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Japengo’s Kamaaina Menu: a Reason to Head to Waikiki


Hamachi and ikura (left) and blackened opah

Japengo, the Hyatt Regency’s Japanese-ish restaurant, hopes to give locals at least one more reason to head into Waikiki. Chef Jon Matsubara, formerly of Azure and Stage restaurants, has created a tasting menu to appeal specifically to kamaaina—which means lots of seafood at $49, and it’s worth every dollar. (We actually had trouble getting the kamaaina rate, but Hyatt’s PR reassured us that the menu is indeed $49.)

The four-course menu, which includes a glass of wine, starts with a chilled hamachi and ikura appetizer—bright gems of ikura bursting against the silky slices of hamachi, all pierced through with serious umami from the pickled radish and jalapeno slaw. Then comes the Ocean Cappuccino, a sort-of cioppino–seafood chowder hybrid, with layers of kaffir and lemongrass and chunks of lobster, Alaskan crab and prawn, and not a morsel was over cooked, a rarity in seafood soups. The mug of soup was the highlight of the meal, and on our next visit to Japengo, we’re hoping to see it on the menu as a stand-alone item (because then we’ll get more of it).

The main course is a choice of butter-poached filet mignon with black truffle sauce or the blackened fish selection, which was opah on our night. The steak was cooked well but next time we’ll get the fish and skip the steak. Maybe it’s just us, but the truffle oil preparation has become just another underwhelming addition to fancy steak (or even not-so-fancy steak), so at a place best known for its seafood, get the fish.

By the time the flourless chocolate cake bar arrives, you’re wondering how you managed to reach food-coma state so swiftly, and with such class. But ignore the coming discomfort of pushing yourself over the edge just long enough to finish off the small scoop of mascarpone cream that makes leaving the whole bar on the plate impossible.

It’s time to brave Waikiki. Because where else can you get a four-course meal prepared by one of the most celebrated chefs around, a glass of wine and valet parking for $49?

Butteryaki scallops

If you stray from the set menu, we suggest you do it with the butteryaki scallops and the sweetened condensed milk-glazed macadamia nut shrimp. Both are jumbo versions of themselves—massive meaty and melt-in-your mouth scallops and sweet shrimp the size of prawns—and both are good reasons to maybe go a la carte at Japengo. After trying the set menu, that is.

Japengo, Hyatt Regency, 3rd floor, chef’s tasting menu $49, 237-6140

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