Posts Tagged ‘Sushi’

Roy’s Restaurant at Spanish Bay Resort: Pebble Beach, CA

Posted 08 Dec 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining, Full Service, Hotels

My exploration of Pebble Beach California had to include a trip to Roy’s restaurant over at the Inn at Spanish Bay Resort. More than one foodservice insider told me that this Roy’s outlet, one of 29 Roy’s restaurants located in seven states (Arizona, California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada), operated by famed chef Roy Yamaguchi is the best of all and that Mexican born Chef de Cuisine Pablo Mellin is one of Yamaguchi’s more talented leaders.  After a wonderful long weekend in a rainy Pebble Beach volunteering for a local non-profit, the weather brightened up and I set out for Spanish Bay for dinner.  There is nothing like the drive south from Monterey along Forest Lake road to Seventeen Mile Drive. Once you pass the guard shack into Pebble Beach proper the world changes and a feeling of wealth and privilege pervades everything. The community is made up of homes belonging to the rich and, in many cases, the famous. The setting is absolutely amazing and fitting for The Inn at Spanish Bay, a resort that in early 2010 made the Conde Nast Traveler Gold List of the world’s best places to stay.

We pull up to the resort in our rental car, a nice Dodge Charger, and pass the keys on to the valet.  Sitting in front, parked for all to see is a spanking new Bentley GT convertible. Although some think it’s kitschy to display cars like this in front of a hotel or restaurant, I love it; it sets a tone for the clientele and suggests that the place is special.  After all, we are at Pebble Beach. Just the night before I was in this same hotel and passed Tom Brokaw walking down the hall and said hello. I recognized his nasally voice while walking past and then had to step aside for Leon Panetta (a resident of Pebble Beach from what I hear) and his Central Intelligence Agency entourage (black Chevy Suburban SUV’s at the front door and all) as they made their way to their vehicles parked at the entrance.  Spanish Bay is other-worldly and so are the clients that visit here.

As we exit our car and head toward the resort’s front entrance, I notice a gentle but comforting heat radiating down from the warmers located in the porte-cochere ceiling above us. By the time we arrived  the weather had cooled and this little bit of gentle warmth was a nice touch. Looking around the entrance, the building was well lit with large exterior windows and high quality architectural design.  All of the sidewalks and exterior grounds were spotless and perfectly kept down to each blade of grass.  The doorman held the door for the ladies, welcomed us warmly and, more important, genuinely as we entered. It was a wonderful first impression, just the kind of attention to detail that is becoming rare in this economy as we value engineer the finer details out of commercial life.

Roy’s Restaurant Dining Room

Once inside Spanish Bay, finding Roy’s is a straight forward task. You take a quick left, then a right and pass the main lobby and the large bar and sitting area and proceed toward the back of the room until you come to a maitre d’ station at the entrance to the restaurant. On the other side of the restaurant’s entrance the room opens up to a multi-level modern space with a huge open kitchen and a large dining room with well over 150 seats. Roy’s isn’t small and, when busy, the kitchen probably runs fast like a locomotive.  When we arrive its early (6:00PM) and the room is only half full.

Foie Gras Mochi $16.50


I am with a group of three other individuals and we quickly decide to share four or five items from the menu and place our order within minutes. Service is prompt if not a bit slow but this often is the case when a restaurant is running half full. Experience tells me that the best time to be in a restaurant, contrary to intuition, is when it is running full speed. Don’t misinterpret, full speed means running at capacity not running over capacity. Restaurants hit a tipping point when more than ten percent of dining room capacity is pushing to get a table. They also hit a point of declining return when service is running at half speed. Give me a full restaurant with well managed table turns and no line at the door any day of the week. Roy’s service was running slow but, luckily, the food didn’t reflect this at all. Roy’s is also just one culinary cog among many wheels that spin and make Spanish Bay the multi-million dollar resort that it is.

Spanish Bay Sunset Roll $19.75

While at Spanish Bay I had the chance to tour the back of the house including the main banquet kitchen, pastry kitchen, the conference rooms and banquet dining rooms; all of them wheels that spin to make Spanish Bay what it is. The restaurant outlets, including Roy’s, share a common purchasing, facilities,  operations, and human resource departments. I met Chef Mellin while taking my tour and talked with him for a minute or two. With jet black hair that’s tightly cropped on the side, neatly trimmed mustache and huge smile, he is an affable, friendly, and passionate culinary leader. I was inspired to see one of our Mexican colleagues, a key hardworking group in American foodservice that often gets overlooked, finding such success and it was clear as Mellin made his way through the property that he was highly respected by his peers.  We need more of this in foodservice!

