Roy’s Feature

Roy’s Restaurant

Roy'sOk, so my Hawaiian friends reading this are gonna say “I told you so”!  Mea culpa!  My lovely veteran bartender friend and party girl, Cheryl, told us to go to Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge on the second floor of the Trump hotel for cocktails and pupus (hors d’oeuvres).  Since we were staying at the Royal Hawaiian and waiting for the boys to finish a customer dinner and then hook up with some Hawaiian friends, Trump Hotel’s Wai’olu Ocean View Lounge seemed like a logical choice for pupus.  But, even though Trump only lends his name to The Trump Hotel (for millions of dollars mind you), I really hate the thought of giving anything Trump my money.  So, when we came upon Roy’s Restaurant Waikiki, I fondly remembered the first Roy’s near the Hilton Hawaiian Village in 1988 and the original and amazing innovative way Roy changed the face of Hawaiian, Pacific and Asian food with a fusion flare that the whole world was waiting for.  Then, to go to Roy’s Hawaii Kai restaurant and have the opportunity to see the whole operation open before its clientele like a badge of honor and the marvelous industrial yet Hawaiian feel of the place???  Oh my.  I even enjoy the Roy’s in San Francisco’s SOMA district.  But Waikiki?  Roy, shame on you.  What a ripoff, the wrong way to treat unsuspecting tourists, the only people who would go there, and the dumb, nostalgic ones like me.

Roy Yamaguchi was born in Tokyo and visited his grandparents in Maui.  At 19, Roy attended the CIA in New York.  In 1988, Roy’s Restaurant opened near Hilton Hawaiian Village.  Roy Yamaguchi is a James Beard award winner and known as the creator of Hawaiian fusion cuisine.  Roy’s Restaurant empire is now 20 restaurants strong.  Roy hosted six seasons of the television show ‘Hawaii Cooks with Roy’, and is the author of three cookbooks.

Roy's KampachiDon’t get me wrong. The food at Roy’s Restaurant was good, and the service was excellent.  But the prices were astronomical.  Our kampachi crudo (pictured here from a web photo – the photo shows far larger slices of kampachi) consisted of six ridiculously thin slices of kampachi, a designer yellowtail fish sustainably farmed in Kona, served with toasted garlic slices, thin slices of onion, jalapeño and radish in lime juice.  It was really good, but $20???  Pllllleeeaase.  The ahi, which doesn’t hold a candle to kampachi’s status was $25!  An entree of butterfish, which I’m sure would have been good, was $40!!  I think these prices are appalling.  And I think that’s why Roy’s Waikiki, which used to be impossible to get into, is now half full.

We chose the Canoe Appetizer for 2 for $20.  It consisted of two fried shrimp skewers, Thai Peanut Chicken Satay, a vegetable spring roll, Szechuan ribs, kimchee and a spicy tuna roll.  It was excellent and just about $2 a piece, so it was likely the most reasonable choice on the menu.  If you want greens at Roy’s Restaurant, forget about having them without meat.  Virtually all of the five salads available at Roy’s Restaurant have meat included.  And, there’s no way to get greens or vegetables on the side, at least they weren’t on the menu.  There are some greens on the entrees ordered, but it’s simply not balanced.

We had a Frank Family 2012 Chardonnay which was competitively priced for upscale restaurants at $52.  It’s a delicious well-balanced wine.

My official review score is too misleading.  The service was truly excellent – attentive, polite, unassuming.  We sat our on a lovely veranda and watched the action from half floor above the street.  The food and creativity are quite good, with the exception of the absence of more vegetable options.  But, the prices are such an embarrassment.  I couldn’t recommend Roy’s Waikiki because of the prices.  Now my objective is to go back to Roy’s Hawaii Kai and Roy’s San Francisco to compare prices and try to give Roy a better score, as he is a pioneer in the nouveau food cuisine movement, and assuming the prices there don’t gouge customers like Roy’s Restaurant Waikiki.

Roy’s Restaurant Wrap-Up

Price: $$$$$$

Worth a Try if You've Got a Fat Pocketbook

Good Things

  • Good Service
  • The Creator of Hawaiian Fusion

Bad Things

  • Ridiculously Expensive

The Breakdown


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