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Sep 8, 2008 02:32 PM

Roy's Schmoy's... Disappointment in Hawaii Kai

Expectations are everything... Roy's was acceptably good but did not live up to some recommendations, it certainly wasn't memorable.

> Edamame (complimentary)... probably the best part of the meal... they were served warmish, tossed in a melange of Sesame Oil, Chile Powder, Rice Vinegar maybe something else... quite simply the best Edamame I've tasted.

> Hamachi & Soft Shell roll was good... as good as any good Sushi place but not something that will haunt me for weeks to come.

> Trio of Salads... cute presentation but weak:
>>> The "tomato salad" was a local green with a few, tasteless local cherry tomatoes & a meager serving of tasteless goat cheese balls.
>>> The mixed greens with basil dressing was fine... but not any better than a supermarket takeout version.
>>> A little wedge salad was our favorite... but again I've had burger joints do a better job.

> Local Ribeye (Rare) paired with Chamorro Red Rice, Coconut-Eggplant Puree, Cucumber Salad and something else.
>>> The steak was very good - they left a lot of fat & some grisle on... doesn't bother me but others migh... the meat was flavorful, tender and well seasoned.
>>> The Rice was barely edible... it just tasted like the green sprouts of old garlic.
>>> The Cucumber Salad was fine but unremarkable.
>>> The Coconut-Eggplant puree tasted like Elmer's glue... but maybe that is because it was way overpowered by the seasoning on the Steak.

> Ahi Steak (Rare) paired with Bok Choy
>>> The Steak was blah... the searing doesn't do much for Ahi, and it didn't have a good spice rub to bring out some of the flavor.
>>> The Bok Choy was perfectly cooked.

The funny thing is that we switched sides... the Bok Choy was excellent with the Beef... and the Coconut-Eggplant puree paired perfectly with the Ahi.

> Pineapple Upside Down Cake with Carmel Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream... this was excellent.

> Espresso.... good espresso... maybe even great (depends on the your espresso experience... I definitely was leagues better than the crap served at Starbucks and other chain coffee shops).

Overall... the food wasn't particularly memorable... also adjust expectations. Roy's is more of an upscale Diner and not Fine Dining...

> They have a silly Outback / TGIF's style mix & match 3 course tasting menu that just smacks of Diner

> They tend to follow a Protein + Sides format rather than a layered, one dish style. And the sides were not well paired to the entrees.

> Its in a glorified strip mall, the decor is painfully late 80's, the table ware was fairly ragged & downscale.

> The worst part... my wife made the mistake of letting them know it was an anniversary and they put some cheesy ribbon on the table.. and forced some of their employees to congratulate us. In exchange we did get a complimentary fudge bar with a Happy Anniversary message written in dark chocolate.

HOWEVER, its priced like an updcale Diner and not like Fine Dining place. It wasn't a bad value. Tip... the upstairs diner is loud with lots of big groups, and too bright... next time we go (and yes I would go back again... but not in a hurry)... I would definitely sit outside.

For the sake of comparison... I had a better meal at Epic Restaurant. So my question... what is a better true Fine Dining experience in O'ahu?

Roy's Restaurants
6600 Kalanianaole Hwy Ste 110, Honolulu, HI 96825

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  1. I found the Ko'Olina branch to be much the same (though prettier, I would guess). The dessert was the best part of the meal. Alan Wong's is better and I have heard from a friend I trust that La Mer is too, but they are more expensive, natch. Nobu is pretty and some of the dishes are very good too, but not all (the monkfish pate for example). You can get away from Nobu for under $100 for two if you don't have alcohol and leave still somewhat hungry.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Joebob

      I look forward to trying Alan Wong's & La Mer next time!

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Even though Chef Mavro's was a bit of a letdown last trip, I'd still place them in this group.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          I would most definitely add Hiroshi's in Restaurant Row as well.

          My experiences at Roy's for 20 years now have always been wonderful.
          I also enjoy the Waikiki location very much as well. I can't tell you how many meals and celebrations I've had at the Flsgship but they've been many and memorable they do a great job.

    2. Getting beef at Roy's and expecting it to be outstanding, sorta like rating a sushi place based on a California roll. If you go to Roy's, you get seafood, ideally local and a simple prep. That's where it shines. Steak is there for the non seafood eaters.

