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Fall in Love at Japengo

By Alana Folen Photos By Anthony Consillio
February 1, 2015

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Spice up your love affair with food and fall in love all over again at Japengo, a contemporary, avant-garde establishment within Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, where you’ll experience the splendor of Hawaii regional cuisine intertwined with a melange of other cultural and culinary mediums. Under the direction of renowned chef de cuisine Jon Matsubara, Japengo’s right on the money with accolades and rave reviews coasting on its success.

Recently, Dining Out caught up with Matsubara to see what’s new. Here at Japengo, hearts are fluttering for the restaurant’s Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu, a repertoire of sumptuous fare that leads to an evening of enchantment.

DO: When Japengo opened at Hyatt Regency Waikiki in 2011, what was the restaurant’s foundation built upon?

JM: Our philosophy always has been to impress with simple and elegant, locally sourced and carefully served Hawaii regional cuisine. We utilize the most pristine local ingredients, and we work with farmers and ranchers to procure our beef, pork, lobster, abalone, shrimp, honey, vegetables and spices.

DO: You are well known in Hawaii’s food and beverage industry. Tell us a bit about your background.

JM: I have been working in the food and beverage industry for 15 years. I’ve been trained in Hawaii regional cuisine by chefs Roy Yamaguchi and Alan Wong. Chef Floyd Cardoz taught me a lot of what I know about French-Indian cuisine, and I also have been trained in modern French cuisine, thanks to chefs Jean Georges and David Bouley.

DO: Are there any changes that have taken place at the restaurant recently, which our readers would be interested in knowing about?

JM: We unveiled a new menu last month, which includes the addition of Ultimate Loco Moco with Foie Gras. Our take on this local favorite exceeds expectations with Hawaii Ranchers filet mignon sous vide, foie gras and Kona lobster tail on toasted bonito rice, and topped off with quail egg and Hamakua mushroom dressed in Italian black truffle and madeira sauce.

DO: With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, what will guests be swooning over on this holiday of love?

JM: This year, we’re offering a special Valentine’s Day prix-fixe menu Feb. 13-15, Friday-Sunday. For $96, the meal begins with Chilled Oyster & Caviar Shooter with radish, toasted bonito ponzu, a splash of chili oil and negi. The second course is Japengo Chirashi, which presents an assortment of fresh hamachi, maguro, spicy crab, unagi and ikura. For the main course, guests have the choice of a 16-ounce Hawaii Ranchers Rib Eye Steak and Foie Gras served with Yukon potato, sweet corn fondue and sauce bordelaise or Dungeness Crab and Lobster Tail Orzotto with accents of Hamakua mushroom, local tomato, baby spinach with usukuchi soy, wine and citron sauce. Lastly, the dinner wraps up with a sweet ending — a collection of the most decadent chocolates and sweets.

DO: That sounds amazing! What’s the inspiration behind this lovely menu?

JM: Valentine’s Day, of course. It’s a holiday of love and indulgence, hence this decadent lineup.

DO: Let’s take a look at Japengo’s regular menu. For someone who has yet to dine here, what are some popular dishes that you would highly recommend?

JM: We do a great bouillabaisse.

DO: Chef, inquiring minds want to know: What is your must-have dish?

JM: My favorite is Duck Breast en Sous Vide ($32), which is complemented by a myriad of flavors derived from Japanese pickled plum and port wine sauce, taro-brandy root puree, mushrooms and charred Brussels sprouts.

DO: OK, we must try that! What inspires you in the kitchen?

JM: The inspiration comes from the ingredients we have available and what mood I’m in. Our customers also inspire me. I want them to enjoy the total experience of Japengo, from the service, to the food and ambiance.

Japengo

Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
2424 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
923-1234
Daily, 6-10 p.m.