By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
One of the benefits of sitting at the spectator perch is the chefs take pity on you for having to watch them wipe their hands on their aprons and grit their teeth to keep the profanity in check. So in appreciation, they feed you their mistakes and miscues gratis. One of the chefs asked us if we liked soft-shell crab and immediately began cueing up a row of plates and dismembering a whole crab before we could answer.
The large crabs are golden, covered as they are in panko bread crumbs before they're fried. They come out greaseless, and the tiny pieces of leg the chefs passed out were moist and sweet without being mushy. The dish looks a little different when decked out in all of its entrée glory. A pair of golden crabs are stacked one upon the other on a pad of white rice. Sometimes the one on top tumbles off the plate and the chefs have to reassemble them, pushing one down into the other to get it to stay put. The crabs are delicious through and through and are dabbled in a piquant stone-ground mustard sauce. There were no mushy spots or oil slicks, but the rice on which these crabs rest is pathetic: dry, hard and sticky. It was as if they had perched these crabs on some kind of inedible bulk filler whose only purpose was to promote good fried-crab posture.
Roy's wine list is clever and agile, geared to the flavor intricacies and wine-unfriendly slants that Asian-influenced cuisines often present. The white wines include a healthy selection of off-dry to medium sweet wines (including German Rieslings) as well as a healthy selection of dry whites that have nothing to do with chardonnay. In the reds, the merlots and cabs are relegated to the back of the wine list with pinots, zinfandels, California Rhone varietals and other global reds occupying the foreground. Roy's "exclusive" wine bottlings are made by some of the wine industry's most respected names, including Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat and Patrick Campbell of Laurel Glen. Plus it has short, effective flavor descriptions and pairing suggestions. This is a list with wit and intelligence, one that wraps tightly around the food instead of being stapled to it as an afterthought.
Ahi and avocado poketini: $13
Boston bib salad: $8.50
Roasted-duck salad: $8.50
Whole Dungeness crabs: $30
Venison and shrimp: $29
Buttered opah: $24
Still, it might be hard to effectively pair a wine with the buttered opah in kimchi (fermented cabbage) butter sauce. The top of the fillet is embossed with a sprig of cilantro leaves, perfectly flattened and embedded into the fish. The fish meat is dense and solid. Yet the flavor is delicate and sweet, setting up a perfect foiling opportunity for the bitterness that peeked through from the kimchi-laced sauce.
Another thing you might not expect from Roy's is acuity with game, but their twisted rendition of surf & turf (shrimp and venison) is as good as it is provocative. The slices of venison dribbled in a port-thyme reduction were ruddy and silky, with an undercurrent of smoke. The meat was exceptionally tender, with no sinuous streaks requiring you to overwork the incisors. The shrimp were succulent--even buttery--but they were slightly overcooked, and the flavors were a little soapy.
Service was slow and inconsistent, at least at the kitchen bar. Drink orders never appeared, dinner orders were taken only after long waits, and our server said "absolutely" after everything we asked or stated. This can get a little creepy after the third drink.
But then again she didn't try to put leis around our necks or accompany the open kitchen show with ukulele riffs.