BACKGROUND: Some restaurants get to enjoy the "it" status of being the place to be and be seen. For those shining moments of glory, it's a pleasure to see a restaurant bask in the public popularity. One of the "it" restaurants of the moment is Roy's, and after a night of enjoyable food and drink, we say they deserve … it.
In the almost six months since it opened, Roy's has enjoyed star status, with throngs of adoring fans lining up to enjoy the ambiance and the food that defines this new addition to the dining landscape.
RESTAURANT: The Roy's restaurant chain has enjoyed great success since the first restaurant opened in Honolulu in 1988.
With locations now scattered across the continental United States, the Hawaiian Islands and several Pacific Rim countries, the Coachella Valley can consider itself fortunate to have joined such good company.
The restaurant's unique Hawaiian fusion cuisine certainly has found its place with local diners. After waiting months for the initial new restaurant buzz to pass, we decided it was time to dive into the fray and take on the crowds. On a recent weekday evening, we were lucky to receive reservations for late in the evening, and the dining room remained crowded throughout our visit.
Captivated by the unique Hawaiian influences, we decided to start the evening with two cocktail recommendations from our server -- a Mai Tai with "secret ingredients" and a Hawaiian-fused martini with vodka, rum and pineapple juice. The tone was quickly established as we set out on our dining adventure.
MENU: Roy's offers two menu options and we decided to pick from both in order to experience their "classic" or regular offerings as well as their nightly "special" selections.
For starters, we selected Roy's Nightly Dim Sum Style Canoe ($24) as an appetizer. The sampler platter includes Szechuan-style ribs, shrimp sticks, edamame, an island ahi poke, shrimp and pork lumpia and seafood potstickers.
Each of the items -- presented in a scrumptious and eye-appealing oval platter -- was delicious, but a few of the selections stood out for special recognition. On a return visit we might narrow our focus and order the tasty, plump potstickers or the shrimp and pork lumpia -- an eggroll filled with spicy minced meat that elevated these above the eggrolls we've tasted at any Asian restaurant. The addition of the edamame -- a vegetable soybean -- provided a nice palate-cleansing touch.
With dinner we ordered the '99 Baystone Russian River Chardonnay ($54), a light and fruity complement to our entrées.
The entrée menu is focused primarily on seafood selections, so we decided to sample two: the seared Macadamia nut crusted mahi mahi ($24) and the cornmeal crusted halibut ($25).
The halibut was near perfection, with a tasty, light breading to complement, but not compete with, the fluffy white fish. Served with mashed potatoes, carrots and kale, the fish was moist and flaky. The sun-dried tomato sauce provided a nice accent.
My companion enjoyed the mahi mahi, but I found the fish to be a tad oily. Admittedly, mahi mahi is not one of my favorite choices since I only like the whitest filets and have often received the less desirable brown filets. Also, the macadamia nut crust was barely noticeable.
For dessert, we had placed our order for the melting hot chocolate soufflé ($8) when we placed our entrée order. The preparation time was well spent as this shared delight was devoured in minutes. Served with vanilla ice cream, the soufflé was airy and moist and, given a preference, we would have ordered two rather than share. Oh well, lesson learned.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Rancho Mirage is currently enjoying "it" status with the valley buzz focused on a little stretch of Highway 111 that has come to life in recent months. First Roy's popped up, followed quickly by the opening of The River with P.F. Chang's, The Yardhouse, Fleming's and other restaurants still to come.
But through all the buzz and all the crowds flocking to the newest, shiniest additions to the dining scene at The River, Roy's has managed to maintain its "it" status. Maybe that's because good food, enjoyable service and dynamic atmosphere define it.