Roy’s: Amazing Misoyaki Butterfish and Tasty Frying Dragon Sushi
226 Lewers St., Honolulu, HI
Roy’s in Waikiki is located right near the action in the Waikiki beachwalk neighbourhood. First started in Hollywood, California in 1984, Roy soon decided to head back to his hometown to open a restaurant in 1988. Roy’s is now a successful gourmet chain with restaurants all over the Hawaiian Islands and the rest of the United States. Their Hawaiian menu features local ingredients and Asian Fusion flavours. It was perfect for our sushi craving and love for sake.
We started off our meal with a bottle of Ginjo sake, imported from Japan, it was light, easy drinking. This particular sake was delicate and fragrant in flavour and more of the soft and sweet side of the flavour palate as opposed to full bodied, dry, heavier sakes I’ve tried. It was a nice refreshing way to start our meal. I’ve always preferred drinking sake ice cold as opposed to warm, especially in tropical places.
For our sushi craving, we ordered a couple of rolls. The Juntao roll was filled with tempura pork belly, cucumber, wasabi, aioli and dressed with some citrus ponzu gelee. They love ponzu sauce here on the Island, it’s present in many dishes and all the poke we have had was doused in the stuff. The pork belly was juicy in this roll, but there was only enough of it in each bite to tease our taste buds.
Our favourite roll was the “Frying Dragon,” filled with unagi, avocado, miso butterfish, macadamia nuts, and spicy wasabi sauce. This roll was amazing, it was gorgeous on the plate and I loved the crunchy outer crust. The unagi was also salty and delicious and even though the roll was thick, the big slices of sushi rolls held together as we ate, no crumbling rice here.
Next up, I had to try some traditional Hawaiian poke. We ordered the traditional big eye ahi poke, it was mixed in with Maui onion, ogo, inamona, chili and sprinkled with Hawaiian salt. Poke is a traditional Hawaiian dish consisting of cubed raw fish, traditionally tuna dressed with sea salt, crushed inamona (a nut called candlenut in the walnut family), soy sauce, sesame oil and chili pepper. I’ve seen enough episodes of Top Chef to want to try this stuff. I had imagined it tasting like the sashimi salad we have in Vancouver, we were surprised to find that the poke was extremely salty. There were actually giant specs of Hawaiian salt that we spotted on the fish. The extreme saltiness in this dish definitely jolted our taste buds awake. Each bite left a lingering numbing feeling on our tongues as the Hawaiian salt melted away.
Wanting to sample as many items on the menu as possible, we ordered Roy’s Beach Walk Trio which had three of the chef’s signature dishes: Hibachi grilled salmon, macadamia nut crusted white fish and the critically acclaimed misoyaki butterfish served with a side of rice.
We had heard rave reviews about the butterfish. When we told people we were eating at Roy’s, the misoyaki butterfish came up in conversation. We can see why, the butterfish was definitely the star of the trio. It had that incomparable ‘melt-in-your-mouth’ smooth, rich goodness to each bite. The fish was fragrant and beautiful in the dish, and tasted even better than it looked. The flavours were deep and seductive, salty, sweet with a hint of nuttiness. There is also a full order of the misoyaki butterfish offered on the menu too.
The hibachi grilled salmon was no competition for that epic butterfish. Used to eating lots of salmon in Vancouver, we were very picky about the fish so we found Roy’s rendition only average and verging on the dry side. The flavours were fresh but the dish definitely didn’t have that elusive “je ne se quoi” element that made the misoyaki butterfish so memorable.
The macadamia nut crusted white fish was totally lacking a sauce. I love macadamia nuts or what they call here in Hawaii mac nuts. But I’ve found that restaurants don’t do much to dress up the nut, they just chop it up and sprinkle it on top of fish, pancakes or whatever else. The flavours of the mac nuts are incredible but this dish was missing something to melt the mac nut flavours into the white fish. The crispy crust on the white fish featured mac nuts but the crust did nothing to enhance the delicate flavours of the fish.
Our server asked us three times whether or not we wanted dessert, the strange thing was, he kept asking us in the beginning of the meal. We found out this was because the desserts take up to 30 minutes to prepare, the pastries are probably made-to-order.
We chose the pineapple upside-down cake which turned out to be a gorgeous little golden cake with lots of sweet, caramelized pineapples and a buttery crust. It was the perfect sweet finish to a lovely meal.
Since Roy’s is located in the heart of downtown Waikiki, we got to enjoy a nice evening stroll along the beach walk.