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Roy's Restaurant, Downtown Los Angeles w/ photos

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Photos here: http://tokyoastrogirl.blogspot.com/20...

The other night, my dear J had a 20-hour stop back home in LA before going on to the next show in Oakland. I rushed home from work and we went through the "Where do you want to go to dinner?" debate until we both decided that we really wanted seafood. We really don't know a lot of seafood-specific restaurants in town. Water Grill is great if you want to spend a grip, and places like McCormick & Schmidt's just give me The Waz. (The Waz is a term that J made up- it's that antsy, anxious feeling that kids get when their parents keep them at Target too long, or in church, etc). Since I wasn't feeling sushi, I did a little online search on LATimes.com and came up with Roy's.

Roy's is a chain of high-end Asian Fusion restaurants started by chef Roy Yamaguchi. Although I had read about it a few times, I wasn't too familiar with the restaurants and didn't really know what to expect. After a quick glance at the few menu items listed on their website, we decided to take a chance. I have to admit, I was a bit worried that it may be a chain in the vein of Outback Steakhouse (read: on the expensive side but still bad, large food) but the website looked promising.

The Downtown location is quite nice- it's on the corner of Figueroa and 8th and the floor-to-ceiling windows showcases a nice, street-level view of Staples Center and a few other buildings. It feels very urban, almost like New York. As we were looking through the menu, our waiter came over and asked if we wanted to order drinks. We were torn between two New Zealand sauvignon blancs so the waiter offered to let us taste both. He brought over those two and an additional glass that contained the one French sauvignon blanc they had. I have to admit, I was really impressed that he would offer and we actually ended up liking the French one best.

Everything on the menu sounded delicious, and our waiter explained a few items to us. We decided to share the Yellow Fin Ahi Poketini w/ Wasabi Aioli, Avocado and Tobiko Caviar which is one of their signature appetizers. Although the cynical side of me just wanted to roll my eyes at the kitschy name (Poketini??), the cheerful and helpful nature of our server made me think twice about it and I kept my eyeballs in check. When the beautiful martini glass piled high with sliced ahi and daikon sprouts arrived, I took off my Critical Cap and put it away for good. We both loved the fresh fish combined with a lovely crème fraiche that had just the right amount of wasabi mixed in- I could tasted a good bit of wasabi flavor but I didn't burn all of my nose hairs off either. We were happy.

When it came to order my entree, I couldn't decide between a Katsu-style Ono with Salmon Rice or the Green Curry Steamed Barramundi with Thai Black Rice. I knew I wanted the barramundi but I also wanted the salmon rice- what to do? I asked the waiter which one he recommended, and he said that he'd go for the barramundi and he would bring me a small dish of the salmon rice so I could try it. At this point I wouldn't have cared if they served me mud pies- our waiter made the night! Ok, I may have cared about mud pies but you get the idea. J decided to go for a Roy's combination plate which featured three of his signature dishes- the Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish w/ Sizzling Soy Vinaigrette, Hibachi Style Grilled Salmon w/ Japanese Vegetables and Citrus Ponzu Sauce and the Roy’s Original Hawaiian Blackened Island Ahi w/ Spicy Soy Mustard Butter.

J's plate came and and it was a stunner. Each part of the trio came on a small, white plate along with a small plate of white rice and were artfully arranged on a large, wooden board. Everything tasted as good as it looked- the ahi with the spicy mustard butter was outstanding, and I loved the not-too-sweet teriyaki on his hibachi style salmon. Wow. My barramundi was perfectly cooked and I loved the green curry flavor- unfortunately the pool of pineapple tamarind sauce underneath it was a bit too fruity for me- but I generally don't like fruity sauces so I probably shouldn't have ordered it. If you like sweet/tart sauces, this is the dish for you. We both loved the salmon rice and agreed that we'd have to eat it again. At this point we were just both completely satisfied and frankly, surprised. I guess I've been living under a rock, but I just assumed that Roy's, being a worldwide chain, would be all about huge portions dripping with too-heavy sauces. I was totally wrong- the food was beautifully presented and absolutely delicious.

I have to give a quick shout out to Sergio, our waiter. He really made our experience wonderful, and it's nice to see someone who takes so much pride in their work. He told us that he's been with Roy's for six years (Chicago and other locations- the downtown one is less than a year old) and that he really loves the food. He was gracious, patient and his recommendations were right on. So thank you Sergio- every restaurant should have a server like you!

We didn't have room for dessert, but from what I could tell, they looked delicious. I'm really happy to say that I think J and I have found a new dinner destination. I highly recommend it.

Roy's Restaurant
Address: 800 S Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90017
Phone: (213) 488-4994

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  1. To me, Roy's is the most depedable "chain" I've ever been to. We frequent the Newport Beach location quite often and have never been disappointed. Sure, sometimes the sauce is a little too strong, and the service can border on the overenthusiastic side, but overall, our quibbles are always minor. Yet, in some ways it is a disservice to call it a chain, as the locations in Hawaii, especially the original, are unique onto themselves- i.e., true tastng menus, more extensive ala carte, etc.

