When you can’t hop in a plane bound for Honolulu, head over to Roy’s Hawaiian Restaurant and imagine trade winds, ukulele sounds and the waft of a fine exotic meal coming together. Date night? Yes, please!
Here in Southern California, island-dreaming foodies can hoist their sails at Pasadena, Woodland Hills or Anaheim locations.
In Pasadena, the Tiki torches burn invitingly at the entrance of Roy’s where guests have the option of dining al fresco among the bustle of the Colorado Boulevard and the Playhouse District or heading indoors for a cozier soft-light experience.
Plan to arrive at Aloha Hour when the mixologist serves up fruity but not-overly sweet concoctions that set the pace for the evening. The Hawaiian Martini ($7) is light, airy and frothy made with Maui pineapple drenched in Skyy vodka and Stoli Vani Malibu coconut rum. Likewise, the Island Mai Tai ($9.90) is based on a 1940s classic recipe and is floated with Cruzan black strap rum. (Make sure to stir the Mai tai well before sipping since all the alcohol floats to the top!)
Once you are at the table, prepare for a three course meal that incorporates fresh regional ingredients harvested from the islands. Roy recently debuted a new Prix Fixe menu that honors Hawaii’s rich culinary culture and cuisine for a mere $39.95 per person. A reasonably-priced date night? Yes, yes please!
Starters include an heirloom tomato salad (juicy tomatoes, scrumptious macadamia nut pesto, sweet homemade ricotta and sprigs of shiso, a mint-like Asian culinary herb) and shrimp shumai (Chinese cabbage and kaiware sprouts mixed with pineapple shoyu vinaigrette). Since summertime is prime tomato time, the salad is a good option for veggie lovers.
Picking your entrée may be troublesome since both are deliciously prepared and presented. The Kona coffee-crusted pork with Kauai prawns is served along with a lip-smacking Okinawan coconut puree, Honshimeji mushrooms and bok choy. The bite-size sliced pieces of pork is perfect to dip into the coconut puree – maybe slice a piece of the woodsy mushroom as a topping for that bite? Go right ahead. You’ll be glad you did.
The other entrée choice is a surprise each dinnertime. The chefs arrange to use a fresh fish catch – flown in daily – for the entrée and pan sear it to perfection. Fish options include: opakapak, monchong, opah or shutome. All fish selections are mild tasting, thick and ‘meaty’ cuts that are bathed with a Vadouvan carrot puree and served alongside baby squash, tomato and shiso. These exotic fish options offer guests another version of the watery creature so immediately associated with Island living.
Now you’re onto the final course. Espresso or coffee may be a good accompaniment to either one of these desserts options. The white chocolate tart is smooth and textured, adorned with basil seeds and served with a side of tangy passion fruit sorbet. While the tart is light and crisp, the chocolate soufflé is a rich and heavy desert alternative: dense and thick flourless chocolate cake with a molten-hot chocolate center presented with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Each bite is a crunchy delight of familiar chocolate and vanilla.
While there are many reasons to return to Roy’s Pasadena location, food none withstanding, you may get the chance to see Roy Yamaguchi himself since his children live in the Crown City. The culinary pioneer started his empire at his original Roy’s in Honolulu in 1988 before introducing the mainland to Pacific Rim flavors, proving that Island cuisine is worthy of a fine dining experience. Which makes Roy’s a perfect place to imagine you and your spouse near a white-sand beach under Hawaiian palm trees.