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Getting In Touch With The Flavors Of Hawaii

By Ali Resich Photos By Lawrence Tabudlo
June 19, 2016

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Executive chef Joseph Rose holds up a fresh skipjack tuna with some of his new menu creations.

Executive chef Joseph Rose holds up a fresh skipjack tuna with some of his new menu creations.

Culinary wizard Joseph Rose may be new to the Islands, but the recently appointed chef de cuisine at Japengo certainly delivers like a seasoned pro, when it comes to keeping the restaurant’s new menu firmly rooted in the flavors of Hawaii.

At the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa eatery — which offers contemporary fare in a swanky setting complete with mid-century modern design details — island-inspired cuisine has been given a sophisticated touch since its doors opened in October 2011. Rose, who moved here with his family from Chicago, is continuing on that track with the new dishes he’s already introduced to the menu — which serve as his creative expression of Japengo’s dedication to offering Hawaii Regional Cuisine.

Soy Ginger Hanger Steak ($38)

Soy Ginger Hanger Steak ($38)

“I interpreted Hawaii Regional Cuisine as using as many locally sourced ingredients as we can and, of course, all the fish that comes from these waters, and all the cultural diversity that’s here,” explains the chef.

Rose has settled into island living and his role at the Hyatt quite seamlessly, in part because he has family members, such as his mother in law, who are from Hawaii, but he also has worked closely with his kitchen crew to familiarize himself with the rich culinary culture the 50th State has to offer.

Ho Farms Tomato Salad ($14)

Ho Farms Tomato Salad ($14)

“All the food I do its really influenced by where I’m at and who I’m working with,” says Rose. “I’ve talked to my staff a lot; they’re all local guys from here, so they’ve really taught me a lot about the different cultures that are here, whether it’s Filipino influences or Japanese … I’ve learned so much in the last two months about the different products that are available and some of the different cultures that are here on the island.”

The chef puts that knowledge to good use in selections like Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke ($18), comforting patrons with a classic mixture of ogo, kukui nut, sesame oil, shoyu and a refreshing splash of lime juice. This version of poke gets a fresh spin as well, though, with Rose’s unique seasoned soy-sauce gelee, which is served on the side with spicy Sriracha mayo and offers a new way to enjoy familiar flavors.

Sesame Encrusted Hawaiian Ahi Tuna ($40)

Sesame Encrusted Hawaiian Ahi Tuna ($40)

When it comes to Crispy Shinsato Farms Kalua Pork ($35), Chef Joseph’s propensity for putting creative twists on recognizable flavors shines through. The kalua pig-style meat is shredded and pressed into a block that’s crisped up on the flattop.

“When you bite into it, it’s really crunchy on the outside, but then it’s really soft and fatty and juicy on the inside,” explains Rose, who has an AAS in culinary arts from Elgin Community College in Elgin, Illinois, and a certificate in baking and advanced pastries.

The savory meat is paired with edamame-ginger puree and an irresistible smoked pork sauce enhanced with bacon.

 Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke ($18) served with a crunch of taro chips

Hawaiian Ahi Tuna Poke ($18) served with a crunch of taro chips

Though Rose has wholeheartedly embraced island flavors, he still brings his Midwestern flair to the table. Soy Ginger Hanger Steak ($38), for example, is his take on an all-American favorite, steak and potatoes, but jazzed up with Asian accents. The dish’s tender meat is repeatedly dipped into a soy, sake and mirin mixture while it is grilled, giving it the most mesmerizing caramelized edges. Petite marble potatoes on the side are joined by maitake mushrooms, braised radishes, and a lovely miso mustard sauce.

In addition to these fabulous new items, Japengo will unveil more changes to the menu in the coming months. “So far we’ve had a really good response to the new dishes, and as we continue to grow and build on things, I’m hoping that the menu will be well received.”

Crispy Shinsato Farms Kalua Pork ($35)

Crispy Shinsato Farms Kalua Pork ($35)

Japengo

Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa, Ewa Tower, third floor
2424 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki
237-6180
Daily, 6-10 p.m.; Lounge opens at 5 p.m.
japengowaikiki.com