What’s in a name?
by David Rottenberg
May 24, 2013 | 3720 views | 0 0 comments | 47 47 recommendations | email to a friend | print

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If you’ve driven by the Costa Verde Shopping Center, near UTC, in La Jolla in the last month, you’ve possibly noticed the change. Roy’s Restaurant has been renamed. It is now called Roy Yamaguchi’s Pacific Rim Cuisine.

The restaurant has not been sold or taken over by new management. Rather, La Jolla’s location is serving as a sort of beta test for other locations, said managing partner Brian Lee.

“This is a marketing test,” Lee said. “We’ve chosen the La Jolla location as an experiment to evaluate the impact of the name change. If it makes a difference, we may roll it out and change other locations similarly.”

The menu, Lee said, will include some new dishes, “but the classic standards, which are so popular with our guests, will remain.”

Roy Yamaguchi is a phenomenon — a creative, dynamic and energetic chef and businessman who could easily be mistaken for one of the line cooks when he wears his toque.

Growing up in Hawaii, Yamaguchi experienced the joys of fresh seafood before graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and continuing his training with such famous master chefs as Jean Bertranou and Michel Blanchet at notable establishments Michael’s in Santa Monica, Escoffier Room and L’Ermitage.

In 1988, he opened his first eponymous restaurant in Hawaii Kai in Honolulu. He created a new concept in cuisine — Hawaiian fusion, an eclectic blend of California-French-Japanese cooking traditions. The response to his culinary concepts and skills was astounding. Food & Wine Magazine named his restaurant the “crown jewel of Honolulu’s East-West eateries,” while Gourmet Magazine called him “the father of modern East-West cooking.” A few years later, he was the first Hawaiian invited to cook at the James Beard House, something of a culinary Academy Award.

Since opening his first location, he has grown his chain to 31 locations worldwide. He has written numerous cookbooks, developed a line of cookware and has become a TV personality on his own syndicated show, as well as on “Top Chef.” He has been invited to demonstrate his cooking style in 15 countries and has also cooked for nine world leaders, including presidents Clinton and Obama.

Now, Yamaguchi has partnered with OSI Restaurant Partners, LLC, a multibillion dollar company that operates eight major brands, including Fleming’s Steakhouses. Future expansion seems almost a certainty, although Yamaguchi’s favorite pastimes are to hang out with his children and to play drums in a local band.

Yamaguchi’s style of food preparation involves combining fresh local ingredients, European sauces and Asian spices to give his dishes texture, flavor and color.

Three principles guide his business approach:

1) Support of local farmers and purveyors. Yamaguchi insists on the freshest ingredients, and in Hawaii, his support of local growers has been legendary.

2) Allowing individual chefs to express their creative talents. Menus at different locations may not be the same, as each chef may include stylized items.

3) Giving back. Yamaguchi supports local charities and assistance programs where his restaurants are located.

Some of the new dishes that came with the name change include a tasty scallop and pork belly with fennel and light curry sauce; the akaushi beef tataki (thinly sliced and flavored by truffle powder that made the taste sparkle); and the grilled filet mignon, which was meaty, delightful and served with Japanese braised baby vegetables in a mushroom soy jus.

For a sensory treat in dining, Roy Yamaguchi’s Pacific Rim Cuisine is a definite winner. The newly named restaurant is located at 8670 Genesee Ave. Prices are moderate to high. Reservations are recommended. A daily aloha hour (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) features an indulgent menu and drink specials. Call (858) 455-1616 for information and reservations.

— David Rottenberg is a travel writer and restaurant reviewer who travels the world in search of exciting stories and new flavors. He is the past vice president of North America Travel Journalists Association and a member of Southern California Restaurant Writers Association.
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