I enjoy dining at Roy's Restaurants. I ate there last week on the mainland, and have preferred eating the really fresh fish more "on site" at the Kauai restaurant. My favorite fish is the opa (moonfish), followed by the butterfish dishes. Roy's fresh fish are simply cooked, with tasty sauces and beautiful simple to elegantly more complex presentations.
Unfortunately, his beautiful presentations are far more easily enjoyed in his restaurants, than attempted at home via this complex, yet (presumably) accurate cook book.
There are problems/challenges in following these recipes for a beginning or average cook, that go beyond the hours spent collecting ingredients and preparing fish, sauces and stocks needed for these recipes.
These attractive, Hawaiian inspired fusion recipes require collecting the basic ingredients, which can take :
1. A trip to one Asian grocery store to get ingredients which may include dashi, kombu seaweed, dried shrimp, bonito flakes, tobiko caviar, panko crumbs, daikon, furikake, kaffir lime leaf, red Thai curry paste, pickled pink ginger, mochiko (rice flour) ground sandalwood, lemongrass, mirin, palm sugar, bok choy etc (some grocery stores in larger cities may stock some of these ingredients).
2. A second trip to one or two conventional grocery stores in a larger city to collect the white truffle oil, fresh chervil , thyme and other herbs and spices, mango, clam juice, blue cheese, fresh cilantro, fresh shiitake mushrooms, etc.
3. A possible third trip to a top fish supplier to get truly fresh fish, if the local grocery's fish has that tell tale "fishiness" smell, indicating it has been improperly iced, or dead on ice for 5 days or more...
The 237 pages of text has less than 90 actual recipes of fish, a somewhat disappointing number, however as most cooks do not cook even 10 recipes out of a book. That's not a drawback for me. (There are other recipes in the back for various stocks, oils, and sauces). Obtaining the fish Roy uses , such as butterfish species, pacific threadfin, sickle pomfret, wahoo, gray snapper, jackfish, or the wonderful opah will be difficult if not impossible for mainlanders not living in say San Francisco or Vancouver, with access to such fresh delights, so Roy has kindly supplied substitutions, which are still not easy to get.. Still there are 5 salmon recipes, 5 dolphin fish/mahi-mahi, and fifteen tuna recipes, so you won't be disappointed-there really are ample recipes to try!
What is a disappointment and a drawback is that most of the recipes do not have the accompanying pictures of Roy's plating or presentation of that dish that one might hope for, especially after enjoying the beautiful pictures in Roy's 10 year old book, " Roy's Feasts from Hawaii ". Presentation to me is so important to serving an appetizing meal, and people buy Roy's books to hopefully duplicate or at least approach both the taste AND appearance of his dishes.
The recipes are of moderate to advanced complexity for most nonprofessional caliber cooks, and that's an intimidating problem for nearly all beginning or basic cooks, and some intermediate level cooks as well. I showed my copy of the book to three decent cooks, and each said variations of , "It's way too much work for a meal". A pepper sauce has 13 ingredients, a miso broth has over 10 ingredients, braised salmon has 25 ingredients, and even the crab cakes and sauce has 30 ingredients...not for the faint hearted! Even the "simple" recipes have 8-15 ingredients.
In fairness to Roy, if you want to cook like the big boys, you have to use their ingredients and techniques, which is far easier to do in a restaurant, with several assistants collecting ingredients and preparing sauces for you, than at home!
A good cook will know where to cut back on some ingredients, apply substitution, and make their own less complex version of some of these recipes, adjusting the taste as needed as they go along. Problem is, a beginner will not have such ability to "pull it off" with such simplification or substitutions, and will not like the resulting "unbalanced" variation.
I take off one point, in part, for the book having far less pictures of Roy's inspiring preparations than he could have provided; even one picture per 2 dishes would have been a better compromise, to keep down the cost of publication. With few pictures to begin with, having so many pictures of non-food scenes of fishing boats, sunsets, limpets, flags, buoys, fishermen, etc., alone are just not as helpful, as we are not here to admire limpets, boats, or look at pretty sunsets, we are here more likely to duplicate tasty and beautifully plated food as presented in Roy's restaurants, and these other "scenic" pictures have not been useful replacements for the food pictures at all!
The point is also taken off in part for complexity, as this is a serious drawback to most cooks wanting the challenge of trying to cook Roy's food at home.
If you are an advanced home cook, if you have hours for preparation, and if you are very creative in your "food styling" presentation; only then would this would be a 4 ' star cook book to consider adding to your collection!
Other books with similar beautiful and tasty Hawaiian fusion recipes, that are easier to prepare, include Sam Choy's tasty and much simpler "The Choy of Seafood", Jean-Marie Josselin's "A Taste of Hawaii", and Alan Wong's more complex "New Wave Luau".