Fusion Cuisine is a concept that started becoming popular almost 50 years ago in the culinary world. Many languages fused together centuries ago with European explorers coming into the New World. The same trend has happened on a very wide scale with food in part due to the effect of technology on world cuisine, both in terms of awareness and availability.
Roy’s is a restaurant in Bonita Springs, FL that serves Hawaiian/Japanese fusion fare.This concept was introduced almost 30 years ago by Roy Yamaguchi, a classically trained chef with Japanese and Hawaiian roots.
Chef Roy was awarded Best Chef: Pacific Northwest by the James Beard Foundation in 1993, sort of an Oscar in the culinary world. He has, also, published numerous cookbooks, been awarded many other accolades and has become a “celebrity chef.”
The first Roy’s restaurant was opened in 1988 in Hawaii and has expanded to many other locations, both domestically and internationally. After changing hands a couple of times, the majority of locations are now owned by a restaurant concern based in Texas, though Chef Roy is very much involved with them. Roy’s locations in Hawaii and Pebble Beach, CA are still owned by Chef Roy.
As you enter Roy’s Bonita Springs you first encounter the bar area followed by an open air kitchen on your way to the main dining area. I have always been a big believer in open air kitchens. I really think seeing the kitchen staff at work helps diners connect better with the food being served to them.
Apart from a bowl of edamame, we were each brought samplings from Roy’s cocktail offerings, a Pacific cooler and Polynesian passion. The Pacific cooler was a combination of Deep Eddy ruby red grapefruit vodka, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, strawberries and oranges. The Polynesian passion melds Appleton Estate 12 year old Jamaican rum, Don Q coconut rum and passion fruit juice. The Pacific cooler was a bit sweet for me and I preferred the Polynesian passion with it’s tropical flavors.
My dining companion and I then delved into the food offerings of starters, mains and desserts. Two starters were brought out from Roy’s happy hour (aloha hour) menu. These were the rock shrimp tempura and the Szechuan spiced pork ribs. The rock shrimp tempura, served with shishito peppers, shimeji mushrooms and a “Malaysian” curry aioli. The presentation of this dish was impressive, the shrimp served wrapped in a banana leaf. This was good, but not my favorite.
The Szechuan spiced pork ribs were fantastic, and when tasted I could understand why this have been a menu item over the years. The ribs are marinated, braised then grilled. The marinade and basting sauce is seasoned with miso, ginger, garlic, saki, soy and hoisin sauce among other spices. They are finished with chives and sesame seeds. Perfectly cooked and flavored, this starter is highly recommended.
We finished our tour of starters with Auntie Lei’s aloha roll. Sushi was not part of Roy’s initial fusion concept, and was introduced later.
The roll had spicy tuna and cucumber on the inside, with hamachi, salmon and avocado outside. The avocado garlic ponzu sauce gives this roll a nice citrus note. The roll was good. I thought it much better served without wasabi/soy given to us which seemed to result in a clash of flavors. All in all, these starter items well represented the appetizers available here.
We then sampled three entrees, both new and classic, in addition to one from their chef’s tasting menu. The jade pesto steamed whitefish was first. From the chef’s tasting menu, the whitefish that evening was swordfish. The fish is steamed with a number of ingredients, including ginger, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Jade pesto coated the fish, which was made from scallions, cilantro leaves, oyster sauce, ginger and garlic. Baby bok choy and carrots were served with this, and the dish finished with a shoyu (soy) ponzu sauce. This entree was also good.
A new item, butter seared Georges Bank sea scallops, was brought out next and was even better. The rice served with was flavored with coconut, lobster stock and what appears to be Roy’s “go to” spices of kaffir lime leaf and lemongrass. The scallops were perfectly cooked, served with mini peeled heirloom tomatoes and finished with a fish sauce/coconut/cilantro sauce and garnished with frisee. Very, very good.
Last, but very much not least, were the braised beef short ribs. This is another “core” or classic item at Roy’s. Once tasted, one can easily understand why. This dish is simple in it’s presentation though complex in preparation. The short ribs are seared, deglazed and cooked for 4 to 5 hours. After that, the ribs sit for 24 hours and the fat and gristle shaved off. The ribs are then cryovaced and cooked sous vide with demi glace and butter. The finished ribs are then plated atop mashed potatoes, broccolini and finished with a demi glace/buerre blanc sauce. This dish was incredible and one of the best I have had in some time. Most highly recommended.
During our tasting we were brought a couple of wines to sample. A very nice sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, NZ by Whitehaven was the white. For those lovers of this grape that prefer grapefruit notes, this is the wine for you.
The red was a cabernet sauvignon from Caymus in Napa Valley. For those cognoscenti of wine, this was the real deal.
As we sampled our mains we had the pleasure of chatting with Ignacio Ortiz, the Executive Chef/Partner of the Bonita Springs location.
Chef Ortiz had an interesting story. He had never been to cooking school but always had a passion for food and it’s preparation. After coming aboard 10 years ago, he trained with some of the seminal chefs of Roy’s restaurants, including David Abella, executive chef of Roy’s restaurants for 20 years, Roy himself and his initial restaurant partner, Gordon Hopkins.
He explained as Roy’s restaurants progressed, they have introduced wine dinners, chef classes and other menus such as their chef’s tasting, bar bite (aloha hour) and weekend brunch menus to diversify from their original fusion theme.
We then finished with a couple desserts. The first was the classic Roy’s melting hot chocolate souffle, really a molten lava cake. I am not a dessert eater but this was off the charts delicious. Raspberry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream sealed the deal.
We finished with one of the restaurant’s local creations, pineapple upside down cake. This innovative dish created by the restaurant’s pastry chef at Bonita Springs. Brown sugar pound cake topped with caramelized pineapple and served upside down is garnished with chopped pineapple,mango, strawberries, raspberry and liliquoi (passion fruit) coulis. The dish is finished with a scoop of coconut ice cream and shaved toasted coconut. Another over the top dessert. Both of the ice creams served to us that night were made locally by Royal Scoop and more on them later.
The dinner put together for us that evening was a well rounded exposure to many of Roy’s menu items. The food was good to exceptional and the beverages and wines very good. I am happy to see that Roy’s has held true to many of their “core” menu items.
If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I will be going back to the restaurant for their upcoming Thanksgiving dinner menu, which by the way, looks very good.
It’s a wrap for another post on Forks.
26831 South Bay Drive, # 100
Bonita Springs, FL 34134
Roy’s Bonita Springs, FL Website Open 4-9 PM Monday through Thursday, 4-10 PM; Friday, 11 AM to 10 PM; Saturday and Sunday 11 AM to 9 PM.
Menu items available for takeout.