alan wong’s amasia at the grand wailea: it’s nothing short of amazing

Cross a world-class chef with a five-star resort and the result is Alan Wong’s Amasia at the Grand Wailea—Maui’s hottest new dining venue. And believe me when I tell you…Amasia is absolutely amazing!

This highly anticipated new dining establishment had its soft opening on April 24, and grand opening on May 25; Charles and I dined there on May 10. Word of Amasia’s opening must have traveled quickly through the coconut wireless because the place was positively packed that evening.

A joint venture between Chef Alan Wong and the Grand Wailea, Amasia is located in the space formerly occupied by Japanese restaurant Kincha. After undergoing a $2 million renovation, Amasia was ready for its unveiling. The site had good bones, according to Chef Wong. “It was meant to look like a fishing village, but it was really dark,” he says. “We opened up a couple of walls so more natural light could come in.” But not too much. The result is a soothing Zen-like grotto with stone walkways meandering past koi ponds, streams, water features, and 800 tons of rock hand selected from the base of Mt. Fuji. Seating is divided into different areas: tatami rooms, bar, robata grill, and sushi lounge.

Charles and I are seated at the edge of the sushi lounge next to a stone water feature and pond where we can watch plump, salmon-colored koi glide by. Marble tabletops are cool and elegant; red and black fabric and rugs pay homage to traditional Japanese decor, as do ginger-jar light fixtures above our heads and liberal use of bamboo throughout.

Server Scott tells us Amasia is a futuristic conceptual supercontinent resulting from the merger of Asia and North America. Chef Wong conceived Amasia as a fusion of the cuisines of east and west—a global marketplace of different taste sensations through the sharing of small plates. Scott encourages us to “order a lot and share”; which we do—over the course of three delectable hours!

On Scott’s recommendation, I order the spiced Japanese cucumber martini ($15), while Charles, who’s looking for something non-alcoholic, selects the mamaki Hawaiian herbal tea ($6), billed as “an old Hawaiian cleansing tea.” My cocktail is akin to a spicy Margarita—refreshing and cool with Japanese cucumbers and Hendrick’s Gin, muddled to perfection, and a slice of red jalapeno floating on top. I soon discover the longer you let the jalapeno steep, the spicier the drink becomes. Ole! Charles’s tea is served in a tall Irish coffee glass with a bundle of mulberry leaves in the middle. He finds the tea to be smooth and oh, so soothing.

Amasia’s extensive beverage selection includes 16 wines by the glass ($9 to 19); more than 90 foreign and domestic reds, whites, and champagnes ranging in price from $35 for a Bastianich, Malvasia Adriatico, Istiran Peninsula, from Croatia (from the section entitled “Wines for our Food”) to $390 for a Coche Dury, Puligny Montrachet, “Les Ensegnieres,” from Burgundy, France; sake; beers, including “Bikini Blonde” Lager from Maui Brewing Company ($8); and several enticing cocktails. The after-dinner offerings include cognacs, fortified wines, several different coffees from the Hawaiian Islands, and a nice selection of teas. There’s truly something for everyone, making Amasia not only a splendid dinner house, but also a perfect place to enjoy libations, pupus, and dessert.

The Amasia menu is divided into several sections: cold pupus, hot pupus, family style, from the robata grill, raw, sushi, nigiri, and maki. With nearly 90 items to choose from, eating at Amasia can be an entirely new adventure every time you visit!

Scott is assisted by Fallon this evening, and she bring us a trio of goodies to rev up our appetites: kimchi, bread and butter pickles, and delicate pickled baby Hamakua mushrooms. From the cold pupus menu we’ve selected the li hing mui marinated olives with crack seeds ($7). There are so many tasty elements in this dish there’s a little surprise in every bite—a successful combination of sweet, savory, and acidic. Charles goes absolutely gaga for the olives and can’t stop nibbling on them until they’re all gone.

Next we dive into the chopped ahi sashimi ($12), which Scott says is also on the menu at Alan Wong’s on King Street in Honolulu. Not only is it a beautiful dish to behold, it’s also mighty tasty! Layers of chopped ahi sashimi, avocado salsa, and crunchy won ton chips are molded into a perfect circle and dressed with soy wasabi, providing a delightful mélange of textures.

When our Richard Ha’s whole tomato with gorgeous bright pink li hing mui dressing arrives ($12), we approach it with a bit of trepidation: how do we tackle the luscious red orb gracefully? No worries—it’s been sectioned horizontally with hidden slices. Voila! Scott had said earlier we wouldn’t even know we were eating a tomato, and he was right. Charles likens it to watermelon (which he loves), and I’m smitten with the dressing, which nicely alleviates the spicy red jalapeno kick still lingering on my palate.

From the hot pupus menu, we’ve selected the pork adobo “empanada” ($8) and the ahi chili ($12). The empanada is a petite meat pie—flaky pastry crust stuffed with succulent pork adobo, accompanied by pineapple papaya mustard and garnished with cilantro. It makes for a heavenly mouthful, indeed. The ahi chili is accessorized with crispy taro and Moloka‘i purple sweet potato chips, and is utterly soul satisfying. It also effectively masquerades as traditional chili—if I’d been blindfolded I’d swear it was chili con carne.

We’ve chosen the Jidori chicken breast ($8) and beef tenderloin skewer ($9) from the robata grill menu. The former consists of tender chicken morsels threaded onto a skewer with Tokyo negi onions, nicely enhanced with kasundi and shiso. For the latter, beef tenderloin chunks that practically melt in your mouth are alternated with roasted green shishito peppers—mild with a nice char. Honey mustard foie gras coulis and moromi miso marry well with the beef and peppers.

Fallon does an impressive job of presenting Amasia’s dessert menu. After much discussion, we settle on the Maui Gold “pineapple shave ice” ($13), which elevates the traditional Hawai‘i sweet treat. Layers of Hawaiian vanilla panna cotta, lilikoi sauce, haupia sorbet, and coconut tapioca are topped with shaved pineapple and zested lime garnish. The shaved pineapple is an explosion of citrus and so incredibly light Charles declares it’s like eating pineapple-flavored air. We stir it all up from the bottom to fully experience the divine blend of flavors.­

On our next visit to Amasia, Charles and I plan to delve into other areas of the menu. In particular, the “surf and turf” maki roll—seared beef, California uni, steak frites, shiso, and Szechuan pepper aioli ($27)—and Kumamoto oyster shooter with infused tomato water and wasabi pearl ($7) sound especially tempting. And we’ll be sure to save room for the Kula strawberry cheesecake (Kula strawberries, crack seed dressing, yuzu curd, and housemade graham crackers—$12).

Charles and I both agree Alan Wong’s Amasia is a winner on all levels: superb ambiance, exceptional service, thoughtfully conceived and well-executed menu, and a pricing structure to suit most everyone’s budget. Welcome to Maui, Chef Wong! We’re delighted you’re here.

–heidi pool

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