    2 Replies
    1. re: kdoc

      I found the downtown location to be superior to the other two I'd been to (Big Island, Palm Desert). I have loved almost everything I've had at that location (3 visits, 2 lunches and one dinner). I did find the short ribs to be a bit overly savory, but everything else has been outstanding.

      1. re: kdoc

        I have to note my disagreement on the Newport Roy's. I HAVE found all of the Hawaiian locations to be consistently good (although I was disappointed by the menu downsizing that took place over the last 1-2 years). But last week I ate at the Newport Roys and found it lacking in comparison. The "Jade Pesto" preparation of halibut at Newport was NOTHING like the "Jade Pesto" preparation of mahi mahi or monchong in the Hawaiian Roy's (most recently Waikaloa on the Big Island). Instead, it was a too strong tasting version of thai four-spice paste (garlic/cilantro roots/stems/white pepper/black pepper) and the fish was too large a piece for steaming and was consequently overcooked. It was just all wrong and not different in a good way. Other dishes ranged from OK (chicken) to good (blackened Ahi). So I don't know that the non-Hawaii expansion (which is owned/operated by Outback Steakhouse) delivers the goods.

      2. Funny you should mention Outback Steakhouse. I believe Outback owns all of the mainland Roy's restaurants.

        1. I'm glad you've found it! My friends and I love Roy's, too. In fact, one loves it so much, she had her wedding rehearsal dinner there.

          1. I just had my first Roy's lunch on Thursday at the Downtown location. I'd been there once for dinner, and have also been to the locations in Waikoloa (Big Island) and Spanish Bay (Pebble Beach, CA). All have been nothing short of excellent.

            Lunch was a real winner. I got the Local Boy Bento Box, which for $24 included a small serving of the following: poke, short ribs, butterfish, & chinese chicken salad. All were excellent. It was a filling lunch, but not so much that I was too stuffed to continue with my afternoon.

            Service was friendly, patient, and very accommodating to those in our group who were unfamiliar with this type of cuisine.

            Although Roy's is a chain and all of the restaurants serve some of the "Roy's classic" dishes, each one also has several menu items unique to that location. Thus, for the most part, it's not like eating at a chain unless you want it to be.

            1. Been to the downtown location of Roy's several times since it has openned and we've loved every experience and every dish. One time the service was a little sub par but I'm not about to make a negative comment based on one experience and one individual. Overall, a great restaurant, chain or no chain.

              1. i've been to three roy's in hawaii, one in new york and three in california and i have to say the downtown la location is the best of all the mainland locations. i love the food there. a couple of the most memorable dishes i've ever had were at locations in hawaii (pineapple/banana glazed mahi mahi with a macadamia nut crust and pineapple cheesecake specifically). i can't believe no one has mentioned the drinks, though. the hawaiian martini is one of the best cocktails i've ever had.

                1. have been to the downtown location several times and do not have the experience to compare it to the other locations. i've been eating with roy since 365 north (dating myself). he says all the restaurants will vary slightly because the chefs du cuisine are all different and he does give them some creative bandwidth to use local ingredients within the umbrella of the concept.

                  what's great is most people here think it's all well executed. the only negative about downtown is the space. i think, although well located, the layout is quirky.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: revets2

                    I, too, have been a fan since 365 (385?) North. Always loved his presentations and the great flavors. We, unfortunately had a really bad experience at Roy's LA this Valentine's eve.

                    After being locked in wonderful freeway traffic that doubled the time to get downtown from Redondo Beach, we arrived at Roy's about 20 miutes late. The front house staff was gracious and explained that they'd had at least 5 other tables with the same problem; they sat us immediately. That was the end of our pleasant experience. Our waiter, a rather surly young guy, came over about 10 minutes after we were seated. 10 minutes without a glass of water, without the plate of edamame we saw on other tables; 10 minutes of being ignored. We explained that we had to make a curtain and that we only had an hour and a half for dinner. We made it easy, we thought, and ordered the evening's prix fixe, an $85 per person four course menu that really looked wonderful. We ordered drinks and that was the last we saw of our waiter for another 15 minutes.

                    With the drinks came our first course, a selection of great little bites: an oyster topped with something crisp and sweet, ahi poke in endive, crab cakes, and hamachi. We then sat for another 15 minutes with the dirty plate in front of us while our waiter was handling two other tables. Our cocktails were gone; we were ripe for refills. No one came over. We flagged a busboy to get our waiter's attention. Clearly annoyed, he asked what we wanted and we ordered two more cocktails. He walked off and whispered to another waitress in the room. As soon as he left, the second course arrived: a tempura ebi bisque that had clearly been sitting waiting for pickup for much longer than it should have been. The soup was lukewarm and starting to congeal on top. In light of our time situation, we just ate. When we finished the soups, our drinks came. My husband, of the "extra dry martini with extra olives" set, saw immediately that his drink was not what he ordered. He asked if this was an extra dry martini. Our lovely waiter replied, "It's as dry as you're going to get it". He then disappeared and didn't return to our table for the rest of the meal.

