Having been a big fan of Roy's Kahana and Nicolina on Maui for the past two decades, a Downtown LA location seemed too good to be true.
First, you really have to want to go to put up with the approach. The address is Figueroa, but the valet station in on 8th (one way the wrong way from Fig). Everything is one way the wrong way. We came from the north on Flower, but couldn't cross 4 lanes of solid traffic on 8th to get to the entrance, which is on the SE corner of 8th near Fig. Had to go around on Francisco to JL Woods to Hope to 8th...you get the picture. Even after you park you have to walk around to the Fig entrance.
Everyone, including the valets, welcome you with "aloha". It is actually very nice.
The place is lively with an active bar scene with lots of TVs. One is struck by the sheer numbers of employees congregating in various areas. In fact, the one spectacular thing about this place is the enthusiasm and sheer number of waiters, buspeople, servers, and apparently even additional job descriptions. There is a constant stream of personnel around your table. And they are well trained - nothing leaves the table until everyone is finished; orders go out to the kitchen in a tightly coreographed way, depending on the status of what's left on your table. Water is refilled, drinks watched, and even bread refilled efficiently.
Waiters are trained to make suggestions (and not the business-as-usual most expensive items). No pushing of expensive bottled water, etc. Wines are described in intelligent detail with free tastes offered. Lots of by the glass offerings for $8-15; pours are generous and prices are just over 2x retail. You can even order 1/2 glasses at 1/2 price.
The food is supposedly Hawaiian-California fusion, but it is really mostly lots of salt (mainly soy based) and various vinegars. The subtlity of many of the wines is wasted and you would probably be better off with beer or possibly sake. The Roy's places in Maui seemed a little more subtle.
Smoked clams were a treat, but a slightly too acidic sauce detracted. Shellfish trio had great risotto in a beef type reduction, good english pea concentrate, and nice grilled shrimp and carmelized scallops. Fish is impeccably fresh - probably better than the raw material at Water Grill, and for less $. I would consider ordering the Mahi Mahi, Halibut and the Opakapaka without the sauce next time. Actually as good as in Hawaii - the only time I have been able to say this in the mainland US after years of searching.
Apps are about $17, entrees average $26. Didn't have room for dessert.
On the way out, my partner expressed a dislike for the table we were seated at (too much kitchen noise) and the head waiter asked for her name and said he would enter our preferences in their database for the next time. I'm tempted to call what I suspect is a bluff. But the attitude is sincere and this is one of the nicest places available in the downtown area at this point. Just go light on the sauces and don't waste a lot of money on delicate wines.
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