Grand ideas

Excitement was palpable at Alan Wong’s Amasia on Friday night. In the lounge, a sea of residents and visitors sipped loca vore mai tais and li hing mui margaritas as servers strolled through, tempting with trays of hot and cold dim sum.

Situated in the former Kincha in Grand Wailea, Amasia shines as one of nine food and beverage outlets in the massive resort, and it’s jumping with a new sushi chef and fun menu additions.

“We are under new ownership, and you can feel the resurgence at this resort,” says Grand Wailea’s new Managing Director Tom Donovan, who previously was GM at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.

“We have room renovations coming up. We’re doing improvements in the food and beverage areas. We just redid the adult pool. And, we are putting many other resources into the property that are making our team just beam with pride.”

The Waldorf Astoria brand resort also has a new director of sales and marketing, Scott Boyer, who most recently worked at Four Seasons in Shanghai and Jakarta; as well as new director of public relations, Yvonne Biegel, who was previously at the Ritz and the Four Seasons on Maui.

As for Amasia, celebrated chef Alan Wong lends his name and creative ideas, but his Maui team does the implementation.

Executive Chef Chris Damskey was the protege of Jean-Georges Vongerichten; his Sous Chef Dee Ann Tsurumaki ran Felix atop the Peninsula in Hong Kong; and now, Amasia has a new sushi chef who just got here from the world-famous Sushi Samba at the Palazzo in Las Vegas.

“I’ve always loved sushi,” says new Sushi Chef Rober Juan. “It’s always something that I’ve been passionate about. Chef Alan found me through word of mouth, and I’ve been training with him on Oahu. To get to work with someone of his stature is exciting. It’s eye opening.”

Juan showcased some of his new rolls for us to try, including the spicy tuna maki with chili paste and scallions, with Asian-style poke piled on top, chili threads and roasted jalapeno aioli. The rolls paired perfectly with Hitachino White Nest beer.

Vegetarians and gluten-intolerants will want to taste his new farm-to-table roll made with house-pickled vegetables, such as daikon kim chee, sweet onion and cucumber along with radish sprouts and wakame (seaweed) in sesame soy, topped with ponzu-marinated cocktail tomatoes.

“We’re not looking to go the traditional route,” says Juan. “We want to make unique offerings, not be stuck on the past. Forward thinking all of the way.”

Even his California roll has a modern twist with cucumber, avocado and king crab on the inside and crab salad with lemon aioli atop. The sauce swirled on the plate is ginger avocado puree.

The rest of the menu comes out from the robata room, the cold prep area with sashimi and fresh salads, and from the main kitchen. Diners choose from small tastes like tapas or from large share platters.

Must trys from the robata include fresh Hamakua Ali’i mushrooms with lemon and salt. From the main kitchen, try ahi meatballs with angry sauce; pot stickers coated with fried rice mochi, garlic and chives; whole chili-garlic dungeness crab; wagyu steak; and lilikoi malasadas for dessert.

Through Dec. 22, everyone gets half off the five-course tasting menu; and kamaaina get 20 percent off regular menu at any time. All grand ideas.