By Laura Reiley
Times Food Critic
TAMPA — It's a pleasure. We all know the experience of being in the hands of an expert, whether it's at a swanky hair salon, or with a crackerjack mechanic or in a fine restaurant. No second-guessing or backseat driving, you just entrust the task to someone entirely capable.
Roy's is like that, outfitted with experts in the kitchen and pros in the dining room, a room that is lovely and serene despite its big exhibition kitchen. Bathrooms are immaculate, pacing sure-footed, tables wide-spaced and elegantly set. A small thing, but it's one of the few places these days with big bowls of fancy individually wrapped mints and matchboxes at the exit. Remember when every place did?
I don't mean to say Roy's is old school. Roy Yamaguchi opened the first Roy's in 1988 in Honolulu. It is a massive empire these days, with 37 locations around the world, 28 in the continental United States, seven in Hawaii, one in Japan and one in Guam. Despite its size and age, Roy's remains nimble.
A couple months ago the Tampa location began serving lunch for the first time, in an attempt to attract some of the West Shore business folks. It's a gorgeous menu, a bit of a splurge, with the kind of stylish Japanese/Hawaiian/Pacific Rim melange on which Roy's has made its reputation. Some of the classics are absent (miso-charred butterfish, the oozy chocolate souffle), but no matter. There are enough exciting flavors and combinations to make this power lunching par excellence. In fact, they offer a prix fixe "power lunch," ($22). It sounds pricey, but it's a lot of food: your choice of beef short ribs (rich and tender), hibachi-grilled salmon (perfectly cooked and glossed with a sweet-tart ponzu sauce) or blackened ahi, brought on a wide, sectioned platter, the other sections given over to a gingery mixed green salad; a small bowl of miso soup, memorable for its velvety lengths of shiitake; jasmine fried rice; and tender-crisp wokked baby bok choy. You'll have to go skimpy on dinner.
Sushi rolls provide a lighter alternative, each roll with a sauce or garnish that sets it apart from the raw fish pack. Sambal mango puree with a California roll ($11)? Why not. A sushi lunch box ($24) is eye candy — vibrant ahi poke, swaths of hamachi sashimi, California roll and more, arrayed like the front window at Tiffany & Co.
And even if you're not a fat-cat CEO clinching the deal, finish with a bowl of deeply chocolately gelato ($8), the spheres resting on a delicious gravel of bittersweet chocolate nibs.
Laura Reiley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 892-2293. Her blog, the Mouth of Tampa Bay, is at www.blogs.tampabay.com/dining. Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.