It was 98 F'in degrees out last week. Welcome to "autumn." There's no chilly nip in the air, no smell of fallen leaves, no sense of the coming snowboard season. On a day like that, my thoughts don't turn to spiced cider and pumpkin pie. I'm thinking of sitting under the shade of a palm tree, sipping a fruity rum concoction and noshing cooling foods like sushi or lomi-lomi salmon. Something... Hawaiian.
Roy's Restaurant recently invited local bloggers and media to their Fashion Island location to sample all the items on their new fall prix fixe menu. Like Hawaii itself, Roy's food is a mashup of different cultures, so there's an ease with which their chefs fuse elements from the sea and land, and join far-flung places across the Pacific Rim.
Very much like Southern California, autumn in Hawaii isn't all pumpkin patches and cranberry bogs, so a surprising theme ties the prix fixe menu together: ginger. Ginger isn't what I'd call a fall flavor, but maybe I'm not letting go of my Northeast upbringing. In any event, ginger as a fall theme works here in the context of Asian inspired foods.
It's the meatloaf you would have grown up with if Mom were a classically trained chef with a love for Chinese food and habit of buying expensive beef. Despite the highly marbled nature of Wagyu, the meat loaf is prepared in stages and defatted over several days, so there's no greasiness at all to the dish. The fork-tender slice of meatloaf is seared under a salamander and sauced with a shiitake mushroom reduction.
Another notable story is Elaine's Kabocha Squash Salad. Roy's held a Facebook contest where fans submitted fall ingredient ideas. Elaine suggested pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, and they show up lightly candied in this salad of microgreens, blue cheese crumbles and kabocha pumpkin slices poached in cinnamon. A cranberry vinaigrette dressing finishes the dish. There's your stroll through the pumpkin patch and cranberry bog.
Ginger stars in the stewed curried lentils of the Cilantro Grilled Tiger Shrimp entree. While I enjoyed it, the seasonal grilled shrimp dish is no match for the Tender Braised Beef Short Ribs, one of the permanent standbys on Roy's menu. Ginger makes a sub rosa impression here on the ribs as well. Chef Edgar takes liberties from the standard braising method by cooking the ribs sous vide for 24 hours. Cooking the boneless short ribs under vacuum retains their attractive shape, which would otherwise crumble into a pile of shreds.
On previous visits to Roy's, I thought the seafood dishes like the Miso Glazed Butterfish consistently outclassed the red meat dishes, but the short rib and Meat Loaf Shumai are two outstanding exceptions for those who'd rather eat beef.
The last course employing ginger? The twin-layered Pumpkin and Ginger Cheesecake. As you cut into the dessert, you'll see a white layer of cheesecake cleanly encasing a core of pumpkin colored cheesecake. How'd they do that? There's very few ways to display advanced techniques with cheesecake, but Pastry Chef Mark Verdugo pipes the core into the pan before pouring in the paler cheesecake batter around it, and finishes the dessert with a pumpkin anglaise sauce.
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The Fall prix fixe menu is available through January 3. You know, when the mercury in Newport Beach plummets to a bone-chilling 55 degrees?
Roy's - Newport Beach 453 Newport Center Drive, Newport Beach,
Roy's - Anaheim 321 West Katella, Anaheim, (714) 776-7697.
Full disclosure: this comped media junket was arranged through Roy's Restaurant and its PR agency.