Yes, Roy's is a longstanding chain, and despite my general reluctance to check those out for my blog, I gave their recently Pasadena location a go because I wanted to see what upscale Hawaiian cuisine is like (OK, technically it's Hawaiian Fusion -- but hey, many dishes we consider "typical Hawaiian cuisine" are fusion fare too, having been influenced by the East Asian immigrants as well as European & American colonization.) And also, they had an offer for their e-newsletter "Ohana" subscribers that discounts the bill by $20 for using their e-reservation system. A definite incentive for me since I always considered Roy's prices a wee bit too high for comfort (but that could be attributable to my Hawaiian food experiences thus far, which are casual fare that never ventured more than $15 a person.)
The restaurant exterior is gorgeous and impressive, with a lovely dining patio and walkway flanked by young palm trees and flaming tiki torches. Since the weather is still warm (and smoky, hazy from the Station Fire) I opted to eat inside instead, whose decor is somewhere between contemporary-fusion and a head-on collision of different themes, though the disarray of different colors and tones seems to mesh well with Roy's own fusion food focus. In any case, the ambience is definitely catchy visually and even conversation provoking (if I had to pick one object to gab about, it'd be their TV above the urinal . . . seriously? do guys really need to be kept entertained for the half a minute to take care of number one?)
While I had planned to get their notable three-course $35 prix-fixe, as soon as I sat I got a huge pang for seafood so I scanned the menu and ordered a seafood trio sampler for $29.95. Also tempting was their foie gras started, which looked interesting in preparation and surprisingy inexpensive for $12.50... which turned out to be free (apparently the chef wasn't pleased with the first lobe and had to do-over this dish, so the general manager apologized and comp'd it even though I didn't think the wait was THAT long -- but still, kudos to the service on both sides of the house.)
After my order, I was served this plate of edamamme -- now normally I'd nibble on only a few pods, but I found myself munching away at half this plate before reluctantly asking the busser to take it away so I don't get full before the actual food comes. These weren't only a little salty but also a little spicy and sweet with citrusy, peppery and even nutty notes as well... and sure enough, my brain just went "A HA!" when the server informed me the edamamme here are tossed in a little sugar and shichimi togarashi as well. What an easy-to-do upgrade that I'll surely do next time I'm serving these up at home!
The miso-glazed seared lobe of foie gras came with a yamamomo and a orange wakame soy butter; at first I wasn't sure if they meant soy butter as in some vegan butter derived from soybean, which sounds like all sorts of wrong since it's served with foie, but upon tasting realized that it's butter flavored with soy sauce along with orange and wakame. And it's really tasty, butter infused with wonderful citrusy-sweet fragrance of orange, the sea-briny taste of the wakame and a wee bit of the soy's umami.
The foie gras itself was a solid, but not spectacular, preparation -- the sear was perfect, but the flavor is very one-dimensional, duck fat w/o a hint of liver-ness. As the yamamomo, it's my first time trying so I can't say much about it (it tasted like a boysenberry to me) though it might be better if served pitted next time... not very modern-upscale upon discovering I have a seed to spit back out with the first bite.
The Roy's classic trio consisted of the (left to right) Hawaiian-style misoyaki butterfish, the Hawaiian blackened island Ahi tuna and hibachi grilled salmon. The butterfish tasted super-similar to its relatives, the black cod and Chilean Sea Bass: soft, moist, buttery and wonderfully complemented by the savory-sweet miso glaze and the bok choy. The rare seared ahi tasted pretty standard (fresh and good but not particularly noteworthy) but I did love the wonderfully spicy nostril-opener of a soy-mustard butter sauce (a wonderful spin off the wasabi & soy sauce). Surprisingly, the most lackluster of the trio was the salmon with citrus-ponzu -- despite taking the server's recommendation of having it cooked to medium, it wound up being overcooked a bit and was too dry for my liking. The accompanying sunomono was alright though. Nonetheless, I appreciated the three different preparations of this trio and it's a great to be able to sample several smaller-sized entrees for the price of one -- also props for their sensible portions!
Even though they are famous for their melting hot chocolate souffle, I already got dessert plans later that evening so I opted out, but it's something I'll consider for the future. And on that note, I'm definitely open to re-visiting Roy's -- overall the food is decent, and their service was superb (even if they didn't comp the foie gras), the price is too high for everyday dining, but for special occasions... or if the right deal floated along... I'd hit it again (though I don't expect to score such a sweet offer anytime soon, combining the $20 discount and the comp'd app, my expected ~$40 bill came out to $12.XX!!)
Ultimately, it's hard to compare this to the other Hawaiian joints I usually frequent since it's so drastically different, I wouldn't come here expecting a plate lunch and spam musubi anymore than I would expect Aloha Food Factory or Shakas to serve foie gras and have an expansive cocktail & wine list, so it's better to appreciate each variety for what it is.
Roy's Restaurant Pasadena
641 E Colorado Blvd
Pasadena, CA 91101-2005