Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Maui, Part 2: Nurturing The Asian-Fusion Relationship At Roy's, Kihei
(hmm, peace and quiet here or...)
By the time we visited Roy Yamaguchi's namesake Roy's in Kihei, Isaac and I had pretty much had it with Contemporary Asian-Fusion, Pacific Rim cuisine. We had been on Maui for three days and since our arrival, it seemed as though we had eaten nothing but mahi mahi cooked 18 different ways, "macadamia nut crusted" everything, seared ahi up the ying-yang...all served on a bed of rice with a drizzling of some kind of lilikoi, guava or mango-infused sauce. We were sick of it. Enough already.
But food, like a relationship, has to be nurtured. And sometimes we have to make sacrifices to do things we don't normally want to do--all in the name of love.
Take, for example, the fact that we had just started our honeymoon. And then take the fact that my family was still on the island for another day. Now most couples would normally be insistent on some alone time, some much needed peace and quiet after the big to-do over planning a wedding. But I, being the good daughter that I am, and Isaac, being the good new husband, son-, and brother-in-law that he is, agreed to spend some quality time with my family on the first official day of our honeymoon. All in the name of love and for the sake of nurturing our own Asian-Fusion relationship.
It was very fitting, then, that we all went to Roy's, the epitome of Asian-Fusion Pacific Rim restaurants for dinner that night. Isn't it ironic? (Dontcha think?)
I really hoped that the food at Roy's would make up for its lack of atmosphere. With Safeway, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Outback Steakhouse as its neighbors, Roy's Kihei wouldn't seem like a stand-out dining experience. Inside, its sleek, spacious and contemporary interior seemed like the perfect background for a Patrick Nagel painting. Our waiter, a young man who looked and acted like he should have been selling cell phones from a cart at the mall, gave the restaurant slightly more cheese-factor, although I will say that too much enthusiasm is always better than none when it comes to servers.
Combine several varieties of meat and local Hawaiian fish with creative execution and a menu is bound to give one a case of analysis-paralysis. The menu at Roy's was no exception. Fortunately for myself and other folks who can't easily make up their minds, the restaurant had a couple of "Mixed Plates" featuring duos of some of their meat and fish selections. Served side by side on a rectangular platter, my mixed plate of seared ahi tuna and grilled shutomi proved to be a good choice. The ahi itself was seared to perfection, its ruby red flesh looking oh-so-perky amidst a crispy coating of shiso and ginger. Underneath was a small disc-sized portion of gingery, vinegary rice flecked with furikake. A member of the swordfish family, my grilled shutomi was buttery and fleshy, and provided a meatier balance to the lighter textures and flavors of the ahi. Two spears of tender asparagus complimented the shutomi well yet were not enough to make my pee smell like it came out of an alien.
seared ahi (the yin)
grilled shutomi (the yang)
Isaac's misoyaki butterfish was fine, flavored with miso, ginger and soy and accompanied by baby bok choy and steamed rice. My mom ordered the roasted duck breast which was tender and tasty, given a Chinese kick with the addition of a black bean reduction. All of us agreed that the dish was good but because we are all used to authentic Chinese duck and black bean preparations that are so much more intense in flavor in texture, we also agreed that the dish was no match against the "real" thing. I never got to try my brother's pan seared sole which looked yummy enough sitting atop some mushroom ravioli. I'm taking his word for it that the dish was well-prepared.
you so fine: misoyaki butterfish
roasted duck: good, but it ain't no chinatown
supposedly, the sole had soul
The real winner of the night in my opinion were the honey & mustard braised shortribs, a "Roy's Classic" dish. Each bite was a perfect blend of deep smoky and sweet flavors and of beef swirled with that gelatinous goodness that only comes about with a nice braise. It's no wonder this dish stays on the menu day in and day out.
shortribs to die for
They say you can't leave Roy's without getting his famous melting hot chocolate souffle, and because it takes about 20 minutes to prepare, eager-beaver waiter boy came to take our dessert order practically right after our entrees had hit the table. I can't deny it--the souffle was ultra-sinful, oozing with silky molten chocolate as soon as the first fork broke it open. A scoop of vanilla ice cream helped to add a cool and mellow touch to this rich concoction. It was delicious, yes, but at the same time, I didn't think of it as super special--it seems as though every restaurant and its mother has their own version of a chocolate souffle nowadays, whether it's called a molten chocolate cake or a chocolate lava cake or a molten lava cake. Roy's version just happened to be well done. We also indulged in Roy's pineapple upside down cake which, though not quite as delectable as the chocolate souffle, was a special treat that we don't get to try very often.
chocolate souffle: everyone's got it, but this one's better than your mama's
pineapple upside down cake: it's hawaii...why not?
You'd think that having had meal after meal of Pacific Rim creations, we'd be completely sick of anything Asian Fusion/Pacific Rim after our meal at Roy's. What happened instead was the complete opposite. We had a wonderful experience which caused me to actually itch for more of Roy's creations here on the mainland and more importantly, we strengthened our own Asian-Fusion familial bonds by making that sacrifice--spending quality time with people other than ourselves during our honeymoon. Whodathunkit? So thank you, Roy's, for helping us nurture the Asian-Fusion relationship.
303 Piikea Avenue
(inside the Piilani Shopping Center)
Kihei, Maui, HI 96753