By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
You can order the crab as cakes, too, which sounded mundane but turned out to be a pair of crisp disks with an interior as fluffy as a feather pillow. (In Hawaii these cakes are made with native Kona crabs.) An accompanying sesame beurre blanc attests to Yamaguchi's Culinary Institute of America training, where he studied classical French techniques. These sauces and methods of preparation, combined with Hawaii's native bounty and ethnic Polynesian and Asian influences, form the cornerstone of Yamaguchi and crew's recipe-building.
Indeed the beurre blanc, or white butter sauce, shows up as a foundation time and again, garnishing entrées that range from shutome (a billfish caught in tropical waters) to grilled or braised short ribs. Note that any appetizer or main course featuring the white butter sauce will maintain a richness that could make it impossible to finish a complete serving. If that sounds like a bit much, turn to lighter items like the butterfish, a flaky but sturdy whitefish pan-fried and dressed with a brothy toasted sesame¯nori vinaigrette.
The impact of some of Roy's more vibrantly flavored dishes will depend on personal preference. Parmesan-crusted lamb shank required a swim in the red wine reduction that surrounded it in order to moisten it, and the headiness of the sauce almost overwhelmed the lamb. But if you like strength matched to strength, this dish will become one of your favorites -- as will a hearty, thyme-laced kabocha pumpkin soup, garnished with caviar and Chantilly cream, and barbecued baby-back ribs exuding Szechuan peppiness.
Know going in, too, that the menu lists a lot of curry dishes. How these curries are constructed depends on what country inspired them. The Indonesian curry sauce napping the lobsterlike, fire-roasted giant shrimp and mahi-mahi fillet had a silky, muted quality. We found this curry preferable to the spice mixture that spiked the tempura vegetables, a shredded, somewhat greasy side dish that detracted from the pleasures of the main attraction, Chinese-style roasted duck. We also didn't care for an appetizer of wild mushroom¯stuffed dumplings. Though we had no argument with the delicate, translucent rice-paper skin or earthy filling, the sauce exuded a bitter flavor, attributable to an infusion of star anise.
Roy's desserts include a warm chocolate soufflé that takes about 20 minutes to bake, so the server will ask you -- several times -- to order it during the meal. This sweet was hawked so thoroughly we were actually turned off, going instead for a delightful sponge cake concoction with fresh fruit filling and chocolate. In his book Yamaguchi cautions "not [to] underestimate the impression a wonderful dessert can make. After all, it's the parting indulgence you can offer your guests, and who doesn't enjoy a creamy, rich, delicious finale to a meal?" He has clearly taken his own advice.
Roy's doesn't skimp on the wine list either, offering a terrific selection of wines that were purposefully chosen to complement the vino-tricky Asian flavors. We particularly enjoyed the inclusion of a Bandol rosé, a wine with such a dry finish it almost evaporates on the palate. Roy's may indeed be a chain with all the loss of cachet that implies, but it hasn't discarded any of its intentions, skimped on quality, or shed one iota of its promise.