roy’s ka`anapali: roy makes a move to the clubhouse at ka`anapali golf courses

We all know how competitive the restaurant business is here in the Islands. Renowned chef Roy Yamaguchi has a twenty-four-year track record of operating his wildly successful signature restaurants in Hawai‘i, so you know he’s been making some shrewd moves along the way. His latest coup: relocating the Roy’s Restaurant on Maui from its modest digs in a Kahana shopping center to a sleek, chic new venue overlooking the Royal Ka‘anapali Golf Course. Very smart, indeed.

Roy Yamaguchi is legendary among chefs. Not only is he one of the twelve founders of the Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine Movement, he invented what he calls “Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine”—a tempting combination of exotic flavors and spices mixed with the freshest of local ingredients, always with an emphasis on seafood.

“Since opening the original Roy’s in Honolulu in 1988, we have set out to explore new directions freely blending the European techniques in which I was trained with familiar ingredients of Asia and the Pacific,” Roy says. “The results are reflected in our…truly contemporary style of cuisine.”

Susan and I don’t know what to expect when we enter the Ka‘anapali Golf Courses clubhouse and step into Roy’s. We’re instantly enveloped in the lively, sophisticated ambiance, where golfers are celebrating the great tradition of the 19th hole at the expansive bar and lounge area, and several diners are already enjoying their evening meal. A huge bank of gleaming windows overlooks the pond and meticulously manicured greens of the Royal course, while the resort hotels on the Ka‘anapali strip stand like sentinels in the background. We can see this is a splendid spot for sunset viewing.

Server Aaron stops by to go over the list of Roy’s Ka‘anapali signature cocktails ($9 each). According to the menu, they’re “designed and crafted to be light and refreshing, and sure to delight and amuse the palate.” Our palates always enjoy some amusement so, upon Aaron’s suggestion, we order a Rose Lychee Sangria (Le Poussin rose, Malibu mango rum, Soho lychee liqueur, and pineapple and cranberry juices), and the Kiawe Rita (Sauza blue reposado tequila, Combier liqueur d’orange, fresh lime sour, Del Maguey vida mezcal). The Sangria is absolutely gorgeous—its orangey hue mirrors the sunset that’s beginning to develop outside. As advertised, it’s surprisingly refreshing. The Kiawe Rita is a must for the Margarita lover—it’s Roy’s delectable twist on that classic beverage.

General Manager Justin Zeches stops by to greet us, bringing edamame seasoned with sesame oil, shichimi (Japanese red pepper seasoning), kosher salt, and sesame seeds—positively addictive! We happily munch away as the sun makes its evening descent behind the row of hotels.

The dining room at Roy’s Ka‘anapali has a distinct “uptown” feeling with clean lines and simple finesse. Chairs are comfy and tables are constructed of rich, dark wood. A few booths line the perimeter near the kitchen. Aaron tells us the menu changes every evening (impressive!). There’s a selection of “Roy’s Classics”—items that have been favorites since the first Roy’s opened in Hawai‘i Kai in 1988, denoted with the “Y” symbol—as well as seasonal items, offered by Executive Chef/Corporate Chef Maui Joey Macadangdang, prepared with the freshest products available.

Justin brings us a special appetizer sampler plate containing three popular items: seared shrimp sticks, sizzling shrimp gyoza, and Roy’s original Hawaiian blackened ahi. The shrimp sticks are succulent bites complemented by a delightful cocktail sauce; the gyoza are tender little dumplings with a savory minced shrimp mixture inside; and the blackened ahi, accompanied by a mildly spicy hot mustard soy butter, absolutely melts in our mouths. So far, so good!

For our next course, Susan and I have ordered the asparagus soup ($10) and Roy’s Ka‘anapali Caesar salad ($13). The soup smells and looks divine, and it’s garnished with truffle oil and bacon crisps. Isn’t everything better with bacon? The soup definitely doesn’t disappoint. It’s the perfect temperature, unbelievably smooth and creamy, and delicately flavored. I couldn’t stop eating it! Susan and I declare it to be the best asparagus soup known to man (and woman).  The Caesar salad is a work of art, piled high with baby romaine, crab, avocado, and white anchovy, with a single large parmesan crouton perched on top. “This is my idea of a crouton,” Susan says. “One crispy, garlicky, buttery, wafer.” The dressing is light, and the crab elevates the salad to another level entirely.

Other tempting appetizers and garden items on the menu include white wine steamed Manila clams ($13) with garlic, basil, Kamuela tomatoes, and grilled bread; and a poached d’anjou pear salad (also $13) with candied pecans, crumbled blue cheese, and lemongrass raspberry vinaigrette.

We’ve followed Aaron’s recommendations for our entrees: Roy’s Classic Trio of fish ($41) and the grilled Hawai‘i rancher’s 12-ounce ribeye steak ($41). The trio presentation is stunning in a long, rectangular plate. Macadamia nut crusted mani mani sits atop steamed red potatoes and fresh asparagus; the blackened ahi is garnished with white ginger, watercress, and wasabi sauce; and the steamed Kona kampachi is served with bok choy, tomato chutney, and cilantro pesto. A scoop of steamed white rice cleanses our palates between sumptuous bites. It’s a trio de force! The hand-cut ribeye steak is a hearty portion of perfect medium-rare goodness, accompanied by steamed rice, Ka‘anapali tomato, green beans, and Maui onion soy.

Several entrees on tonight’s menu may be ordered in half or full portions, including misoyaki butterfish ($20/40), hibachi style grilled New Zealand salmon ($15/30), grilled honey mustard beef short ribs ($15.50/31), and “Roy’s Style” Maui Cattle Co. beef and pork meatloaf ($13/26).

Susan and I are rapidly reaching the point of no return when Aaron mentions the Roy’s signature melting hot dark chocolate soufflé, which must be ordered in advance. In fact, three items on the dessert menu require 20 minutes’ preparation time: the chocolate soufflé, sugar loaf pineapple upside down cake, and Roy’s island churros (all $9). Other items on the “Just Desserts” menu, ranging from $7 to 9, include Hawaiian s’mores, warm macadamia nut tart, and a sorbet trio (there’s that trio again).

We can smell the chocolate soufflé coming as Aaron brings it to our table. It’s an award-winning decadent chocolate dessert with a hot molten center, accentuated with raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream. Ooh la la, one whiff and we’re sold! Susan takes a bite and rolls her luminous big green eyes heavenward. I follow suit, and have a similar reaction. This is an exquisite symphony of luxury not to be missed.

Roy’s Ka‘anapali also has an appealing (and affordable) keiki menu with four courses for $12.95: cheesy quesadilla triangles and apple, carrot, and celery sticks for starters; choice of butter parmesan penne pasta, teriyaki grilled chicken, seared white fish, or beef short ribs for the main event; and the Kahana keiki ice cream sandwich is last, but certainly not least.

Thoroughly sated, Susan and I head home. Roy Yamaguchi has done it again, and we predict his Ka‘anapali location will soon become a new west side hotspot.

–heidi pool

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