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Aug 25, 2006 11:05 PM

Roy's Restaurant, Downtown Los Angeles w/ photos

Photos here:

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 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.