Makena Beach & Golf Resort's chefs are relaunching the world-famous Saturday Japanese Buffet.
The all-you-can-eat affair was at the top of everyone's list for years, when the restaurant was Hakone under Maui Prince Hotel. Now, it's at Raku Japanese Restaurant.
"The buffet was always such a big draw, and everybody kept asking for it after we took over the hotel," says Executive Chef Marc McDowell.
Master chefs Tom Yasuji Kamijo (left) and Ivan Bersamin will pool their resources to feature both hot and cold buffet items at the resurrected Saturday Japanese Buffet in Makena.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
"We also decided to do it because Raku is closed Sundays and Mondays, and so we want to make sure to burn through all of our fresh fish and produce, so when we reopen on Tuesdays, it's all new."
Last Saturday was the relaunch, and chefs scurried about, making sure all of the items were stocked properly and that hot and cold temperatures were perfect.
Since McDowell was a chef at the Ritz for years, he's got quality and consistency down pat - as does his staff.
"On the first night, the restaurant seated 137 diners, and it was very well-received," says McDowell.
"Chef Tom Yasuji Kamijo was previously the master chef at Hakone, and he's back and impressing diners with his 40 years of food and beverage experience."
"Those of you with fond memories of bringing the family to Hakone will be able to experience this all over again with the new Saturday buffet," says Kamijo. "The menu is almost the same as before. Quality and fresh ingredients are my priorities."
Kamijo goes on to say that sashimi is one of the top picks at the buffet bar along with sushi, giant shrimp tempura, and the rich and sweet miso butterfish.
Also back by popular demand are popular salad items such as slices of chilled kabocha pumpkin with cranberries and mayonnaise; and local baby Romaine lettuce with creamy miso dressing.
"The aquaponic lettuces are Maui-grown and really delicious," says McDowell. "The menu will all be the same as before, only we'll add to it. For instance, we may rotate in oysters, beautiful rib-eye steaks for teriyaki, and opakapaka."
Other specialties include yakiniku kalbi beef, chicken karaage, baby back ribs, pork katsu don, mapo tofu, sake-steamed clams, snap-and-eat dungeness crab legs, tako with miso, and country-style udon of rich broth and thick noodles.
"The cost is $50 per adult for all you can eat and $25 for children 6 to 12 (plus tax and tip)," says the chef. "I can't imagine going to a sushi bar and getting out for only $50 after ordering just a few rolls. So this is really a deal. We want everyone to have a great experience, and we are trying hard to make it the best buffet ever."
The buffet also includes a selection of desserts from the pastry chef. Seatings are at 5:30, 6, 7:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays.
For reservations, call Raku at 875-5888.