Our food arrives and we dig in. The first dish I taste is the Foie Gras Mochi with a healthy slab of seared foie gras sitting on a seared pave’ of tuna. I have had this combination before and it is a match made in heaven.  My next taste is a sampling of sushi (maki and nigiri) with one piece each of Tuna, Salmon, and Yellow Tail and three pieces of spicy tuna roll with seaweed salad. My colleague orders the Spanish Bay Sunset Roll composed of spicy tuna and avocado and I taste a piece. Everything is at the peak of freshness, tastes great and is perfectly executed. Sushi is simple and varies little from place to place other than in the fine details like how the seafood is sliced and the quality and freshness of the ingredients. Mellin is using the best he can get his hands on and the quality we experience reflects this. We continue eating and try a couple other appetizer items and wrap up our dinner. The room is filling up now and the kitchen is starting to rock and roll as we head to the door.

Roy’s Kitchen

Spanish Bay is a beautiful property and may be the nicest of all the Pebble Beach resort properties. It’s well maintained public spaces, tremendous Spanish inspired design, and pristine golf course (some say the best at Pebble beach) creates a relaxing if not ultra high-end feel and Roy’s fits right into this setting serving  a super-fresh, light, Hawaiian Fusion cuisine. There are a few good restaurants in Monterey and some interesting places like Nepenthe further south in Big Sur but Roy’s could be the leading restaurant in this stretch of California coastline (I will let you be the judge).


Inn at Spanish Bay

2700 Seventeen Mile Drive

Pebble Beach, CA 93953


Nobu Miami Beach Sexy Sushi

Posted 12 Jun 2010 — by S.E.
Category Fine Dining

We’re cruising down Collins Avenue in Miami in my friends powder blue drop top BMW coupe searching for a place to eat. It’s a hot spring night in South Beach and all the beautiful people are out strolling along the sidewalk. The Shore Club, home to Nobu Miami, appears up on the right and we impulsively pull in and valet park the car. “Let’s check out Nobu, we haven’t eaten there in almost a decade. I wonder if it’s still good?” I ask. I am interested in seeing if the restaurant has retained its edge after all these years.

When I first dined at the Miami outpost of Nobu in 2002, the experience was cutting edge. Chef Nobu Matsuhisa had started expanding his fledgling restaurant empire six years earlier and his style of Latin inspired Japanese cuisine was a natural draw in Miami.  It was here that I first tasted Nobu’s Jalapeno Hamachi, a dish I will never forget for its simplicity and incredible taste. Perfect paper thin raw Hamachi slices, glistening with fat and sweetness, topped with equally thin circular slices of Jalapeno pepper, a few cilantro leaves, and a drizzle of soy. All the elements of a perfect dish are present; sweet, salty, fat, and umami. This is the essence of elegant simplicity.

Since opening his first restaurant in the continental U.S. in Beverly Hills back in 1987, Chef Matsuhisa, with the help of long-time friend Robert De Niro, went on to open Nobu in New York City in 1994 followed by a steady series of new outlets around the globe. Today, Matsuhisa has a portfolio of approximately 22 restaurants in 18 different countries. His restaurant empire is split between two owners; the Matsuhisa family which owns the Matsuhisa branded restaurants (L.A., Aspen, etc) and the Nobu restaurants which are owned by Matsuhisa and additional partners including Robert De Niro, Meir Teper and others. His steady expansion has run parallel with the overall global fascination with, and acceptance of sushi around the globe.

When I first started cooking professionally in 1980, the consumption of raw fish was a completely foreign notion to me. The idea of eating uncooked fish never crossed the minds of the culinary professionals I worked with or those of our customers. Since then, Chef’s like Nobu Matsuhisa have brought sushi consumption to the masses and served as disciples of Japanese cuisine. At the same time the American dining public has evolved faster than ever. An August 10, 2000 National Restaurant Association survey on the rise of ethnic cuisine in the U.S. reported that 44% o the dining public enjoyed trying new ethnic items. When this type of attitudinal shift occurs within the general public, certain ethnic cuisines have the potential to become mainstream. Italian, Mexican, and Cantonese/Chinese cuisines evolved in a similar way decades earlier and are now a common feature in American dining. Japanese cuisine and sushi specifically, has benefitted from the same type of evolution.

We make our way through the dimly lit lobby of the Shore Club Hotel toward the back patio where Nobu is located. The color white must be in vogue right now because the entire lobby, from the reception desks, walls, seating, uniforms, and muslin drapery hanging form the ceiling, is stark white. Every one we pass looks like a Calvin Klein model. I love South Beach! When we cross through the threshold at the back exit to the patio the lighting shifts and we make our way through the dimly lit light to Nobu. We don’t have reservations so we ask to sit at the Sushi bar and are promptly escorted to our seats. Our server hands us two menus, takes our drink order (two Nobu Special Reserve Ales please) and disappears. When she returns with our drinks we both order the five course prix fixe menu and away we go. Without going into the details, Nobu hasn’t lost one bit of its edge. The food was outstanding, service excellent and, like an old friend, consistent and reliable as ever. The Hamachi was exactly like I remember it and identical to those served at Nobu Las Vegas and Matsuhisa in Aspen. Nobu has his restaurants running like clockwork and I admire the hell out of him for that.

Japanese Red Snapper with Scallion and Crispy Shaved Garlic

Glazed Black Cod with Red Miso


Nobu Miami Beach is located at

1901 Collins Avenue

Miami Beach, FL 33139