First Look: Roy’s Beach House at Turtle Bay Resort

Chef Roy Yamaguchi’s casual beachfront restaurant boasts his signature flavors, friendly service and a laid-back ambiance that’s instant vacation.


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Chef Roy Yamaguchi standing outside his newest restaurant, Roy’s Beach House at the Turtle Bay Resort. It officially opened on Tuesday.
Photos: Catherine Toth Fox

 

Good news for fans of chef Roy Yamaguchi: He's got plans to open four restaurants this year, the first of which is Roy’s Beach House, a casual, open-air restaurant at the Turtle Bay Resort.

 

The 140-seat, 5,300-square-foot eatery overlooking the picturesque Kuilima Cove started lunch and dinner service yesterday, helmed by Gordon Hopkins, who worked as Yamaguchi’s sous chef when the Hawai‘i Kai restaurant opened in 1988.

 

And we got a chance to sample the menu on Monday night.

 

SEE ALSO: It’s a Busy Year for Chef Roy Yamaguchi

 

“Everything just came together,” says Yamaguchi, decked in lei right before dinner service started. “The entire environment is magical. The synergy is unbelievable. The staff in the dining room and in the kitchen, the beach—it’s all just awesome.”

 

The restaurant in the distance, right on the picturesque Kuilima Cove.

 

Yamaguchi says the restaurant sources as many ingredients as possible from North Shore farmers. You’ll see tomatoes from Hau‘ula, asparagus from Waialua and greens from Hale‘iwa on the menu. And, as with his other restaurants, Roy’s Beach House gets much of its fish from local fishing fleets.

 

Regulars of Yamaguchi’s restaurants will be happy to see some signature favorites on this menu, including Roy's misoyaki butterfish with Asian greens, vegetable maki and finished with a sizzled Ho Farms tomato sauce ($38); the perfectly seared blackened ‘ahi with a spicy soy-mustard butter sauce and nori paste ($21); the spicy garlic ‘ahi roll with cucumber, crunchy yama gobo, shiso, avocado and crispy garlic chips and topped with a spicy aioli ($17); and the ever-popular melting hot dark-chocolate soufflé, a flourless cake with an oozing, dark-chocolate center that’s tempered with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

 

The Hau‘ula tomato salad ($16) is one of the few unique menu items at Roy’s Beach House. This dish features fresh, local tomatoes, sliced and paired with wilted Asian spinach, caramelized onions and bits of blue cheese. The warm pancetta vinaigrette, with a hint of balsamic vinegar and served on the side, pulls this dish together.

 

Like the blackened ‘ahi dish, the Island-style poke bowl ($20) uses super fresh, local fish that’s cubed—albeit very small—and dressed with a light inamona jus and chopped sweet onions over sushi or brown rice. It’s topped with avocado, masago and a sweet, soy-based kabiyaki sauce that slightly overpowered the dish. Still, considering the beach location, the poke bowl made a lot of sense on the menu here.

 

One of Yamaguchi’s signature dishes, the blackened ‘ahi appetizer, is served here. It’s perfectly seared with a spicy soy-mustard butter sauce and nori paste.

 

Another signature favorite on this menu is the misoyaki butterfish—served at both lunch and dinner—with Asian greens, vegetable maki and a sizzled Ho Farms tomato sauce.

 

Unique to the Beach House is this Hau‘ula tomato salad, which features fresh, local tomatoes, sliced and paired with wilted Asian spinach.

 

The ambiance just begs for an island-style poke bowl. This one features super fresh, local fish dressed with a light inamona jus and chopped sweet onions over sushi or brown rice.

 

We tried the oyster appetizer ($23), which features six oysters—the menu says they’re from Goose Point in Washington; our server said they were from Kualoa Ranch—with three sauces: a wasabi cocktail, jalapeño ponzu and a Tabasco-tequila mignonette. The light and salty half-shell oysters are served in a stainless-steel bowl filled with ice and adorned with ogo. While the jalapeño ponzu was the boldest, our table preferred the Tabasco-tequila sauce.

 

Of the fish entrées, our favorite was the signature grilled misoyaki butterfish ($38) with a slightly charred crust, sautéed Asian greens and Ho Farms cherry tomatoes. The fish is moist and buttery, cooked just right and joined by three vegetable maki. We thought the pairing of cold somen salad, which came with the hibachi-grilled New Zealand Ōra king salmon ($35), would have made a better match.

