The Best Meal I've Had In Years
This was the only real highlight of the day, but I'll probably write reams about it.
After seeing my uncle and his family off, we decided to get something to eat. I purchased the Zagat 2000 guide for Hawaii for five bucks a couple of days ago, so I perused that looking for ideas. My mom wanted a steak, so I started looking at steakhouses.
I started spouting off names and descriptions, hoping for responses. I mentioned Roy's Nicolina Restaurant in Lahaina, as it was rated very highly, and my dad pipes up and says, "Hey, they just opened a Roy's right here in Kihei." It turns out that this place is in the Safeway plaza, right across from an Outback steakhouse. The owner of the chain, a Japanese chef named Roy Yamaguchi, has opened Roy's restaurants all over the world, from Tokyo to New York.
We called from the car and made a reservation for 7:30pm. Luckily, we didn't have to stop home to get changed - the hostess said that collared shirts were preferred, but that t-shirts were okay too. We pull into the plaza, and I ask where the heck this place is; my dad points it out and I exclaim "oh" as I had just seen the place the other night, but didn't realize it was this upper crust kind of place, being in the middle of a shopping plaza and all.
We were seated about five minutes after we arrived. A whirlwind of servers sat us down, drew our napkins across our laps, and removed the extraneous dishes and accoutrements instantaneously. I was amazed, and knew it for a sign of things to come. I sat up very straight, and put on my best "dining out aura". Whenever I go into this mode, I make sure to thank each server for everything they do, and prepare myself for the complete dining experience, projecting a discriminating gourmet attitude towards the servers.
The menu looked scrumptious, and I knew right off the bat what I had to have. I also wanted to get some sake. My dad muttered that he wasn't such a big fan of sake the few times he'd tried it. I ordered the "rain" sake, as it was infused with ginger and I thought would complement our dinner choices well (I ordered duck, my dad ordered blackened a'hi tuna, my mom a filet mignon).
The manager brought it to our table and explained how this sake that he was opening was the first ever to be produced outside of Japan, that it was their own variety. He went on to say things about the rice and the quality - I noticed that the bottle he was holding had condensation on it, so I asked him if the sake was served room temperature. His response was that sake of lesser quality was served heated because that removes impurities and improves the taste; really good sake is best served cold. He then asked if I would like an ice bucket to keep it cool while we sipped it, and I said yes, thank you very much.
The sake was amazing. My dad tried some, and the expression on his face was astonishment. "This is sublime," he exclaimed. My mom responded similarly. I was completely floored; and it just kept getting better. A server zoomed by with hot, crusty little loaves of bread, and swiftly placed three on our table with little silver tongs.
I ordered Hot and Sour soup. Again, it was astounding. All the flavors mingled, but stood out on their own; not too hot, and not too sour, but both could be tasted independantly. Hearty little chunks of pineapple and rings of calamari accented the dish wonderfully. My parents ordered a dim sum boat of appetizers - this was a boat for two, but my dad asked the server if it could be made for three. The server checked, came back and said "no problem".
I have never had such tasty dim sum appetizers. And when I say tasty, I mean flavorful like you wouldn't believe. I could taste each and every ingredient in the spring roll; the baby back pork rib was tender and juicy with a beautiful mesquite flavor; the shrimp skewer was delicious; the seafood potstickers were a delight; and the raw a'hi tuna (poke, pronounced poke-AY) covered with salmon roe was utterly transcendant. Each item in the boat had its own little salad and sauce surrounding it to complement it.
Next came the entrees. So far, everything was delectable - now, the true test.
None of us were disappointed. The duck was everything I had imagined it would be, and more; once again, I could taste both the plum and mandarin orange flavors in concert in the dragon sauce drizzled all over the plate. The duck meat was expertly prepared, not greasy or tough in the slightest, and it was cut into bite sized morsels and rearranged into one unit - I didn't even have to pick up the knife. A piece of crunchy steamed bok choy dressed the meat, and it sat atop a hill of mashed hawaiian sweet potato, the yummy purple yam of the islands. The ginger sake matched completely with the luscious citrus flavors in this dish.
My father had gotten the a'hi tuna rare, and indeed, it was cooked to perfection. The meat was lightly seared on the outside, but the inside was uniformly tender and not at all chewy as rare meat can sometimes be. It was joined with a mustard and wasabi sauce that dressed it very nicely. My mother's filet was also cut in the same fashion as my duck - but her meat came on a bed of chili, and the steak was infused with this flavor, almost as if it were some kind of homage to American cuisine (steak/chili/Texas... or something).
Then, at last - DESSERT. When the entrees arrived, I ordered the chocolate souffle a la mode and my mom ordered a macadamia nut pie to share between her and my dad (the server had advised us to do so for these dishes, as they took at least twenty minutes to prepare). After cleaning up the dinner plates, our desserts were brought... and they looked every bit like what I thought they would. Mom's pie was set atop a macaroon and beside a hollowed out bowl made of whipped cream that was filled with chocolate sauce. My soufflee was at least three inches high and not burned in the slighest, covered with powdered sugar and sitting beside a scoop of vanilla ice cream, while the exposed bottom of the plate was drizzled in raspberry sauce.
I almost can't go into the details of eating this dessert without using graphically sexual language. Orgasmic doesn't even begin to describe how good it was. The inside was molten chocolate; as soon as my fork spread the souffle apart, the hot ambrosia spilled out, mixing with the melting ice cream and raspberry sauce. Hot and cold and crunchy and moist and chocolate and vanilla and raspberry... it was heaven.
The entire thing was a perfect meal. Everything was cooked exactly the way it should have been, and all the flavors complemented each other in precisely the right way. There were only two very minor flaws that deducted a few points from the experience: the decor was lovely - except for the fact that you could look out the luxuriously large picture windows lining the front and see a huge neon SAFEWAY sign. All they need is to put a little frosting on the lower halves of the glass, and they're all set. Second, my mom was a little disappointed that the server did not offer us coffee with our desserts. But these were the only things wrong with the meal. The price was about 65 bucks a plate - but I would pay it every time to get a dinner like that.
My parents are considering moving to Maui; they've been looking at houses and are trying to figure out a way to make it work for them in the near future... I myself would move here - just so I could eat at this restaurant every night for the rest of my life.
Not much else to say. Looking forward to another day of just rest and relaxation.