It’s a Far East food ex­trav­a­ganza at Japengo.

Waikiki Magazine - - IDINE - By Waikiki Team

Japengo chef Michael Imada has man­aged to del­i­cately bal­ance the multi-Asian fare at the Hy­att eatery by spot­light­ing the top one or two dishes from ports like Singapore, Tokyo, Shang­hai, Manila and Ko­rea, as well as Moloka‘i (in a side dish) and Paris (dessert). Imada stays true to each coun­try’s dis­tinct at­tributes through­out prepa­ra­tion and plat­ing of these of­fer­ings—he knows the best plates from these coun­tries were per­fected long be­fore he picked up a knife; and he presents them in all their straight­for­ward glory. That is, beau­ti­fully plated, not short of por­tion and full of flavor.

Of course, the lat­ter is done by ac­quir­ing the best in­gre­di­ents, which he does—lo­cal and fresh when pos­si­ble, without beat­ing din­ers over the head with it. But the king crab legs of the Sin­ga­porean Chili Crab that form the heap just de­liv­ered to the ta­ble couldn’t have come from nearby.

A lovely com­ple­ment to the spicy crab is the Korean Style Kalbi Short Rib, which ar­rives with a small plate of home­made kim chee, na­mul and watercress, evok­ing the ac­com­pa­ni­ment-laden dishes found at more tra­di­tional Korean eater­ies. But the beef com­mands the spot­light here, in all its ten­der, slightly smoky good­ness, pre-cut into bite-sized cubes. Again, in true Korean fash­ion, the chef leaves the over­sized rib bone—com­pletely cleaned of meat—on the plate for those keen on in­hal­ing the mar­row.

Next comes the Miso-Glazed Wild Sal­mon, a fish not as­so­ci­ated with Hawai‘i in any re­gard, yet some­how this am­ple-sized slab filet main­tains moist­ness while float­ing atop a pil­low of white rice. The mirin but­ter reser­voir in which it sits is ut­terly el­e­gant—a fine com­ple­ment to the saikyo miso that gen­tly glazes the top­side of the fish.

To ac­com­pany these hugely fla­vor­ful main dishes, a sim­ple side of the house-made fried rice makes the per­fect com­pli­ment. Made up of 24 in­gre­di­ents, the lightly crisped top gives way to caramelized onion, char siu pork, plump bay shrimp, sweet egg, shi­itake mush­room and a host of other gems that don’t over­power—ideal for a “side” dish—yet can boost any of the main plates it’s paired with.

Work­ing back­wards, there were a few starters worth men­tion­ing that should not be missed. The Scal­lop But­ter Yaki was an eyes-closed, chewin-slow-mo­tion fan­tasy. Topped with a gen­er­ous dol­lop of black to­biko (es­sen­tially caviar without the heavy salt in­take) and served over a sin­gle shiso

leaf, this was noth­ing short of an “ex­pe­ri­ence,” with huge, burst­ing scal­lops seared, yet ab­so­lutely ten­der through­out.

The next in­ter­mezzo was the equally el­e­gant Torched Hamachi, a dish that was ru­mored to be a huge hit at the shut­tered Colony restau­rant (also at the Hy­att Re­gency Waikiki), and now tucked into the Japengo menu. Here, a two-bite­sized slab of yel­low tail is topped with a kai­ware- se­same-le­mon “spread,” and then torched, which crisps the sauce as well as the top of the hamachi. The re­sult is a unique take on a Ja­panese sta­ple, ex­plod­ing with flavor.

Desserts did not over-power, nor dis­ap­point. The Japengo Cooonut Crème Brûlée with choco­late shav­ings was a high­light, as was the sur­pris­ingly light Molokai Sweet Potato Cheese­cake, a pur­ple pil­low of a dessert. Choco­late prof­iteroles were light on the sweet­ness, del­i­cate on the tex­ture (the pas­try was airy, the hazel­nut ge­lato silky).

There’s no rea­son to fear a jaunt through the re­gions cov­ered by Japengo’s menu; it’s al­most cer­tain that pa­trons would be more than pleased to rack up frequent flier-diner miles at this sure-toplease venue.

cO­cOnuT crÉme brÛLÉe

JAPenGO Fried rice

JA­PAnese rAin­bOW mAki sushi

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