      Ahi...IMO never turns out okay seared as a steak...anywhere. Seared as poke works better...more surface area gets exposure and much needed oil.

      As for Fiesta rice (Chamorro name), I wouldn't expect it to be good any place else but someone's home. You might have a similar experience/perception with homemade tamales or Spanish rice vs. a restaurant. If I saw it paired with seared ahi, I'd see a red flag...way too dry to get paired together.

      Sorry to sound like a downer. Ideally you should be able to get a good or excellent meal at Roy's but the truth is, only 65% of the menu is okay to outstanding and that's all seafood.

      9 Replies
      1. re: ML8000

        The beef was much better than the fish. Actually... I liked the local Ribeye better than almost any piece of beef I had in the Bay Area over the last 2 years... they just didn't trim as much as more picky eaters might want. I was perfectly happy eating the fat rim myself... and it was seasoned very well, and cooked perfectly rare.... my one beef with the beef was the sides that just weren't well paired.

        The Sushi was good... not particularly memorable though, and Roy's isn't exactly a bastion of luxury & ambiance so I can't justify paying their premium to have Sushi that could be done just as well, for half the price... at a variety of neighborhood and Japanese tourist catering joints around town.

        1. re: Eat_Nopal

          Yeah, the one in Hawaii Kai is getting dated. It was okay 10 years ago...a bit schmatzy now I'm guessing. I've had some excellent meals there but haven't been for 2 years. I once had the "surf and turf" special but the seafood really out-shined the beef (which was still good) but amazingly so.

          1. re: ML8000

            I find it interesting that you can say things in your review such as "schmatzy" whatever that is while "guessing" since you haven't been there in 2 years. The Flagship has been completely remodeled and is much nicer than it was in the past few years since it's opening. The food is quite inventive while maintaining the classics that Roy is known for.
            Their 20th anniversary bash is coming up next month and it's challenging to find other restaurants with that longevity and loyal

            1. re: manomin

              Now you guys are giving me mixed reviews. I've not been in about 10 years, and it was "long in the tooth" then. Next, I hear that they have re-vamped, and I'm about to add them back into the mix. Then I hear that they are like what I encountered 10 years ago. Finally, it seems that much has changed. Such is the restaurant business.

              It'll be '09, before I get back to O`ahu, but will monitor Roy's Hawai`i Kai to see how it's going.

              Remember, it's not nice to fool an old guy... [Grin]



              1. re: Bill Hunt

                Aloha.... as CHers I don't think we are as picky with decor... its about the chow.

                What I was simply pointing out is that Fine Dining (in the vein of French Laundry et al) it is not. Its a nice mid level place... perhaps I was a bit harsh... I was just reacting againts misplaced expectations.... somehow I came to believe it would be swanky anniversay type place no more than 1 notch below the TFL's of the world... but it turned out to be several notches below.

                Now we all have different priorities... some people like to dine on the upper end of the scale regularly... even if its something like Ruth Chris' which I wouldn't spend a dime of my own money on. I prefer to eat at the Ethnic, Quality Diners, Holes in the Wall & closet size, "no name Bistros" on a regular basis... and then splurge big ocassionally on something really world class. But other people will not eat at a place unless it has a Wine List & takes Reservations... if you are like me... skip Roy's there HAS to be better in O'ahu... if you are the latter then its not a bad $$ to $$$ joint for the regular rotation.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Personally, I look to Roy's as mid-level dining with an Island flair, whether it's in the Islands, or on the Mainland. My usual complaint is the noise level, especially in the Islands. Why would the same mini-chain be quieter on the Mainland? Conventions? Bachelor parties? People away from home behaving badly?

                  Still, we've never had a bad meal at any Roy's, though some have been much better than others.

                  I'm with you on Ruth's (and I'll definitely add Morton's). I do not go to any of these, unless I'm dragged. Never had a good meal at a Morton's and I have never paid the bill. Also, I am usually pressed into service to order all of the wine, and usually am given carte blanche. Still, I do not go, unless dragged. Never had a really good meal at either, regardless of the wine list. I consider both to be "adult McDonalds."

