Roy’s Restaurant: The next best thing to a trip to Hawaii

Roy’s Restaurant: The next best thing to a trip to Hawaii

Bordering the hot River North neighborhood, near north side staple, Roy’s Restaurant (720 N. State St.) offers a “taste of Hawaii” in Chicago.

The authentic Hawaiian atmosphere and food, which is not easy to find in the Windy City, is different and fun.

Roy’s Chicago, one of over 20 Roy’s around the globe, features a grand bar space. The space offers lots of rich woods, high ceilings and a clubby atmosphere making it a welcoming “front room” for the restaurant.  Beyond the bar sits the vibrant and expansive dining area highlighted by Roy’s signature exhibition kitchen and an intimate sushi counter. There’s also an outdoor patio.

Matt Goodman

Matt Goodman

Roy’s offers a diverse menu with a heavy Pacific Rim accent from namesake owner, Roy Yamaguchi, who is credited with creating the cuisine back in 1991.

The James Beard award-winning Yamaguchi in conjunction with Roy’s Chicago chef/partner Matthew Goodman have put together a beautifully executed summer tasting menu that highlights Hawaiian fusion.

The summer tasting menu features seasonal ingredients–many of which are flown-in fresh from the Pacific.

The 3-course prix fixe menu ($39.90) is a little Vietnamese, with a hint of Thai, Chinese and flavors of Japan and the islands. The unique selection of herbs used in the dishes go a long way in creating the multi-cultural mix of flavors.

On the night of our tasting, we began our Hawaiian journey at the bar. Although, typically I’d order red wine or a martini, it seemed only appropriate to order a mai tai (9.90). The drink did not disappoint. It was refreshingly cool, with a mash-up of  “tropical” flavors–not overly sweet and beautifully dressed–sure to meet the approval of tiki connoisseurs.

Mai Tai. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Mai Tai. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

From there we headed to the dining room where we began our journey through the menu. We were given smaller portions of all the menu choices so we could experience it all. Wine pairings (at an additional cost) are also suggested.

roysmenu2

For starters, the menu offers guests a choice of the Heirloom Tomato Salad or Shrimp Shumai. The Heirloom Tomato Salad pictured below features a mix of Hawaiian flavors including a delicious Macadamia Nut Pesto, Homemade Ricotta and Shiso–an interesting herb that lent a unique flavor to the dish–not exactly anise–but similar.

Heirloom Tomato Salad. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Heirloom Tomato Salad. Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The Shumai, a traditional Chinese dumpling often made with pork, featured a combo of shrimp and Chinese cabbage with Kaiware sprouts and a light pineapple flavored vinaigrette. The Kaiware sprouts lent a nice spicy, radish-like accent to the dish.

Next up, guests can choose between Pan-Seared Hawaiian Onaga or Kona Coffee-Crusted Pork and Kauai Prawns for their entree. The tastes and presentations on both were spot-on. I’d have a hard time picking a winner.

Onaga is a clear, light pink fleshed fish popular in Hawaii and Japan. It is similar to snapper. The Onaga was nestled with baby squash, shiso, tomato and vadouvan carrot purée.

Pan-Seared Hawaiian Onaga

Pan-Seared Hawaiian Onaga

The Kona Coffee-Crusted Pork and Kauai Prawns with honshimeji mushrooms and bok choy was excellent. The tender pork medallions were melt in your mouth good while the Kauai prawns, known for their sweet flavor and stunning visual appeal, have a true Hawaiian pedigree and shouldn’t be missed.

RoysHawaii3dessert

The entrées were followed by a White Chocolate Tart and Passion Fruit Gel along with a cup of Kona Coffee. The cool flavors of the tart and the icy gel provided the perfect finale to the meal, leaving us satisfied but not too full.

In addition to the prix fixe menu, Roy’s offers a regular menu and a reasonably priced Aloha bar menu, featuring $7 cocktails, $3 craft beer and $7 bar bites.

Aloha bar menu hours…

4:30 p.m.–7:00 p.m.

Late Night Aloha Hour: 9:00-Close

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