It’s been six weeks since Joseph Rose took on the role of executive chef at Japengo, and he already has made it clear that his intentions are to keep the menu simple, local and culturally rooted.
On sharing his ideas for new menu items, Rose says, “I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from my team in the back. For me, right now, it’s a really big learning process. I’m getting to know the different culture and how to incorporate that into my food style, so that I can still be me but show what’s cool about being here, other than the nice beaches.”
And what’s more authentic to Hawaii than poke? Rose features Poke (market price) as a special and will add the dish to the official menu within the next three weeks. He mixes fresh ahi, kukui nut, ogo and limu with shoyu, lime juice and sesame oil. The plate is adorned with dots of spicy mayo and shoyu-chili gel for a light kick.
Sake Steamed Kona Abalone (part of Makai Tasting Menu, $95)
Even with the new additions, longtime favorites still will be available, such as Sake Steamed Kona Abalone (part of Makai Tasting Menu, $95). Kona Abalone and Manila clams are steamed in green-onion butter and sake with Apple-wood-smoked bacon relish and enoki mushrooms. You also can order this dish a la carte with just clams for $18.
With so many colorful, and now new, options to choose from, a tasting menu might just be the best way to explore all that Japengo has to offer. The Hawaiian Regional Cuisine restaurant also boasts a breathtaking outside-seating area, large main dining room and a handful of private rooms, too.
SPICING UP A SIMPLE CONCEPT
Soy Ginger Hangar Steak ($43, price subject to change) is a simple meat-and-potatoes dish, according to Rose, that also will be available in the coming weeks. “I try to take the simplicity of all the food and do something a little different with it,” says the chef. This is evident in the charred Hawaiian Rancher’s Hangar steak that has been dipped in a mixture of shoyu, mirin, sake and rice wine vinegar to create a nice crust. The meaty steak is cooked medium to medium rare and served with grilled maitaki mushrooms, various butter-and-dashi-glazed potatoes, as well as radish and green onions, each presented in two different ways on the plate.