The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, August 15, 1996

Yee-ha! Talk about multicultural

RESTAURANTS have been built around rock 'n' roll (Hard Rock Cafe), movie stars (Planet Hollywood) and fashion (Fashion Cafe), but why settle for one theme, when for the ambitious entree-preneur, the sky's the limit.

The Texas Rock 'N Roll Sushi Bar in the Hyatt Regency Hotel packs all its themes into its name. A restaurant like this could only be invented in Hawaii, home of the multicultural experience and finicky eaters ... but are we really so hard to please that restaurants have to go this far to get a nibble of interest? I guess so, because it's not everyday you see what amounts to fajita sushi.

What's that like? Not bad at all. My main quibble is what passes for rock 'n' roll in this joint.

Giant video screens and sound systems pour out tunes by the likes of Joan Osborne, Del Amitri, and various country crooners. How 'bout feeding me some Everclear or Soundgarden instead?

I don't suspect there's a chance of that. The room is painstakingly dressed in "rock-died-with-the-demise-of-the-Beatles" nostalgia, reflecting Boomer sensibilities. Hopefully, the live bands that play here will shake things up. (See John Berger's review.)

ANOTHER part of the equation is the "Texas" ambience, with waiters dressed as cowhands and red bandannas serving as napkins. Well, yeeee-hah pardner and bring on the temaki rolls.

Temaki-style sushi is the California-style handroll, with all the ingredients folded into a cone of dried nori (seaweed).

Looking at the $1.25 to $2.25 prices for single hits of these handheld bundles, it was easy to rattle off a whole list of them to the waiter. Sure, give me the Texarkana Gulf Shrimp Roll ($1.75 with shrimp, green onions, crunchy sugar snap beans and honey-coated walnuts); the Wild West Duck Roll ($1.50 with thin-sliced roast duck, hoisin (plum) sauce and sesame seeds; and the Saddle Sore Beef Fajita Roll ($1.75 with mesquite-smoked rare beef, fajita seasonings, grilled onions and peppers).

These are fun to order and fun to eat, even though all the frills seemed to make the meat indistiguishable from each other. The roast duck might as well have been ham.

The beauty of traditional sushi is that its delicacy allows the flavor of various raw fish to sparkle. So it was much harder to enjoy the Shot Gun Roll ($1.75) in which the flavor of hamachi got lost in the mix of green onions, macadamia nuts and avocado. I ended up pulling out the fresh fish devouring it separately, thus giving it full attention.

I preferred the maki sushi rolls, with the rice on the outside and featuring more seafood. The Hawaiian Paniolo Roll ($6.75), for instance, offered scallops wrapped with orange tobiko, furikake and mayo. The Rattler Snakeskin Roll ($5.75) was topped with crisp-fried salmon skin, with crab and avocado on the inside.

If sushi is just sissy food for you, ask for Chuck Berry's Smoked Chicken ($13.50), Buddy Holly's Cattlemen Beef ($16.50) or Richie Valens' Bourbon Ribs ($14.75), the latter tender, juicy and topped with an aged Bourbon barbecue sauce that was neither too sweet nor tart.

You don't need a pistol for showdown here. Choose from Fats Domino Cobbler ($4.50) - which they actually had to reduce in size because no one could finish it - or Chubby Checker's Pecan Pie ($4.50) with peanut butter to boot. Either is lethal.

Texas Rock 'N Roll Sushi Bar

Where: Hyatt Regency Waikiki
Hours: Dinner 5 to 11 p.m. daily; sushi served to 2 a.m. closing
Prices: About $25 to $30 for two without drinks
Call: 923-ROLL (7655)

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

- excellent;
- very good, exceeds expectations;
- average;
- below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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