With more than 20 Roy’s restaurants in Hawaii, the Mainland, Japan and Guam, Master Chef Roy Yamaguchi will open Eating House 1849 the first week of February at the Shops at Kukuiula in Koloa.
The interior will be a take on the old plantation design, with ceiling fans, open windows and wood floors — but modernized to be more comfortable. The food will be a walk through the tapestry of cultures in Hawaii.
“The food is the experience,” Yamaguchi said. “We basically do what we do best, which is to provide great food and great service.”
The name comes from the first known restaurant in Hawaii, established in Honolulu circa 1849 by Portuguese immigrant Peter Fernandez. The concept is to blend those immigrant recipes with local ingredients, not to recreate the original menu, but to highlight the progression of food since that time through the eyes of Roy. The multicultural landscape was probably reflected in the foods, and the evolution of those flavors are the vision today.
“It is a modern day version of what Peter would have served if his restaurant were built in 2015,” Yamaguchi said.
Chef Krizpen Oades ran Roy’s Poipu for years and before that on Maui and Oahu. After Roy’s eight “classic” items, the “chef driven” approach is to let their personalities and cultures bring some of their unique perspective to the menu.
The Portuguese influence at Eating House 1849 will include shrimp turnovers called rissoles, along with a clam cataplana stew with tomatoes and mushrooms. The Filipino influence includes plantation paella and adobo marinated pork chop vinhadhos.
“This Eating House 1849 is the first of what we are and it is almost like the next generation of Roy’s,” Yamaguchi said. “It is making Roy’s better and this concept is what I envisioned many years ago.”
The restaurant could have been located anywhere, but Yamaguchi said Kukuiula is where it should be. The beautiful area and the design and tenants of the plaza best reflects the experience that Roy’s wants to produce, he explained.
“It has a very plantation-like look and a great feel to it,” he said. “When we walked around, there was great flow.”
The staff is essential in creating that great customer experience and Yamaguchi said the restaurant design tries to invigorate employee spirit. There will be large windows in the kitchen so that they, along with the customers, can enjoy the same beautiful environment around them.
“We have had a lot of great staff for a long time and they will continue to be with us,” he said. “We want them to go to the next level of what Roy’s story is about.”
Yamaguchi is known as a fusion artist. It is nothing new, he explained. For thousands of years, as neighboring cultures travelled, they blended the ingredients and styles of others into their own.
What makes fusion work is to understand the cultures involved, he said. He began by fusing French sauces with Japanese foods when he knew what each was trying to accomplish.
“I understood the culture of the Japanese and the French, and I knew what the French did with making sauces, and I wanted to fuse that with the balance and simplicity and seasonal aspects of the Japanese food,” he said.
For example, you can’t just puree strawberries and put them on top of teriyaki salmon or you would end up with a mess, he said. It works when you understand sauces and reduction, whether to blend veal or duck bones, or make a concentrated marinade or wine.
At Eating House 1849 it may mean the infusion of soy or Patice fish sauce or other ingredients. It will require an understanding of Spanish, Portuguese and Filipino flavors.
The two most important factors are flavor and health, he said. Both are typically satisfied best when using fresh, local ingredients that maintain flavor, minerals and vitamins better than shipped produce. It is important to economize on salt and to steam or sauté foods instead of boiling, so as not to diminish the health benefits.
That also means using Kauai foods wherever possible. It is in the spirit of the regional cuisine movement he helped to start in 1991.
Yamaguchi’s staff recently planted a small garden at an Oahu restaurant, and said Kukuiula is allowing him to do the same starting this month.
“There are a lot of great products from Kauai and then we build on that,” he said.
The first Roy’s opened in Honolulu in 1988. Yamaguchi opened the first Kauai restaurant, Roy’s Poipu in 1994, followed by The Tavern at Princeville in 2011.
“Kauai is a beautiful island and the people are great, and we’ve been blessed to have great people working for us from that island,” Yamaguchi said. “There is beauty everywhere but the people make it a little special for me, and I thank all of the individuals working for us over there, good people, the salt of the earth.”
Roy’s in Poipu celebrated its 20th anniversary on Sept. 30 and was to close in December. A four-month lease extension will keep it open until Eating House 1849 is ready.
“It has been a great 20 years there,” he said.
The Tavern at Princeville closed after three years on Dec. 28.
Yamaguchi designed The Tavern in the memory of his grandfather, a grocer who also operated the Vineyard Tavern restaurant in 1941 on Maui. It was based on what he believed his grandfather would have cooked in 2012.
The Tavern building will become a private club with the redevelopment of 1,100 acres under The Resort Group, founded by Jeffrey Stone, and primary investor Reignwood Group under Dr. Chanchai Ruayrungruang. When the project to build a golf course club community is near completion, Yamaguchi said they will look to see if they can rebuild a public restaurant.
“It has been a great run but with the redevelopment of Princeville they are going to make that club private and we can no longer exist when our current customers cant have dinner there,” he said. “Jeff has given us the first right of refusal to open another tavern when they are near completing the so-called village or resort.”