                    Our third course came at 7:15; olive oil poached filet mignon and butter poached lobster. We originally told the waiter we had to leave by 7:30. We weren't able to have dessert and, for $85 a head, I had no intention of letting this pass.

                    The manager was gracious; he comped our evening and gave us a $50 gift certificate. I don't know that we'll ever use that gift certificate. That waiter made our experience at Roy's a nightmare. Bad service can kill a place, no matter how good the food is.

                  2. how much did the meal cost?

                    1. i think it depends on the location and i don't remember the prices exactly. what i do remember is a $33 prix fixe menu which is very attractive. i also remember the entrees being affordable in comparison to restaurants of this caliber (read not the majority of menu items over $30).

                      they also have a decent wine list. we bought a beautiful pfeffingen 2004 riesling bottled for roy's which paired wonderfully with the asian flavored fish menu for what i remember was a real value.

                      i think one reason why we like roy's is we get a great meal and feel like it was fairly priced for what we ate. it has the flexibility for us to go after work and eat at the bar every night if we desire, but doesn't fall short of a special occasion restaurant.

                      again, please note, i've only been to the downtown location.

                      1. THE CHOCOLATE SOUFFLE!!! heaven on your table

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: amandine

                          Bumping this thread.

                          At at Roy's tonight for lunch, and gotta say was pretty disappointed. Edamame was of poor quality and would be thrown to the dogs at any respectable sushi establishment. Unevenly salted.

                          Had some type of lobster fried gyoza dumpling. Definitely the highlight of the meal. I could eat these damn things for days.

                          Had the local boy bento as mentioned above, tuna poke, asian chicken salad, kalbi and butterfish. Tuna was of great quality, but the poke mixture didn't work for me. I actually found the mitsuwa poke tuna to be much tastier...

                          Asian chicken salad was acceptable, but a trip to Shaka's would've yielded me a better salad.

                          Kalbi was "ok". Meat was tender but nothing notable, can get equal if not better quality from many korean establishments.

                          Butterfish quality was EXCELLENT, but alas the beautiful fish was drowned in sauce. Don't get me wrong, the sauce was tasty, but I prefer the sauce to enhance the fish, not overwhelm it. I'd prefer the grilled butterfish at Bruddah's for a fraction of the price.

                          Coworker had the seafood paella. Looked good coming out, but was also mediocre (in his words, and he comes here ALOT).

                          All in all, would go there again simply because of the great things I hear about it, but would definitely not order any one of the above mentioned items.

                          1. re: ns1

                            Too bad, NS, sounds like an off day. Call the mgr and share your disappointment. I'll bet they make it up to you. We had dinner there pre-theater two weeks ago. It was my first downtown Roy's visit. All 4 of us enjoyed our dinners (prix fix at $35) thoroughly. I'd return in a NY minute!

                            1. re: compucook

                              Eh. still too saucy for my blood. I like meat, not sauce.

                        2. SO & I had dinner at the bar on Saturday, and once again were surprised at how good it was. I had the prix fixe menu, with beef, chicken, and eggplant satay app, filet mignon entree (I think?), and macadamia nut tart. At $35, it was a great deal. SO had the duck lumpia app and butterfish entree, also totaling $35. Everything we had was outstanding - and I would go so far as to say that the macadamia nut tart was to die for. It's so nice when a place doesn't disappoint!

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: aching

                            I cannot wait to try the Roys Downtown.
                            My first Roys experience was in 97' on the Big Island of Hawaii....amazing!!! Even better because we were wearing flowing white skirts and flip flops and still felt elegant...everything was amazing.
                            I heard they had opened in the Valley (I think near Topanga Plaza?) and i just rolled my eyes...thinking "oh well, I'm sure it sucks now"..so I never went.
                            Then a few years ago, my brother started going to the one in La Jolla so I was forced to go again after so many years.
                            What had I been waiting for?
                            Holly cow, it was dreamy, yummy, exciting, exceptional food with truly outstanding service!
                            We even had my Brother and (now) Sister in Law's wedding party dinner there...it was fantastic! 15 people, our own room and flawless, seamless service all around!!!
                            Just went back in June for my birthday dinner and was beyond-pleased.
                            Since I live 5 minutes from DTLA, I guess I gotta stop diving south to enjoy Roys and try the one in town...Maybe this week, for lunch.
                            What's the parking situation like?

                            1. re: tatertotsrock

                              We live in Downtown and so we just walk, but I did see a valet stand set up on 8th...

                          2. I'm a serious food snob...and I love this place! Quality of the food and atmosphere, at the price point, are fantastic. The poketini appetizer, miso-yaki butterfish, and the mai tais are awesome...the sushi is nothing to sniff at either. All in all a perfectly satisfying place.

                            1. Um, that wine must be stronger than you think. I work in the building and do happy hour there pretty often. The only way to get a view of Staples is to walk out of the restaurant and head south a few blocks.

                              "I'll have what she's drinking"