Why Go JapengoCover Story Features
February 2, 2014
Story By: Alana Folen | Photos by: Japengo
A manifestation of Pacific Rim fusion abounds at Japengo situated in Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa where Asian culinary methods are integrated with an essence of what chef de cuisine Jon Matsubara calls “California freshness” combined with a host of other cultural and culinary influences.
Open since October 2011, the restaurant’s philosophy is centered around wooing diners from across the globe with authentic flavors coupled with the most precise cooking techniques from various regions. According to Matsubara, the resort is dedicated to working with local fisheries, farmers, dairies and ranchers to ensure that each restaurant’s culinary repertoire is fully equipped with only the freshest ingredients available.
“We are committed to sustainability and preparing our food just as they do in each region that we represent,” he says. “We have sought input from other chefs all over the world. Our Japanese sushi chefs are classically trained, and we even learned how to properly use a wok from an award-winning chef from China.”
With more than a decade in the restaurant industry, Matsubara’s expertise is in Hawaii regional, classical and modern French, as well as Indian cuisine. He joined Japengo last September, and recently introduced its Kamaaina Tasting Menu, inviting more locals to experience the establishment’s eclectic fare robust with fresh, clean flavors.
“This is our most popular menu because it includes all the things locals enjoy, such as hamachi sashimi, seafood bouillabaisse, butter poached steak and local decadent chocolate cake with creamy gelato,” Matsubara explains.
Priced at $49 per person, the prix-fixe menu begins with an appetizer of Chilled Hamachi and Ikura garnished with shaved heirloom radish and jalapeno, a hint of toasted garlic and bonito soy. Then, Ocean Cioppino will warm up your palate for the main course to come, as this hearty soup boasts luscious morsels of lobster, Alaskan crab and prawns submerged in an aromatic kaffir and lemongrass broth. Dashi crema and Chinese flowering cabbage also accentuate the dish. “I can drink this soup every day,” Matsubara confirms.
The stage is now set for the main entree of the evening. Whether you’re in the mood for a tender cut of Butter Poached Filet Mignon beautified with sake creamed spinach, Hamakua mushrooms, garlic potato puree and a white soy/black truffle sauce; or Black Magic Spiced Island Fish Selection accompanied by baby Roma panzanella, Ewa sweet corn and black sesame vinaigrette. Finally, dessert is a sweet symphony of Waialua Estate Flourless Chocolate Bar with Fior di Latte Gelato. A house wine or beer is also included with the meal.
“Guests can expect pristine quality and value,” Matsubara says when describing the menu especially geared toward the local palate. “The importance of local ingredients and the knowledge behind it was ingrained in me. As young cooks, we were taken on farm tours to meet the producers and we were educated about the ingredients. We were connected to our food source from the beginning. Every restaurant where I have worked has supported local ingredients,” he recalls.
So, make it an evening to remember, as Japengo celebrates kamaaina in the heart of Waikiki. The contemporary restaurant is open nightly for dinner service and happy hour, while guests are invited to experience top-notch service with an abundance of aloha.
Complimentary valet parking is available to kamaaina. Reservations may be made by logging on to japengowaikiki.com or by calling 237-6180.
Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa
2424 Kalakaua Ave., Honolulu
Dining Service: 6 10 p.m., nightly
Happy Hour: 5:30 7 p.m., nightly
Ladies Night: 8 10 p.m., Thursdays