The Weekly Eater

By Nadine Kam

Thursday, March 18, 1999

Roy makes a splash
in the big city

NEW YORK -- In migrating from Washington State to Washington, D.C., Pacific Rim cooking has spawned a whole bunch of unspectacular imitators. This fact is lost on those who have never tried the real thing. It's like introducing someone to manapua, watching them eat the piece of paper on the bottom of the bun, then listening to that person say how delicious it was.

So thank goodness Roy Yamaguchi has chosen to open his 14th restaurant in Manhattan's financial district, where he can teach the locals a thing or two about recognizing, and loving, Euro-Asian cuisine.

Star Rating The financial district is not exactly the most happening place. Like our own downtown, it's the center of business by day, and Deadsville at night. Can you blame people for wanting to spend time in SoHo instead, with its trendy boutiques, galleries and restaurants like Match, Mercer Kitchen and Zoe? But there is a movement to make Wall Street a place to live and work, and Roy seems to have hit another bulls-eye.

The restaurant is very New York with its sleek lines and big picture windows allowing patrons to see and be seen. The restaurant is bathed in soft gold light, and Impressionist-style paintings add a splash of Hawaii color to the room.

Roy's New York isn't having trouble luring customers, including the man whose name is synonymous with "rich and famous," Robin Leach, who had a window seat one evening. The streets may be empty, but the restaurant fills up from 7 p.m.

After making the rounds for publicity, Yamaguchi has returned home and left executive chef Troy Guard in charge of the menu, which will be instantly recognizable to anyone visiting from home.

Dim sum appetizers on the menu include potstickers ($8) done right, stuffed with blue crab and rock shrimp and lightly crisped. There is Roy's Original Blackened Ahi ($11) and Hibachi-Style Grilled Salmon ($10) drizzled with furikake and a sweet ponzu sauce, then draped with crunchy ogo that is shipped from Hawaii twice weekly. I felt responsible for inspecting this ogo to make sure the Aloha State continues to be well-represented.

Specialties change nightly and feature about 11 appetizers, 13 entrees and three mixed plates, such as a combo of Oak-Grilled Filet of Beef and Deep Sea Monchong ($28). Those who like to experiment will find it easy to fill up on appetizers such as Peppered and Smoked Duck Breast Risotto ($9) and Chicken Satay Skewers ($8). The Hibachi Salmon can serve as a meal for a light eater. A lighter choice such as Asian Jumbo Scallops ($9), a trio of pan-seared scallops topped with a sweet lime-guava sauce, won't spoil your appetite if you're intent on an entree.

The night's special entrees ranged from a humble Meat Loaf ($20) with garlic mashed potatoes and crispy onion rings, to a Cashew-Crusted Salmon Steak ($21) with Malaysian yellow curry sauce. I loved the Szechuan Rack of Lamb ($24), enhanced with a delicate minted passion orange sauce and compote. Deep-fried lotus chips also graced the plate.

New York has always been a place of amazing cultural experiences. Roy's adds one more.

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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.

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