OK. Here's a test. Pick a label - Fusion, East-Meets-West, Euro-Asian, Pacific Rim, Con-fusion - and identify the following dishes with the cuisine: crab cakes with sesame butter; Asian beef pot-stickers with fresh mango syrup; cured duck with pineapple sauce; Szechuan-style baby back ribs with mango salad and tofu; almond and shitake-crusted sea bass with spicy Chinese black bean coconut sauce. The answer? All of the labels work. Confused? Join the group. Welcome to (pick one) Pacific Rim style or Euro-Asian, the latest culinary wave imported to Hong Kong by Roy Yamaguchi. Are labels really necessary? Wouldn't Yamaguchi's fresh food say it all? Sorry. That's not show business. 'Chefs begin with a concept; then the media sticks a label on it,' says Ken Hom. 'Labels make good headlines.' In the mid-70s Hom, the Chicago-born, California-based chef-cum-cooking teacher, was labelled creator of 'East-meets-West', his culinary direction with Chinese cooking. 'Basically, those labels mean the same thing,' he said. 'Some of the terms are newer.' Hom was in Hong Kong recently where he met for the first time Yamaguchi, the standard bearer of Pacific Rim cuisine. Yamaguchi is in town to open Roy's at New China Max. Both chefs knew each other by reputation and books. 'He was a mentor,' says Yamaguchi of Hom. 'I have great respect for what's he's done with Chinese cuisine.' 'Now I feel old,' quipped 40-something Hom to the 38-year-old Yamaguchi. When you breathe the name, Roy's, diners who have travelled around Hawaii, California, Guam or Japan, extol the virtues of Yamaguchi's fresh and bold cooking style. When you query professionals about him, the raves continue. David Abella, chef of Felix in the Peninsula, trained under Yamaguchi. 'He was the toughest, most demanding boss I had,' Abella once recalled during an interview. 'But what a palate. He knows flavours and how to taste.' Hom says Yamaguchi owes his success in Pacific Rim fusion to his background - he was raised in Japan of American and Japanese parents. 'Roy does fusion well because it is natural,' he said. 'He understands the ingredients, the tastes.' Fusion - borrowing and blending foods from various cuisines - sounds simple. But it is not. Hom says its success requires maturity, discipline and knowledge. 'Fusion is successful when you don't have to think about it,' explains Hom. 'Nouvelle cuisine never came naturally to French chefs. It was too contrived. 'When I wrote about East-meets-West in the mid-70s, it was something personal. It was my evolution with the Chinese food I grew up with.' In order for a non-Asian chef to do fusion well, it takes passion, continues Hom: 'You've got to immerse yourself in the culture and cuisine.' Fusion defies test of time. One of Hom's dishes from his early years of East-meets-West is still his benchmark: salmon marinated in ginger juice, wrapped in cabbage and steamed. Served with fresh chopped ginger and a small amount of fish stock enriched with a trace of butter, Hom says it works because of its simplicity. 'Fusion gets silly all the time,' adds Hom. 'The key is restraint. When you add too many elements, it gets confusing.' Food writer Nina Simonds, author of China's Food, has eaten at Roy's in Los Angeles. The Boston-based writer was in Hong Kong recently and recalled a memorable meal at Roy's. 'It was a noodle pancake with black bean sauce. It was simple and direct. Nothing fussy. 'In fusion the chef allows the ingredients to speak. It takes confidence and the nerve to risk,' she explains. Fusion is most successful, Simonds says, when done by Asians. 'Most young non-Asians, especially Americans, don't do it well because they simply lack the exposure to another cuisine. They try to put everything on the plate. It's a joke. It's sacrilege.' When you meet Yamaguchi in person, you are taken aback by his youthfulness. With all the kudos and his reputation, one expects a grey eminence. He looks much younger than his 38 years. But when he talks, his presence is older. He has a quiet confidence, talks sparingly and has a no-nonsense attitude towards food. In talking about his restaurants, the word teamwork is repeated often. He enjoys teaching and pushing cooks into self-discovery. He doesn't want carbon copies of himself. In opening Roy's at New China Max in Times Square, he put Troy Guard, a six-year alumnus of Roy's in Hawaii, in the kitchen. Guard arrived in Hong Kong in January and did a month-by-month stint with David Abella at Felix. There are no hard feelings, insists Guard, about his leaving Felix. He said they talk nearly everyday. Yamaguchi is unfazed by the history of China Max, a shooting star that fell to ground within a year of its glittery launch. All he wants to do is present his style of cooking. He is sure of his taste and positive his team will deliver. But in a competitive market, Yamaguchi remains cautious. If his current business deals go smoothly, Yamaguchi will have nine restaurants by the early part of 1996. Adding to his stable in Asia are places in Cebu and Beijing. Why is he successful? 'It is the food I like to eat. My flavours are bold and strong. The kind of food that doesn't need salt and pepper,' he says, referring to his pet peeve about those diners who out of habit reach for the shakers before tasting. 'Mine is not timid food.'