                  Now, with a similar comment, several CH subscribers took me to task, thinking that I was including Roy's into that category. I am not. Please re-read the previous sentence - Roy's is NOT an adult McDonalds. Ruth's and Morton's are! Get it right this time, OK?

                  EN, I'm waiting until you've had some time in the Islands. I greatly appreciate your comments on many subjects and on many boards. I trust your palate and your food sensibilities. As a "local," albeit a new one, I look forward to your reports, as I do from ALL of the locals. You guys and gals get to places that I have not even heard of. Yeah, I'm one of those "linen tablecloth" folk, but don't hold that against me. I know food and it IS about the food. Don't let anybody kid you. I can dine with the Queen, and if the food's not up to par, then I will complain.



        2. re: ML8000

          At the half-price early dinner at Sansei, I ordered seared ahi and it was quite good.

          1. re: Joebob

            FYI - Sansei has recently changed their early dinner special to require a Hawaii driver license.

            Also, the two times we've been to the new Roy's in Waikiki have been disappointing. Our food has been cold both times (and was not supposed to be), despite crowds of waiters milling around, e.g. my rice was room temperature and dry on top as if it had been sitting somewhere awhile. On our second visit, the dining room was full of an extremely strong vinegar smell. Maybe they were making sushi rice, but the smell was very, very strong.

            1. re: ahighley

              I made lunch out of the bar food at the Waikiki/Beachwalk Roy's last week. I ordered maguro sashimi and crab cakes. The maguro was top quality and the crab cakes (crab orbs, really) were excellent -- fine crumb breading, no filler, just seasoned crab meat, and served with a sesame-butter sauce. I also got a bowl of the edamame mentioned above, and agree they were great. I generally don't "pop" edamame -- an early experience with a wormy mame causes me to peel, inspect, then eat -- but the flavoring on the shells was so good, that was the best way to take advantage of it.

              Maybe bar food is the way to go there?

        3. The only true "fine dining" in Hawaii is the La Mer restaurant at the Halekulani. It's executive chef, Yves Garnier, is the only chef in Hawaii to ever have received a Michelin star (for a different restaurant). He's won numerous other awards as well, including some awards of merit from the French government.

          Alan Wong's, Chef Mavro, Stage, etc., are all good, but not Michelin-style "fine dining."

          On a side note, Roy's just finished their renovations on the Hawaii Kai restaurant. Haven't been there yet, but it was supposed to modernize the place and get rid of the "dated" feel.

          1. As someone who has posted about Roy's in Honolulu area (see Roy's postings from earlier this summer) I think you always have to put into context that it is STILL ROY'S. I have eaten in Roy's all over the western US and it is what it is; not sure that I would have called it "fine dining" to begin with. If you have been to Roy's and appreciated it, then you will enjoy the Roy's in Hawaii Kai. If you don't like Roy's restaurants, then you will indeed be disappointed.

            I have to say I usually have a butterfish when I am there and it is done quite well. I have never ventured into the beef world at Roy's.

            As far as the location of any restaurant in the Honolulu area, if its not in a hotel, it is pretty likely that you will have to expand your sense of adventure.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tsays

              The thing is... outside of the Edamame that steak is probably the best thing I've had at Roy's... and no I have never seen anything particularly adventurous at any Roy's... no live Lobster sashimi, or Bull Testicles etc.,

            2. Hello EN! Have been enjoying your Oahu posts very much! Hope you and the family will be very happy in your new endeavor...

              We're in Maui: Have eaten at Roy's/Kahana many times over the years and it has always been pretty good. This year with the slumping economy, we could have walked in the other night without reservations: something that never would have happened in years past. The 4 of us arrived at 7:15 for our reservation: the place was about half full, if that.

              The dinner wasn't bad (I had the sesame crusted Opa served with black rice done in coconut milk, unfortunately the black rice was too hard. I mentioned it to our waiter who told me "that's the way it's supposed to be". I've cooked black rice and it wasn't crunchy!)

              The service was frustrating: Our waiter kept giving us the rush treatment as though they were stacked up out the door for our table! At one point he tried to take a wine glass away that still had about a mouthful left... I was tempted to ask him if he had a hot date after work or what!

              1 Reply
              1. re: RWCFoodie

                Hey... hope you are having fun in Maui... ya things are pretty bad there... tourism is way down.