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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Alan Wong's Amasia: Grand opening

Thirteen years ago, when Alan Wong opened The Pineapple Room, the menu was three pages of pupus. This was before Jose Andres popularized small plate dining in the US, before the word "tapas" were (mis)used on every new restaurant's menu, before izakayas became popular here.

It lasted three months. People thought the portions were too small, they didn't understand that plates were meant to be shared and "people were looking for the entree," Wong says.

Now, Wong's trying again with his restaurant in the Grand Wailea, Amasia, with 65 menu items of small plates and larger plates meant to be shared family-style. It's too early to tell whether the concept will stick this time around, but the climate for shared plates is certainly more receptive these days.

For a chef who believes in reinvention and evolution in order to "keep doing what you're doing for 17 years," it's appropriate then that he's revitalizing his old concept. The menu has some Alan Wong classics but also some items that reflect his travels. Wong spent over half a year in menu development for Amasia, working with chef de cuisine Chris Damskey, who most recently worked at the Market by Jean-Georges Vongerichten in the Boston's W Hotel; sushi chef Jeff Ramsey who had a stint at Jose Andres' Minibar in DC; sous chef Dee Ann Tsurumaki who once helmed the restaurant at Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong; and sous chef Miya Nishimura, previously sous chef at Alan Wong's flagship restaurant.

A look from Amasia's grand opening Monday night, a grazing event with about 200 guests, offering samples of Amasia's menu items.

Amasia's space was previously Kincha, evoking a Kyoto teahouse. The space has been opened up somewhat, but most of the features, including the wood from Kyoto and 500 tons of Mt. Fuji rock have been preserved. For regular service, diners can sit along the robata grill, sushi bar, or in the dining or tatami rooms.

Above: Alan Wong classics in miniature form. On the left, whole tomato salad with li hing dressing; on the right, chopped ahi, avocado salsa, wonton and soy wasabi.

Above: tako salad with soy vinegar gelee and bubu arare.

Above left: beef tartare with uni; right: "Loukanika" sausage from the robata grill, on cardamom yogurt and topped with pickled fennel. Wong created this dish for a James Beard Awards reception, drawing on a recipe from one of James Beard's cookbooks.

Pastry chef Michelle Karr-Ueoka reinvents Hawaii's classic sweets as well as the Twix bar. Above left: Karr-Ueoka's version of a Twix. The vases behind are filled with li hing strawberries and pickled pineapple with star anise. Right: Karr-Ueoka's immensely popular pineapple shave ice, with Hawaiian vanilla panna cotta, lilikoi sauce, haupia sorbet, coconut tapioca and hand shaved, frozen pineapple. One of my favorite desserts ever: tart and sweet, creamy and icy.

Small plates: $4 (Wailea sweet potato with coconut-ginger cream) to $18 (taro croquettes with "ham and cheese" tomato jam); raw and sushi bar: $7 (Kumamoto oyster shooter, infused tomato water, wasabi pearl) to $50 ("Jefu" set — twelve premium nigiri and king crab California roll); family-style large plates: $14 (kim chee fried rice) to $85 (whole chili garlic Dungeness crab).

Inside the Grand Wailea, 3850 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea, Maui,

Posted on Wednesday, May 30, 2012 in Permalink

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About This Column

From five-star restaurants to hidden holes-in-the-wall, Biting Commentary will let you know what’s hot and what’s not. Find out the latest restaurant news—who’s opening, who’s closing, which chef is moving on, where the great special dinners are. Discover the best menu items, fabulous wines, stunning cocktails, hand-crafted beers. Be the first to hear about upcoming food events and festivals.

Food editor Martha Cheng graduated from Wellesley College with degrees in Computer Science and English. She's a former line cook, food truck owner, Peace Corps volunteer and Google techie. Follow her on Twitter @marthacheng.


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