By Lesa Griffith
Roy’s Waikiki gives diners a taste of the Pacific Rim.
Hawai‘i has its share of celebrity chefs, but only one has a presence in Waikiki—Roy Yamaguchi. One of the founders of the Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine movement in 1991, Yamaguchi is a pioneer in contemporary island cooking. He is a fixture in the international food scene, with a TV show under his belt, appearances at food festivals around the world, and Roy’s restaurants in cities from Tokyo to Baltimore.
He opened his Waikiki location in 2007, and it remains the place to try some of the most exciting food in the neighborhood. Each Roy’s has a different personality—that’s because Yamaguchi, besides being an excellent chef, is also a respected mentor and gives his executive chefs room to express themselves.
At Roy’s Waikiki, you can experience the best of both food worlds— Yamaguchi’s now classic signature dishes, such as Roy’s blackened island ‘ahi with spicy soy mustard sauce and grilled Szechuan-spiced baby back pork ribs, along with Kaua‘i-born executive chef Jason Peel’s new creations, such as refreshing cubes of ruby-red watermelon drizzled with Thai-style vinaigrette, and honey-glazed duck breast with a pungent sour beet puree topped by minty julienned cantaloupe. In 2013, Peel plans to introduce smaller tapas-style plates, and will even be “playing around with classic dishes with flavors that I like—I love heat, acid, and herbs.” One new dish will be a stew of clams in a broth of white wine, Anaheim peppers, pancetta, parsley and chives.
From creative sushi rolls such as the Turf’s Up (tempura asparagus, tomato, filet mignon and garlicky escargots!) to a hefty dry-aged, soy-glazed pork chop with ginger risotto, there is something for everyone in the bustling dining room. Peel even offers a four-course, vegan dinner that changes quarterly. (You have to request it—it’s not on the menu.) Peel’s vegan version of a spicy tuna roll is made with chickpea puree—and even meat eaters will love it.
Peel explains that produce might grow all year long in Hawai‘i, but the small climactic shifts of the seasons definitely affect the flavor and quality—and it influences what he puts on the menu.
You can choose to sit on the breezy lanai (also home to the bar, where you can have pupu [appetizers] and creative cocktails such as the Guavalicious made with vodka and fresh fruit puree) from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), at the sushi counter, or in the dining room, which is packed for dinner by 6 p.m. almost every day of the week. It’s smart to make a reservation at least three days in advance.
Embassy Suites 226 Lewers St.
[D:7 Waikiki Map]