 

The oyster appetizer has six oysters and three sauces: a wasabi cocktail, jalapeño ponzu and a Tabasco-tequila mignonette.

 

For non-seafood aficionados, the menu features several beef, lamb and chicken options. The Thai chicken ($26) comes slathered in an addictive peanut-curry sauce and pineapple chutney, with asparagus and sticky rice. No one complained about one of the simplest dishes on the menu—the Nalo herb-crusted prime rib ($42), cooked to a recommended medium rare, juicy and tender and paired with mashed potatoes flavored with spicy horseradish. It’s just a slab of beef and tender Waialua asparagus on a plate, that’s it. And it worked.

 

Likely the most photographed dish of the night was the Tuscan braised lamb shank ($31), a huge leg of lamb, slow-cooked until fork-tender, sitting on white beans flavored by the broth created by the simmering lamb, roasted Hau‘ula tomatoes and spices. It’s a lot of meat at once, and no one who ordered it at our table could finish it.

 

For the non-seafood eaters, try the Thai chicken. It comes with a tasty peanut-curry sauce and pineapple chutney, with asparagus and sticky rice.

 

The simplest of dishes—a juicy slab of prime rib with horseradish mashed potatoes—was one of our favorites.

 

This huge, Tuscan braised lamb shank got the most reaction from the table—just based on its sheer size. The slow-cooked meat was fork tender but hard to finish for one person, Especially if you order appetizers.

 

I usually pass on surf-and-turf dishes, but in this case, one here makes sense—and, at $37, is a great deal. It boasts healthy portions of the macadamia-nut-crusted mahimahi ($36 for the entrée) with Waialua asparagus and the popular braised beef short ribs ($36 for the entrée) topped with braising greens from Hale‘iwa and horseradish mashed potatoes. This is a great way to sample two dishes while leaving room for dessert. (The restaurant also offers a Turtle Bay Trio, which I’d recommend. It features bites of a rib-eye steak, Alaskan king crab ceviche and olive oil-seared scallops over tasty North Shore kale, local feta and quinoa, a recipe inspired by Yamaguchi’s wife, Denise.)

 

For dessert, you can’t go wrong with the chocolate soufflé. But we were delighted by the citrus mousse cake ($11), a slice of layered lemon-yuzu cake topped with a yuzu meringue and miso caramel and accompanied by macerated raspberries and blackberries. The cake is light and refreshing, the perfect end to a decadent, meaty meal. Our favorites, though, were the pineapple upside-down cake with caramelized pineapples baked with a brown-sugar pound cake and served with vanilla bean ice cream and the tiramisu with layers of rich chocolate and espresso-mascarpone mousse and a side of syrupy Luxardo Maraschino cherries.

 

Yamaguchi’s signature dark chocolate soufflé is on the menu here, too. You really can’t go wrong ordering this.

 

A surprise hit was the citrus mousse cake, which features layers of lemon-yuzu cake and a yuzu meringue.

 

One of our favorites was the warm pineapple upside-down cake with caramelized pineapples baked with a brown sugar pound cake and served with vanilla bean ice cream.

 

We fought over the tiramisu with layers of rich chocolate and espresso-mascarpone mousse and a side of syrupy Luxardo Maraschino cherries.

 

The lunch menu features smaller—and cheaper—versions of the dinner dishes but with four sandwiches, including a kabayaki cheeseburger with onions and mushrooms, and a nice variety of salads, including the throwback Alaskan king crab Louie with crispy bacon, asparagus and avocado.

 

When we went, the restaurant was still working out service and drink issues. (Most of the drinks were on the sweet side and many of the very friendly servers had less than a week of training.) But there was something magical about the ambiance, smelling the ocean air and sitting in this open-air space with the view of Kuilima Cove. You go into instant vacation mode, sipping on sangria and watching the skies change from bright blue to steel gray. You don’t feel rushed or worried about the hourlong drive back to town. If only overnight stays at the resort didn’t start at $200 for kama‘āina.

 

Roy’s Beach House, Turtle Bay Resort, 57-091 Kamehameha Highway, Kahuku, lunch from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. daily, takeout counter open from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, 293-7697, turtlebayresort.com/Oahu-Restaurants/roys-beach-house

 

READ MORE STORIES BY CATHERINE TOTH FOX

 

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