Local Chef Roy Yamaguchi Remembers His Friend and Fellow Chef Colin Nishida
Our 2018 Restaurateur of the Year passed away in February. Here, chef Roy Yamaguchi remembers the man known as much for his humble humor as his food.
Photo: Aaron K. Yoshino
I met Colin for the first time when we were working on an episode of the TV show Emme’s Island Moments in 1998. Side Street Inn on Hopaka Street was our last stop after filming all day and Alan Wong, Jean-Marie Josselin, Russell Siu and I were ready for a drink. When we got there, Colin was already in the bar area drinking with guests. By the time Alan called Colin over to introduce us, I already knew he was a brother. In just a few short moments, he made me feel comfortable and I knew he had the same dream I had—to own an establishment where “everybody knows your name.”
Colin wanted everyone to feel at home when they came to Side Street Inn, and the bar and restaurant concept he created was just that—HOME. Nothing fancy, just great casual food, beer, wine and a full bar with the good stuff. Vodka was our drink of choice back in the day. He created comfort food before comfort food was in style. My favorites on his menu were the fried rice, atarime (dried squid), wing-zings, kalbi, whole moi Chinese style, furikake ‘ahi belly and the famous pork chops. I loved the original Side Street on Hopaka Street because it was a place where friends from all walks of life could gather, eat, drink, sing and feel at home. There was no one in that place who ever felt they didn’t belong, even if they couldn’t carry a tune.
I loved Colin like a brother. He lived every day like it was his last and had a good time—sometimes maybe too good, if you know what I mean. Colin was a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, a kind soul and a bit rough around the edges. Sometimes when he and Alan would talk, the pidgin English would come out and I would have no idea what they were saying, so I’d just laugh and keep drinking. Those buggahs would talk so fast it was beyond my comprehension.
Colin’s best friends were his customers. He loved to cook for them, he loved to eat with them and, most of all, he loved to drink with them. His personality was reflected in the way his staff treated guests—happy, caring and full of hospitality. His legacy of treating everyone as a friend in a place where everyone knows your name continues with his teams at Side Street and Side Street Inn on Da Strip in Kapahulu. While he will be missed, he will live on in the many great life moments and memories we all had with him.
So, cheers to you Colin, may you rest in peace. I love you, man.
Roy Yamaguchi is a founding member of Hawai‘i Regional Cuisine, the Hawai‘i Food and Wine Festival and more than 30 Roy’s Restaurants.