In a swift motion of edible kismet, Alan Wong’s newest restaurant Amasia is on Maui in the Grand Wailea. I have been a fan of Alan Wong ever since family friend’s Jane and Bob Brown had their remarkable anniversary dinner at his King Street Oahu restaurant Alan Wong’s and brought me home his cookbook New Wave Luau. Suddenly I was on to Alan Wong. His fresh twists on island food were more than intriguing, they are fearless leaps into the fusion food, Wong’s way. Flavors, textures and visuals can be unusual, but at the base of the dishes is the familiar, flavors of our island culture like kalua roast pork, dashi, shiitake, li hing mui, tomato, pineapple, and sweet potato.
If you look up the word Amasia you will find its a future supercontinent predicted by plate tectonics, one that we won’t see in our lifetime. Instead Alan Wong has foreseen its culinary future and offered you a taste in this namesake restaurant. The space formerly known as Kincha was originally built by Takeshi Sekiguchi, developer and original owner of Grand Wailea, as his own private club to entertain VIP guests. Wong’s team kept much of the original design, tatami rooms, private dining areas, 800 tons of rocks brought in from Mount Fuji, but $3 million went into renovations, kitchen updates and bar upgrades. Wong says, “The bones of Kincha remain.”
At the heart of the concept its east meets west where Wong mashes up street food, home recipes, bar food, hibachi grilling, and our melting pot of appetizing culture.
“Amasia is a contemporary style of eating that borrows from ethnicities all around the world,” says Wong. “When you take these ethnic influences we have in our immigrant past, the sugar and pineapple plantations, Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Hawaiian culinary traditions. Then I combine it with food from travels to Singapore and Peru, taking little things from here and there.”
He says his vision is to create the ultimate international izakaya. The menu is divided into hot and cold pupu, robata (the grill), family style (larger portions to share), raw, maki (rolls), and desserts. The handcrafted cocktail menu exudes the same creativity as does the wine and sake list where Wong says the drinks always have to match the food. You will find his signature private label Alan Wong wines on the menu, one of my favorites is the Kitchen Sink red. Wong says he blends all his wines himself to reap the benefits of creating flavor profiles specific to his foods.
He was not afraid to borrow from favorites at Alan Wong’s like the whole tomato salad with tomatoes grown by Richard Ha on the Big Island. It is a a flutter of thinly sliced cucumbers beneath a whole juicy tomato topped with delicate sprout tops served with tangy li hing mui vinaigrette. The soup and salad served as a rich toasty wedge on top of a martini glass of soup is also swiped from King St. Wong also says items will be on the chopping block as he plays with the menu, listening closely to patrons and making way for new and seasonal items.
From the raw menu the chirashi is a spectacular deconstruction of the traditional bowl rice dish, instead vegetables, chunks of fish and egg meander together over a glass bench. The surf and turf is seared beef wrapped roll with shiso and uni. The farm roll full of farmed goodness. Raw edible art is as visually pleasing as it is indulgent evidenced by the Kona kampachi with buttery kampachi, surprising corn nuts and cubes of sweet potato immersed in a lilikoi jus.
When you are first seated the server brings you a bit of ban chan with your drinks, to get the appetite rolling korean style. Other appetite enhancers include marinated olives, As you peruse the menu with a mind boggling number of dishes you will be vowing to come back to try this or that because there is no possible way to get to it all in one sitting. That did not stop me from trying. The robata grill is wood fired, the delicious char is perfect on fresh sweet peppers, hamakua mushrooms, jidori chicken and beef tenderloin, a great way to graze through the menu nibbling away with chopstick. In the hot pupu you can find opulent favorites from round the world like fried oysters, bambucha potstickers, empanadas, chowder, and duck bao.
Dessert has to be spectacular when you have so many precedents, and it stood up exceedingly well. I fell in love with the ice cream sandwich: honey rice granite, candied peanuts and caramel popcorn okoshi ice cream but there is something for everyone.
“There are a lot of memorable dishes,” says Kevin Peterson, food and beverage director at Grand Wailea. “Personally, my favorite is the Whole Chili Garlic Dungeness Crab – it explodes with flavor and it’s one of those dishes you can’t be afraid to use your hands. The bread that accompanies it is perfect for dipping in the flavorful sauce. For dessert, must try is “The Coconut,” it’s Haupia sorbet molded into “half a coconut” with a chocolate shell and served with fresh fruit. It’s not just aesthetically beautiful when it’s served to you, but tastes as good as it looks.”
When I ask Wong about his contacts with Maui farmers he says he is still developing the relationships. He has spearheaded a movement early on in his other restaurants of supporting local agriculture and fostering relationships as far as the Big Island for quality ingredients that impact our local economy. In this realm Wong is passionate about educating the keiki and says this will be the key to balancing our local economy in the future.
“Our companies definition of sustainability is to make decisions today that our grandchildren’s grandchildren can enjoy,” says Wong, “Kids can effectively change the decision making process, they can make the change happen. Our goal is to teach the kids to buy local, have the kids think sustainable.”
3850 Wailea Alanui Drive, Wailea, Maui, HI 96753 |
About Jen Russo
I write lifestyle and culinary columns for MauiTime. I love being a Maui girl and adore my big family. Dedicated food taster, blogger, internet fanatic, and Maui and Hawaii specialist.