare Cask and The Macallan Harmony. Some of these bottles retail for hundreds or thousands of dollars.
The team will also offer a la carte pours from the M Collection, Fine & Rare, Exceptional Single Cask, and cocktails such as the Six Pillars, an Old Fashioned made with Macallan 30 Sherry Oak. The Macallan adherents will recognize the cocktail’s name, an explicit reference to the brand’s mission and ethos.
The M Room will seat around 45 in an intimate space. It includes a sleek, simple bar that doesn’t offer seating but will serve as the stage for all things The Macallan, such as a display of bottles that glow like jewels thanks to careful lighting design.
“We’ve been enjoying a really nice relationship with [The] Macallan and we’re strengthening that through collaboration,” he says. “[They’re] known for Scotch whisky and Roka is known for amazing, balanced food. It’s about coming together and getting the harmony going between these two.”
The M Room, 450 N. Clark Street, scheduled to open Monday, December 19, reservations via Tock