By Maridel Reyes, via Forbes.com
Chef Roy Yamaguchi was born in Tokyo, but his first culinary memory is visiting his grandparents in Maui and tasting seafood fresh from the pier.
After cooking school in New York and a stint in Los Angeles, he returned to his roots and opened Roy’s in Honolulu in 1988—and sparked a new wave of Hawaiian fusion cuisine.
Today, he’s still inspired by his hometown. “I love the island’s natural beauty,” he says. “My office overlooks Koko Head Crater and Maunalua Bay, so it’s a beautiful sunrise and sunset for me every day. From a culinary perspective, there has never been a better time to visit with so much emerging chef talent—both locals and those who have recently made Hawaii their home.”
Yamaguchi co-founded the Hawaii Food & Wine Festival, which kicks off its 4th year in Oahu this week. In preparation for the festival, we asked him to reveal where he likes to eat, play and shop in Honolulu.
Where to Eat
“Alan Wong’s has always been my go-to special occasion restaurant with my family. I always order the soup and sandwich [chilled tomato soup in a martini glass with foie gras sandwich] and Da bag [clams and kalua pork served en papillote, in a large soup bowl that's wrapped in aluminum foil that puffs up].”
“My wife Denise and I like to go Izakaya Nonbei on weeknights. It’s a close, relaxing and short drive from our house and we know the staff well. We order the same things each time, including the crab and avocado salad, Saba (mackerel), shio-yaki (grilled with salt), Toro (fatty tuna), salmon belly and ikura (salmon roe) sushi, tsukemono moriawase (assorted pickled vegetables), ika shio kara (squid marinated in fermented viscera)…all great Japanese comfort foods.”
Where to Drink
“I like to relax and have a drink at House Without a Key at the Halekulani Hotel. It’s right on the beach and they have live Hawaiian music and hula under the moonlight every evening. We order a plate of sashimi and pupu.”
Where to Shop
“I love to visit our local Japanese department store, Shirokiya. They have an awesome food market similar to the ones you find in Japan at the basement of department stores. I usually pick up some containers of Japanese pickled vegetables, turnips, cucumbers, eggplant and ginger from the refrigerated food section. I also buy some pre-cooked dishes like gyoza (potstickers), curry rice, crab shui-mai (steamed crab dumpling), and chicken kara-age (Japanese fried chicken).”
Where to Stay
“I like the Modern a lot because it’s such a different experience located near the marina that’s really fun, and the service there is outstanding. My favorite though, has always been the Halekulani, where my wife and I were married.”
Where to Play
“I like to visit the Paepae o He’eia, an ancient fish pond and Papahana Kuaola, a taro patch just north of the fish pond. Both are located on the windward side of the island and gives you a truly authentic sense of place. I also love Kualoa Ranch. It’s 4,000 acres and the beauty there is spectacular with the Kualoa mountain range and a view of Kaneohe Bay. The ocean on that side of the island is a teal green—different from the blue you see in other parts of Hawaii.”