Did you know there are 35 grades of ahi? The top grade is numbered at 35, and 99 percent of it that comes out of the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Auction in Tokyo is kept in Japan for consumption.
"I'm serving 34.5 grade ahi sashimi, and I'm the only one getting it in Hawaii," says Jay Ledee, sushi chef at Japengo, lobby level in the Hyatt Regency Resort & Spa in Kaanapali. In addition, Ledee serves his specialty sushi rolls, such as the Rainbow and the Honolulu, with fresh wasabi root that he gets from Kona and grates himself.
Sushi doesn't get any better than this on Maui, and when you combine it with Japengo's recent $5 million renovation, the experience is over the top.
Sushi Chef Jay Ledee will debut his Saturday Sushi School at Japengo starting this weekend at 3 to 4:30 p.m., and returning April 7 and May 5. Cost is $35 for class, beverages and sushi.
The Maui News / CARLA TRACY photo
Savor the best grades of ahi
Now you may learn from the master himself starting this weekend in a series of monthly classes called Saturday Sushi School at Japengo.
"The classes will be held in our air-conditioned sushi lounge at Japengo from 3 to 4:30 p.m.," says Ledee. "The classes include hands-on instruction, tasting of sushi rolls and nonalcoholic beverages."
Ledee and his expert staff of sushi chefs, including
Norman Tran, Hiroko Nishibayashi and Brian Balagso, will show you the intricacies of making the Tootsie Roll, the Blackened Ahi roll and more.
"For the Tootsie roll, we use soft-shell crab, snow crab, lobster, fresh cucumber, shiitake mushrooms, avocado and a special sauce," he says. "For the Blackened Ahi roll, we top California roll with the fish, avocado, Maui onion, garlic crumble, spicy dynamite sauce and tobiko caviar. It's got taste, texture and crunch."
The quality products speak for themselves, and Ledee and Restaurant Chef Gevin Utrillo procure their seafood items only from people who care about the environment and advocate sustainable catch.
"Right now, I am bringing in more fish from Japan," Ledee says. "Sayori is also called 'half beak,' and I'm also bringing in kohada, called 'gizzard shad.' But the tuna is always the best."
Ditto for the best ingredients from Hawaii. "I try to get as many local Maui products as I can," adds Chef Utrillo, a Lahaina boy. "From Olowalu tomatoes to Kula lettuces to Ali'i Kula lavender and so much more."
So those looking for hot appetizers and entrees will find modern Asian-inspired flavors with a Hawaiian flair. On a recent visit, I finally tried the Singaporean chili crab and it was out of this world. Other crowd pleasers are the Korean seafood pancake, Chinatown chow funn, steamed Manila clams - all from the "ring of fire" countries that are on the Pacific Rim.
"On March 23, we'll be doing a seafood and sake pairing dinner," says Ledee. "It will cost $75 per person, which is a great deal for sake and a five-course dinner. If you have an 'ohana card,' it's less expensive."
Basically, you dine at Japengo once, and you are eligible to get an ohana card. You keep it in your wallet, and the next time you return, you get discounts. "We get a sea of repeats, and they love that card."
For reservations, call 667-4796.