The Tavern at Princeville
For more than two decades, Oahu-based Chef Roy Yamaguchi (founder of Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine) has earned a reputation for combining the island’s best local ingredients with his own formal training and eclectic appreciation of food to create artfully composed dishes that place as much emphasis on pleasing the eye as the palate. As if dining in a gallery of culinary works, dishes at Roy’s almost look “too good to eat” (though diner’s soon overcome this).
Roy’s latest dining concept approaches local Hawaiian cuisine from a rather different angle. When The Tavern at Princeville by Roy Yamaguchi opened in the Prince Clubhouse on Kauai last September, it was something the James Beard Award-winning chef felt the North Shore needed: “great comfort food and a moderately priced menu.”
Embracing the concept of local dining in its most organic form, before The Tavern opened, the staff started with a vacant plot of land where they sectioned off a quarter acre, dug holes, plotted circular garden mandala-shaped beds and began planting purple carrots, rainbow-colored kale, Japanese eggplants, leafy greens, herbs and spices that would appear on The Tavern’s menu. Now, nearly a year later, The Tavern’s garden shows healthy signs of maturity as it’s tended and harvested from daily by restaurant staff. The produce grown in the garden is whatever grows best, one gardener explains, nothing is forced. “If it doesn't do well here, we don't grow it.”
The Tavern, quite simply, is all about “good food and good drink,” says Roy’s Hawai‘i president Rainer Kumbroch. It's a gathering place for locals and visitors, very distinct from a traditional Roy’s, with its casual, comfortable, but stylish setting. The Tavern is the kind of place you can go with family and friends after a day at the beach or a good, long hike.
“We've kept the menu on a comfort level that is very accessible to people,” Kumbroch says. “Many of the dishes are based on Roy’s childhood memories of visiting his grandfather’s tavern on Maui. These are Roy’s personal favorites.”
The Tavern’s menu is a mix of the familiar (soups, salads, stews, lamb, fish, beef) and the exotic (curry braised pork cheeks with a bacon and white bean purée, ‘ahi poke with inamona (roasted kukui nuts) and ogo (Hawaiian seaweed).
At The Tavern, even “ordinary” dishes have a special flare—steamed clams are served with andouille sausage and frites, drunken lamb shanks wear a porter demi-glace and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and kale rises to a whole new level.
Lunch and dinner offerings are written on a standing chalkboard displayed by your server but when you order, consider that portions range from generous to huge, so you may wish to share several plates, tapas-style, and enjoy more. If you’re just looking for a quiet mid-afternoon drink and lunch or a more lively night out on the North Shore, the lounge has a well-stocked bar with a classic ocean view.
What makes dining at The Tavern such a joy is its ability to present simple food extraordinarily. “This is what I like to eat when I go out,” says Chef Roy. Great chefs, too, after all, like good food and good drink.
The Tavern is open for lunch 11 - 4, pūpū (appetizers) 4 - 5 and dinner 5 - 9:30 daily.
For reservations call (808) 826-8700.
This editorial was published in Kauai Traveler Magazine