This Review of Roy's at Ko Olina in Kapolei, Hawaii, is from our recent visit while on a site inspection visit to the Four Seasons Ko Olina, which is just a 12 minute walk away (although a courtesy car from the Four Seasons shortened it to a 3 minute drive).
As I'm originally from Hawaii, I well remember when Roy Yamaguchi opened his first eponymous restaurant in Hawaii Kai, a short drive from where I lived at the time. We used to go there for special occasions, and it was always stellar. Given that there are now about 30 Roy's restaurants around the U.S., I was concerned that our experience wouldn't match my great memories of the original Roy's.
Roy's Ko Olina Location
Roy's in Kapolei is located by the Ko Olina golf course, at 92-1220 Ali'inui Drive, a short 3 minute drive or 12-15 minute walk from the Four Seasons Ko Olina Resort.
When sitting outside on the terrace before sunset, there are pleasant views of the golf course.
We made reservations in advance, which I recommend for peak dining times, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. As we were getting over jet lag, we opted for an early 5:15pm dinner, which was a good time to go, since it was after Happy Hour yet before the main dinner rush, and our orders were prepared quickly.
Other diners were about half couples, half families, both locals and visitors.
Outdoor tables are wooden, with cutlery and chopsticks rolled into the purple napkins:
Indoor tables are also simply set, with a single anthurium flower centerpiece and the napkins in the glasses:
Roy's Ko Olina Menu and Food
The Roy's Ko Olina menu is quite extensive, with a variety of hot and cold appetizers, and many seafood as well as meat and poultry choices, plus sushi and sashimi. Roy Yamaguchi put many Hawaiian-Asian dishes on the map, from his Mongolian Spiced Ribs and Blackened Island Ahi to unique sushi rolls and Misoyaki Butterfish. There isn't a lot for vegetarians, although I did notice some good salad choices (you could request items such as bacon, prosciutto, pancetta to be left out) and an intriguing “Simply Vegan” dish of mochi crusted kabocha pumpkin with spicy Thai chili and blackcurrant tapenade.
Instead of a bread basket, we were brought a complimentary dish of edamame, fragrant with sesame oil and togarashi, a popular Japanese spice of red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, ginger and seaweed. A bit messy to eat, but delicious.
We decided to share Roy's dim sum platter for two among the three of us. This is a Roy's classic, and was every bit as good as I'd remembered, particularly the Mongolian Ribs and Blackened Island Ahi.
Since the ribs are finger food, I appreciated that our server brought us oshibori moist towels to clean our fingers with, after this part of the meal.
My son, when looking at the menu, had immediately zeroed in on the Surf & Turf Maki, with shrimp tempura, filet mignon, roasted garlic cream cheese and truffle soy vinaigrette. That's quite a few flavors going on, but it worked well, and he happily polished off his entire dish, apart from the one “tax” bite my husband and I stole.
The star of the meal, along with the dim sum platter, was the Misoyaki Marinated Butterfish that my husband and I shared. My husband enjoyed this so much he started asking if we can get it in NYC–unfortunately, I've never seen it available, however. The umami and succulent, rich fish was perfectly offset by the slightly piquant sauce and steamed bok choy.
We were all quite hungry, and fortunately our server invited us to peruse the dessert menu while still having dinner, as many of the freshly baked items (not just the souffle) require ~25 minutes to prepare.
A benefit of checking into Roy's Ko Olina with the Yelp app is that you enjoy a complimentary chocolate souffle dessert. And this is the most popular dessert the restaurant serves, so it's a nice perk. The dark chocolate flavor was pronounced and the interior was molten, textbook perfect. The weak link in this dessert and the other desserts is the Lappert's vanilla ice cream, which honestly I don't think is as good as Haagen-Dazs, let alone artisanal vanilla bean gelato.
We also tried the Macadamia Nut Tart, also served warm, which I definitely preferred to the more traditional pecan pie version of this dessert. This version was still sweet, but less cloyingly so. Still, I'd pick the chocolate souffle over the Macadamia Nut Tart if you only order one dessert.
Roy's Ko Olina exceeded my expectations; not only was each dish we ordered delicious and perfectly cooked, service couldn't have been more friendly and accommodating, including when we wanted to move indoors due to some pesky flies near our outdoor table. We particularly enjoyed the blackened ahi and shortribs in the dim sum appetizer platter and the misoyaki butterfish dishes, these were true standouts.
I also appreciated the complimentary chocolate souffle via the Yelp app check-in, which had great dark chocolate flavor and was slightly molten inside, although this dessert is also done well at other restaurants, and I personally don't think Lapperts ice cream is all that great, even though it is locally made on Kauai. For those who don't have a sweet tooth, there's no need to save room for dessert, instead fill up on the signature Roy's dishes, which are excellent.
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