Japengo keeps things ‘fresh’ with new program

Columns Foodie Fare

July 6, 2014

Story By: Christina O Connor | Photos by: Rachel Breit

Hyatt Regency Waikiki’s chic eatery, Japengo, takes pride in its exceptional regional cuisine. The restaurant recently announced that it will be a participant in Hawaii Fresh, a program to be launched this August by Hyatt hotels across Hawaii. For the program, Japengo composed a new appetizer menu, complete with cocktail pairings (one appetizer and one cocktail is $25). The Hawaii Fresh menu will include a range of locally sourced items, and when patrons order from this specific menu, part of the proceeds will go toward local culinary schools, as the goal of Hawaii Fresh is to support local farmers and provide funding for culinary programs.

“We want to support the next generation of chefs, and we want to emphasize the relationships that we have with the farmers and purveyors,” says chef de cuisine Jon Matsubara.

Recently, Japengo gave Dining Out a preview of the new appetizers that will soon be available.

Royal Hawaiian Venison “En Sous Vide” features Molokai venison with taro and brandy puree, ulupalakua red gastrique, duck fat charred warabi and Hamakua mushrooms.

Matsubara also is pleased with Roasted Kauai Shrimp.

“We put a little anchovy butter on (the shrimp) and then we roast it,” he explains. “Then we incorporate mountain apples from Frankie’s Nursery into the dish, along with nashi pear, shiso and a homemade Japanese pickled plum vinaigrette. Finally, we garnish it with Thai water-melon and tomatoes.”

And Matsubara’s creativity shines through in Singapore Lobster Omelet. The dish features Kona lobster flavored with lemongrass and aromatic chili sauce served with toasted sweet bread and perched atop an omelet made with Peterson Farms eggs.

“This is a different take on breakfast,” the chef says. “It’s a French-style soft scramble with butter and cream that is really rich, but then is balanced out by the chili sauce.”

Kona Abalone Chazuke is another must-try. Kauai clams, sake, bacon dashi, bone marrow butter, enoki mushrooms and a crispy prosciutto complete the starter.

“In classical Japanese cuisine, o-chazuke, (basically tea and rice) is popular,” Matsubara explains. “This is our take on chazuke, but we omitted the tea and added abalone.”

On the Side

Hyatt’s most coveted restaurants share the philosophy: “thoughtfully sourced and carefully served,” and Japengo’s chef de cuisine Jon Matsubara holds strong to that belief. “We use as many local products as we can, and we do our best to always give back to the community,” he says.

Japengo sources many of its ingredients from a number of local farms, including Kauai Shrimp Farms, Frankie’s Nursery, Hamakua Farms and Peterson Farms.

“It’s important to support the farmers,” he adds. “For me, it is always best to use what’s in season. The farmers are the experts, so I depend on them.”

Matsubara is one of Hawaii’s best-known chefs, and many would be surprised to know that originally he wanted to be a lawyer. Matsubara says cooking was therapeutic during law school.

“When I cooked, it just sort of released all my stress,” he recalls.

“Cooking is just such a passion for me,” Matsubara says. And the rest is history.

Contact Christina O’Connor at diningout@staradvertiser.com


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

Honolulu, HI 96815

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