When I was in Hawaii a couple of years ago I took note of the very good reviews that Roy's restaurants were getting. Hawaiin fusion cuisine. The word was pretty good, but I was a bit skeptical. How good could a chain restaurant be? So we did not go.
A few weeks ago we returned to Hawaii for a holiday and stayed at Ko'Olina. We ran into famous Hawaiian singer and ukelele player Moon Kahele. He told us that he plays at Roy's on Wednesday nights and encourged us to go. The Roy's restaurant there is located at the Ko'Olina Golf Club just across the road from where we were staying. So we decided to give it a try.
The restaurant is approached via the golf club's roadway, so it's through manicured gardens. The restaurant is comprised of two main seating areas; one indoors, and one outdoors, although roofed. We were switfly seated at a table large enough for our party of 4 adults and 3 children.
Our server was a woman who I rate as the best soft-upselling restaurant waitress I've ever seen. She sized up our table and guided us towards menu choices which would not only be pleasing to us, but in the American way be a little bit more than we actually needed to eat and drink. In the nicest possible way she maximised the check for the restaurant by suggestive selling and attentive service.
If I ran a restaurant I would want her to train my wait team.
We sat in the outdoor section, which here meant that the roof is enough to withstand a tropical storm but there are no walls. Open to the air, the Island breezes, and fragrance from the tropical gardens.
I didn't take notes about the food, but I can tell you that the fried sushi roll was wonderful. The roll was about 5cm in diameter, and about 15cm long cut into slices, perfect for sharing around the table which is how all enjoyed it. In the style of cooking it reminded both Gabrielle and I of Tetsuya's famed crusted ocean trout. Not in taste nor texture of course - but in the sensibility which informed it.
With 33 restaurants to run it seems unlikely that Roy Yamaguchi was at the stove himself that night, so the achievement of excellence is a managaerial credit too.
The other dish I'll comment on was the steak I had. I rarely cook beef steak for myself at home so sometimes I like to order it out. This was a fillet mignon, perhaps the best beef steak I've ever had. The chef had mastered the skill of minimalism. Not too much intervention, a plain steak full of flavour perfectly cooked. This restaurant does not quote beef marbling scores like Australian restaurants do, but this would have been very high.
Even if the food had not been so good it could have been forgiven on the strength of the atmosphere. A nice night, in open air surroundings with a fine entertainer singing crowd pleasing covers.
As part of the pitch our server gave for the menu was that there are "Roy's Classics" on the menu which are there every night (these comprised about 20% of the menu) and the rest being daily dishes based upon fresh market ingredients.
When we returned two night later, this proved to be true with the a la carte menu being 80% different.
If you're near a Roy's, you should go.
Far, far better than expected.