alan wong’s amasia turns two: grand wailea’s multiple award winner hits its stride

GWR_Amasia_04Alan Wong’s Amasia at the Grand Wailea Resort burst onto Maui’s culinary scene in 2012. That year, it was voted “Best New Restaurant” by readers of The Maui News. In 2013, Amasia was named “Best New Restaurant” by Hawai‘i Magazine, and readers of Maui No Ka ‘Oi magazine voted it “Best New Restaurant” as well as the dining establishment with the “Most Innovative Menu”; this year, Amasia chalked up a repeat win in the latter category.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Chef Wong recently added a monthly wine dinner to Amasia’s offerings, featuring five courses ($75 per person) with optional wine pairings ($50 per person). Janet and I have been invited to attend June’s event, which is titled “Midsummer Feast.”

The last time I dined at Amasia was shortly after it opened, and I had been seated in the larger section of the restaurant, which features a soothing Zen-like grotto with stone walkways that meander past koi ponds, streams, water features, and 800 tons of rock hand selected from the base of Mt. Fuji. Tonight, Janet and I are seated in what’s called the “wine room”—a warm, intimate space featuring traditional rice paper windows, walls painted a neutral taupe, a large painting of wine glasses being clinked by a group of hands, and black and red upholstered chairs offset by bright white marble tabletops. Black rattan light fixtures, resembling the gourds that are made into percussion instruments for hula, pay homage to the blend of cultures that is Amasia’s theme.

Amasia’s general manager Mia tells us we are among 22 diners partaking in the wine dinner this evening, which is being prepared by Chef Wong himself. He’s brought with him from Honolulu his right-hand staff members: Director of Restaurant Operations Kathy Kawashige, and Wine Director Mark Shisido.

Server Aimee introduces us to our first wine of the evening: 2008 Raventos i Blanc “L’Hereu Reserva” CAVA from Spain. It’s crisp and fruity, with little bubbles that dance across the palate—a perfect way to begin the evening. Along with the wine, Aimee has brought a bowl of papadams (spicy Indian crackers) served atop a generous helping of a bright orange spread composed of pequillo peppers, marcona almonds, and sherry brandy. Janet and I happily nosh on our crackers and spread while we sip the CAVA, and look forward to Chef Wong’s first course.

When Aimee brings our Hawaiian kampachi crudo, we take a moment to admire the beauty of the presentation. It’s a work of art on a plate! Three delicate raw kampachi curls sit alongside focaccia croutons and shimmering nuggets of shoyu gelee. Bright and citrusy sudachi curd is the finishing touch to a superb dish.

Aimee brings our second wine: Kubota “Manju” (Junmai Daiginjo), a Japanese sake produced in the Niigata Prefecture—one of the most well known sakes in the world. It’s delicate and refined; smooth and silky on the palate.

The sake is paired with butter poached Keahole lobster presented as a sensuous and hearty soup in a traditional Japanese serving pot. This herbaceous, rich, and comforting concoction contains dried scallops, prosciutto, yuba (tofu skins), and Maui’s very own Okolehau Liqueur made from East Maui ti root. It’s garnished with a sprig of bright green mitsuba trefoil to add aroma. What’s not to love here?

Being a Riesling fan, I’m particularly looking forward to the next wine: 2011 Ostertag Riesling from the Alsace Region of France. Vintner Andre Ostertag is considered a revolutionist in his approach to winemaking. Andre has been accused of being somewhat of a rebel because of his use of new oak in his cuvees, his decision not to filter, and other practices that are not used in his part of the world. Because he ferments the majority of his wines completely dry, it’s said their versatility at the table surpasses that of many other wines from the region.

The scrumptious Riesling pairs exceptionally well with our third course of broiled butterfish served on a bed of uni mashed potatoes, accompanied by a dollop of fresh wasabi, edible flowers, and a shiso leaf fried in tempura batter. The fish is prepared to a melt-in-your-mouth doneness, and is a wondrous blend of complex flavors. The uni mashed potatoes please the palate with a hint of the sea, and the crispy shiso leaf provides a nice textural contrast to the delicate fish.

Wine Director Mark stops by our table to make sure we’re enjoying ourselves, which we assure him we are. He says getting the Riesling shipped to Maui on time for tonight’s dinner had been a bit touch and go, but it had arrived earlier that same day. Whew!

Time to move to a bolder wine. Aimee brings us 2010 Samsara “Cargasacchi Vineyards” Pinot Noir from Santa Rita Hills, California. It’s rich and earthy with some sweet beet flavors, and its boldness stands up well to its food pairing: Yunan lamb, prepared roulade style with preserved vegetables. Two medallions of perfectly cooked lamb are accompanied by a mushroom medley that’s to die for, crispy fried tofu, and sautéed choi sum (Chinese flowering cabbage). This impeccable full-flavored dish is accompanied by a duo of spicy red vinegar and fragrant Szechuan chili oil, which we find to be tasty dipping sauces for the tofu.

Janet and I are impressed with the deft touch that Chef Wong has applied to portion size this evening. With one course left to go, we feel we’re at the correct level of satiation to be heading toward the “finish line.”

Our final wine turns out to be an exquisite finish to our oenophilic journey: 2009 Rinaldi Moscato D’Asti “Bug Juice” from Piedmonte, Italy. This sweet, smooth wine with a delicate and intense bouquet, fruity, spicy aromas, and delightful aftertaste, could be dessert all on its own. But Aimee has brought our proper dessert. Another visual masterpiece, it’s mango vacherin composed of juicy chunks of locally grown Yee’s mangoes, coconut sponge, and crispy meringue. A quenelle of brilliant yellow mango champagne sorbet is nestled smack dab in the middle of the plate. It’s a fitting tribute to summer, and a splendid end to an incredible meal.

In addition to the monthly wine dinners, Amasia also offers a can’t-be-beat tasting menu special that’s available nightly from 5 to 6pm. A five-course prix fixe menu is offered for $95 for two people, with optional wine pairings for $51. After 6pm, it’s $95/51 per person. There’s also a Happy Hour menu available from 5 to 6:30pm, which contains Amasia favorites like Maui Cattle Company Beef Sliders ($8); Soy Braised Short Ribs ($11); Ceviche of the Day with Chips ($8); and numerous libation and beer specials.

Amasia is also keiki friendly, with fun bento boxes ($19) that contain items kids love like beef skewers, shrimp tempura, and sweet Kula corn. Happy Birthday Amasia!

–heidi pool

AT A GLANCE…

WHAT •

Alan Wong’s Amasia, offering a global marketplace of different cultures where East Meets West, meets Hawai‘i. Chef Wong journeys across oceans, exploring food and bringing his discoveries to Wailea.

WHERE •

The Grand Wailea Resort & Spa, 3850 Wailea Alanui Dr., Wailea

WHEN •

Open daily for dinner only: 5-10pm.

HOW •

Reservations: 891-3954; wailearesortdining.com

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