Maui Tastemakers

Series returns to Japengo — and Hyatt picks up beat with its Drums of the Pacific luau show, holiday feasts

Japengo Chef de Cuisine Gevin Utrillo (at left) and Sushi Chef Jin Hosono give the shaka. The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo

Perched on a bluff overlooking Kaanapali Beach and the ocean beyond at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, Japengo is a top Maui pick.

It’s a past Best Resort Restaurant in The Maui News’ annual Best of Maui contest, and it boasts numerous awards from other publications, spectacular views, a chic sushi lounge and bar with trendy cocktails along with nightly happy hour and live music with top isle musicians.

Both locals and visitors alike flock there for the freshest fish from Hawaii waters and even from Tsukiji Fish Auction in Tokyo, all-natural steaks and Asian entrees that are off the charts.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, the Maui Tastemakers series will heat things up in Japengo as it now does every other month. This time around, the culinary team is partnering with Hali’imaile Distilling Co. to provide spirits for the four-course feast.

“Japengo’s fresh, local Hawaiian seafood and Hali’imaile’s locally-produced spirits are a natural complement to one another,” said Gevin Utrillo, Japengo chef de cuisine. “We look forward to sharing their local products with our Japengo guests.”

Lavender-seared lamb chops in rum demi glace (top) will be served at the Maui Tastemakers Series dinner on Saturday with lobster dynamite drizzled in unagi sauce. Hyatt Regency Maui photo

The spirited affair will be for adventurous drinkers, so do consider booking a room, designating a driver or hailing a taxi or an Uber for a ride home. That’s because Master Distiller Mark Nigbur’s vodka, gin, rum and whiskey will each be poured as pairings with the courses.

The reception will kick off with blackened ahi pop served with crab, avocado, Maui onion, ponzu, garlic crumble, spicy aioli and tobiko paired with a craft cocktail from the Upcountry producer, called Pau Vodka Passion Fizz.

At the sit-down affair, move into a trio of green-tea-smoked lomilomi king salmon; opihi steamed in sake presented with uni, ikura and ogo; and traditional tamago, or Japanese omelet. Again, HDC will choose a spirit, and it will be Fid Street Gin.

For the entree, sink your teeth into sous vide lavender-seared lamb chops with a rum demi-glace, tomato jam and savory bread pudding; and lobster dynamite with unagi drizzle, lemon zest, itogiri pepper and crab onigiri. Paniolo Whiskey Pineapple Sour is the drink mate.

Save room for mango cheesecake with vanilla-anise cream, white-chocolate, cherry almond bark and buttermilk crumble with raspberry-champagne sorbet and sip the Valley of the Moon Mahina Rum drink as icing on the cake.

Mango cheesecake topped with vanilla-anise cream and white chocolate and cherry almond bark, buttermilk crumble and raspberry champagne sorbet. Hyatt Regency Maui photo

“Maui Tastemakers aims to showcase the outstanding food and drink of the area and personalities behind them in an intimate and interactive setting,” says Executive Chef Greg Grohowski.

“Each collaboration will present a unique multi-course, prix-fixe menu carefully crafted to feature one of Japengo’s valued Maui partners such as farmers, artisans, fishermen and beverage makers.”

During Japengo’s regular nightly happy hour from 5 to 6 p.m., the lounge is alive with people talking, laughing and dining on curry-dusted calamari, steamed Manila clams and char-siu-glazed pork ribs — while sipping specialty cocktails or an icy cold brew from the tap.

“As for sushi, Jin Hosono is doing such magical work,” says Utrillo. “He’s got incredible moriawase sashimi selections and omakase sushi platters.”

Utrillo impresses with hot Asian entrees every night of the week such as grilled mahi and all-natural rib-eye.

The Hyatt is also pounding with Drums of the Pacific luau show and will feature two performances on New Year’s Eve with special bells and whistles.

A festive Christmas brunch will transpire at Swan Court on Dec. 25 with seafood on ice, garden greens, fruits and cheese, prime rib and desserts.

Hyatt Maui fast facts:

• Location: Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa is at the Ka’anapali Resort.

• Maui Tastemakers: Kicks off at 5 p.m. Saturday in Hyatt’s Japengo with spirited drinks by Hali’imaile Distilling Co. and food by resort chefs. Cost is $95 per person, plus tax and tip. Call 667-4796.

• Drums of the Pacific: Looking to be “swayed” on New Year’s Eve? The hula and music will lure you and luau food will tempt at two shows to ring in 2019. The second show will include souvenir photo, party favors, hats, tiaras and champagne toast. Call 667-4727.

• Christmas brunch: The Swan Court will present an all-you-can-eat brunch. Cost is $69 for adults and $35 for children.

• For more details: Call the Hyatt at 661-1234.