“Roy” is perhaps the biggest name from the relatively small culinary community in Hawaii. And Roy’s Hawaii Kai is where the culinary kingdom of Roy Yamaguchi really started. Today, Roy owns 31 restaurants around the world. He started a restaurant in California in the 1984, but it was Roy’s Hawaii Kai in 1988 that established his fame.
Roy Yamaguchi was born in Japan, but credits his father who was born and raised on Maui for inspiring his connection to Hawaiian cuisine. Ultimately though, it was Roy’s fusion of Japanese, Hawaiian, French and West coast American cuisine that defined his style and led to his rise to fame. Almost 30 years later, the “Original Roy’s” is still churning out amazing island cuisine from their open kitchen just across from Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai.
Roy’s eclectic blend of California-French-Japanese cooking traditions are infused with fresh flavors of the Islands. The Hawaii Kai menu rotates regularly as Roy seeks to support and buy from as many local Hawaiian farms and fishermen as possible. It means the tables of Roy’s Hawaii Kai are always fresh and local. You can read more about the local farms here.
When visited Roy’s Hawaii Kai earlier in 2016, I was lucky enough to have a Stilton-covered Porterhouse steak on the menu. The dinner was in celebration of my mother’s birthday, so something special was in order! The monster, 1 kg porterhouse is a cousin of T-Bone steak, cut from the rear of the short loin, that includes pieces of both sirloin and tenderloin. That’s pretty much what makes the Porterhouse the greatest cut of steak in my opinion – the best of both world’s of flavor and tenderness.
My medium-rare porterhouse was topped with crumbly, melted Stilton cheese and a caramelized balsamic vinegar for a sweet note. Both sides were pre-sliced before serving to allow the cheese and sauce to seep down into the crevices and really infuse the beef. It was a truly delectable steak. And a truly unique one… In all my years in London, I never came across a stilton-topped steak, yet for a cheese that’s undeniably British to be featured on a Hawaiian steak, was quite a delicious surprise.
In the same way that Kua Aina made the semi-circumnavigation from Haleiwa to London, Stilton traveled to Hawaii – and the blue cheese was excellent on the beef. For the uninitiated, Stilton is an English blue cheese produced in the three counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, and Nottinghamshire. It’s made according to a strict code in order to be bestowed with the name “Stilton”.
Despite some questionable treatment by the host staff, the porterhouse was delectable. Juicy, tender, flavorful in its own right and explosive with the stilton and sauce. Together with a few sides of roasted and pan seared vegetables, it was the perfect sharing size for my father and I. Paired with a spicy Malbec red, the only debate was about the scraps left on the bone running down the middle and who would have the task of stripping it bare before taking it home to our dog.
The other dishes served at Roy’s are equally delicious – despite their obvious lack of beef! The fish is cooked perfectly every time and the fusion of asian flavors with French style is most readily apparent in the varieties of local fish. The open kitchen setup was rather cutting edge in 1988, but is now somewhat ubiquitous in today’s age.
The dining area upstairs provides a panoramic view out across Hawaii Kai while downstairs there is a first-come-first-serve patio area where you can dine in the open air and sea breeze of Hawaii.
Roy’s has won the Hale Aina Awards’ Restaurant of the Year four times, along with many other Hale Aina Awards every year. They have included Best Oahu Restaurant, Best Service, Best Wine List, Best Wine Program, and Best Place to Take Visitors When You’re Paying. So take some notes – if you’re going to visit Hawaii, make a trip out toward Hanauma Bay and have a nice dinner at Roy’s. Or better yet, get your hosts to take you!