If you have ever had the great fortune to visit Hawaii, you know that the entire state is imbued with the "Aloha" spirit. It's that almost indefinable attitude of goodwill and friendliness that you find on every street corner or inch of beach. The lovely ladies greeting us at Roy's, Roy Yamaguchi's Philadelphia outpost, exuded that spirit from my first interaction with one of them on the phone. When they turned out to be 2 out of 3 triplets, somehow that added to the fun. (The third triplet, much to the chagrin of one of my dining partners - a single and very male male - is a boy. That busted alot of his fantasies.)
Anyway, we (my husband and I) awaited our friend at the bar, a smallish but well-designed area with high round tables and chair-stools that were surprisingly comfortable. My Roy's Cosmo was everything it should have been. VERY COLD, glass VERY FULL, a good balance between the top end Ketel One Citron and cranberry and lime juices. The beer was served in an ice cold glass. Sam Adams Summer was a good choice. Our waiter was very charming, offering us menus to gaze at, while he gave us the skinny on the place - appetizers served family style, what was really good etc.
Triplet Number One (honestly, she could have been Number Two or Number Three, I didn't think to ask about birth order) took us upstairs to our requested mezzanine table, where we overlooked the entire restaurant. If you don't get to make it upstairs, don't worry, Aloha is in every corner of the place.
Our affable waiter, Jay, or maybe "J" - you never know these days, presented us with menus. A pleasant, but slightly mumbly bus-person or wait-person assistant, not sure, came by with a plate of edamame. She gave us some lengthy explanation about something, but we really couldn't understand her. When she came back, we asked for a repeat and it turned out she was just telling us to eat the center peas and leave the pods on the plates, but that we COULD eat the pods if we wished, but some people found them rather chewy. TMI. Either serve them already peeled or get the explanation down to a sentence, clearly spoken: These are edamame, eat the peas inside and here are plates for the pods.
First courses ordered and awaited.
The Lobster Dim Sum, which had been suggested by my friend at the bar was flawless. The filling was moist and supremely lobstery tasting, with a dash of white truffle foam, which frankly neither added nor subtracted from the dish.
The Baby Romaine Salad was imaginatively presented. Beautiful leaves, some reddish, of perfect romaine were dressed in a Caesar dressing and arranged upright in a baked croute which had been formed into a circle. Polenta croutons decorated the plate which was dotted with a bit more Parmesan. It was good that I knew they were polenta croutons; otherwise they would have seemed soggy. "A" for presentation, the dressing could have been schuzzed up a bit to give more of a kick.
Auntie Lei’s Aloha Roll was an excellent rendition of a Spicy Tuna Roll. Each roll was stuffed with a piquant and rich tuna mixture and topped with avocado, hamachi or salmon. They were topped with black and white sesame seeds. Yummy.
Before our main courses arrived, we were informed that if we wanted to order the chocolate soufflé, we should let our server know then. That was slightly jarring to think of a chocolate soufflé right after eating spicy tuna. We demurred and continued our conversation. I have no problem with the wait-person mentioning this AS ONE IS ORDERING, but not in the middle of the meal. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was just looking out for us, but he should have mentioned that as he gave us our menus.
We also had to ask to have the messy looking plates of edamame garbage removed. It should be automatic that that happens. The only other lapse in service was infrequently filled water glasses, which is another no-brainer that should happen like clockwork.
After a bit (maybe too long a bit) our entrees arrived. The sea scallops were browned off perfectly but still slightly undercooked inside, as ordered. They were moist and presented on a bed of deliciously prepared quinoa, which, normally, I detest. Tarragon (which I also normally hate, but it didn’t register as objectionable) Vinaigrette was rakishly strewn about the plate. Very modern, most attractive. Probably the best part of the dish was the piquillo peppers. They were stuffed with a crab mixture, which captured the full essence of the crab and was smooth as silk. They were the perfect foil for the simply flavored scallops.
The Salmon was grilled on an hibachi, very attractively and crustily browned. The person on the grill does his or her job wonderfully. It was served with a Citrus Ponzu which, although not life changing, was a well thought out accompaniment. On the plate was also an amalgam of cucumber and beansprouts speckled with tiny scallions.
The last main course was New Zealand Grouper. The flavor was sweet and fresh. This was the one dish where the presentation was definitely not the thing. The fish was sitting sadly all by itself in the corner of the plate, while the other elements took the spotlight. The Yuzu Sabayon was a gorgeous giant teardrop in the center of the plate. But its attractiveness only highlighted the plainness of the fish.
We moved on to dessert. The Pineapple Upside Cake was a fairly traditional, although delicious, rendition. I’ve been noticing individual upside down cakes all around lately. I like them.
The other two desserts were quite tasty as well. The Mascarpone Cheesecake was creamy and rich, although I could have lived without the balsamic vinegar reduction. The Ginger Crème Brulee was the plainest-looking of the three, but really it was divine. It was sweet and smooth with a lively ginger aftertaste. The shortbread served with it was fine.
I liked Roy’s…a lot. The more restaurants I go to and the more wonderful food I eat, the more important service becomes to me. Not snooty, most-people-are-not-good-enough-to-eat-here service, but warm, welcoming, genuine caring for the well-being of the guest service. I did find that here, and with such excellent food, it’s a place I plan to visit again. And maybe...if we're lucky...Triplet Number Three will make an appearance.