January 31, 2014, Volume 14 Number 3
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Can you believe that January is nearly over? And what's with all of this rainy weather we're having in our "dry" season? I was just in Saipan where it was raining hard too and saw what looked like a small landslide with mud, plants, and coconuts scattered across an intersection! I certainly hope this over-saturation doesn't create more challenges for our farmers! This is supposed to be a time for planting crops!
This is also the time for Girl Scout Cookies! If you didn't pre-order, there will be cookie sales at booths set up this coming weekend (and possibly next) at various stores including Cost-U-Less, K-Mart, GPO, and on base at the Exchanges. I have to stock up (still have some Thin Mints in my freezer). If you need to get more info, call the Guam Girl Scout Office at 646-5652.
Finally, let's celebrate the CHINESE NEW YEAR with a rousing "Gong Xi Fa Cai or Gong Hey Fat Choy"! There are a number of restaurants where you can join in this special celebration that welcomes the Chinese New Year!
Ken, the Guam Food Guy
Tapanade Tapas & Sangria - "Sneak Peak"!
Agana Shopping Center
Although I usually don't write about brand new restaurants so as to give them time to work out their start-up issues, I make exceptions when I feel that that the restaurant offers a totally unique and interesting experience for diners. I was invited to do a pre-opening food tasting at Tapanade (located on the corner of the Agana Shopping Center that used to house Java Junction). Tapanade has grown out of the box (space) that they replaced. They have an upstairs dining area (also that's the location for the kitchen). The ground floor level, where Zee & I sat, has a very large bar as well as dining tables. Tapanade is a place for foodiesl! They definitely have created an entirely unique culinary vision which delivers on the promise to serve genuine "tapas". The last time we had a serious tapas line-up was at Le Tasi Bistro.
From the moment you walk in the door, you are impressed by a cozy sophistication that welcomes you to sit either at the bar (the bartenders are spot on with their mixology skills) or at a table. There are TV monitors behind the bar but they are muted. Music will be playing in the background. Tapanade boasts a wine and spirits selection that rivals the top hotel restaurants. I was very impressed with how well the owners, Cliff Takano and Jae Ji, have transformed an empty shell into what could possibly become Guam's new hot spot for happy hour and "lite" dining.
We were limited to test out only two items off the pre-opening menu. After being seated, we were given the menus and began perusing what looked like an endless wine list! The staff recommended we try some of their beverage concoctions (these we had to pay for) such as their White Sangria ($7). This was actually really tasty and refreshing. We didn't try the Red Sangria, however we did have one of the Sake Mojitos, which was an unexpected surprise! I can see drinking our way through their beverage creations on future visits.
Zee ordered the Roasted Beet Salad ($8), which is made with mixed greens, cheese fritters, and drizzled with a Sherry vinaigrette, as well as the Grilled Artichoke ($7) that consisted of artichoke hears, roasted red pepper, and garlic aioli, all placed atop toasted French bread . My order was the Pulled Pork Sliders ($9),and the Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp ($7). While we waited for our sample orders, we were given a starter tray of their special bread popovers, which are very similar to those popover muffins you get with that British classic, Yorkshire pudding. This came with an herbed garlic butter spread.
The Grilled artichoke was quite tasty (good for vegetarians) and I found the Beet Salad to be a refreshing change from your typical salads. The Pulled Pork Sliders were excellent. They are served on a Pretzel Roll and have a zesty BBQ Sauce and Asian Coleslaw.
The Gazpacho was just plain yummy. Gazpacho is a Spanish Tomato Soup that is served Cold .They really have worked the right combination of fresh ingredients to get the right blend! The Grilled Shrimp (there was just one) had that unique flame-grilled taste. One of our neighbors was eating a Kitifi Shrimp (2 pcs - $6, 4 pcs - $11), which has shrimp was wrapped in shredded Filo with a spicy Pineapple sauce.
Other menu items include Stuffed Dates (Bacon-wrapped Dates, Chorizo, Blue Cheese, Red Wine Reduction, Chili Oil , Poke Napoleon, Albondiga, and Rosa Lengua de Ternera (Beef Tongue)). They have a children's menu as well as desserts. I can't wait to return to this exceptional new eatery with bite-size portions!
Al Dente Ristorante - A CAB Porterhouse Memory
Hyatt Regency Guam
I had been craving a good steak for a while and finally was able to have it at Al Dente. I didn't want just any steak, I wanted the Certified Angus Beef Porterhouse Steak, and I had notice that they had one on the Al Dente dinner menu. Now I do have a history with Al Dente and steaks, since I had glorified the C.A.B. Steak Promotion that then Al Dente Chef de Cuisine, Mirko Agostini, had launched years back. Mirko is now the Hyatt's Executive Chef so my reason for coming to Al Dente again was for sentimental reasons and because I was "hungry" for a great steak!
Now for those who have yet to have dinner at Al Dente, you will soon discover that they will put something in front of you that is simply irresistible --- pizza bread! My goodness, I don't know how to stop eating these heavenly slices of fresh baked doughy pizza slices with melted cheese on top and accompanied by a marinara/aioli dipping sauce that makes you feel like singing "dippity do da" while you munch away!
There is a soup that I must have when I eat at Al Dente. It's their take on the Italian-American classic seafood stew, Cioppino, made with mussels, clams, shrimp, and fish, all simmered in a rich, spiced flavorful tomato broth. Did you know that Cioppino originated in San Francisco? It comes with a crostini (which kind of serves as an edible paddle). The anticipation for that great steak is building even as I enjoy my Cioppino.
The CAB Porterhouse is priced at $39.00 and comes with a choice of 3 sides (I selected grilled asparagus, semolina gnocchi, and roasted red potatoes with herbs). The steak was delivered and placed in front of me. This seemed to nearly be a sacred ritual! I was mesmerized by that beautifully grilled steak! I had ordered it Medium Rare. On my first slice through I saw that tell tale pink and red color of the juicy meat that convinced me I'd be pleased. Of course, as I started eating in my ecstatic state, I knew that this was more than just being pleased...I was being satisfied in very deep part of my soul. However they lightly seasoned the meat, it had been perfectly prepared! The service I've experienced at Al Dente has been exemplary. This steak didn't need to be the biggest steak, it just had to be good enough to create a lasting memory! Now that's a great steak indeed!!
The Taj Palau - A Delectable Return to A Renovated and Re-Energized Culinary Haven
The Taj Palau
2nd Floor PDC Bldg., (across from the OEK)
(680) 488-2227 (reservations accepted)
Open Daily for Lunch 11 a.m. - 2 p.m. and
Dinner 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
My first review of The Taj Restaurant in Palau was in March 2008. I returned in October 2010 and reviewed this legendary restaurant again. It has become iconic. Most of the rave reviews put The Taj at the very top of their list of favorite restaurants, and definitely a must-do dining experience when you visit Palau. To understand why the high praise for The Taj being not just considered the best Indian restaurant in Micronesia, but one of the best restaurants, you have to appreciate the vision of what The Taj has established. They have fashioned it based on the lifestyle of the Indian aristocracy in the early 1900s. The Taj is a recreation of this splendid time in history, which had several tiers of royalty from the Sahibs to the Memsahibs and Zamindars. For the special events and occasions, lavish feasts would be prepared and served. The Taj's recipes are handed down by former grand and master chefs (the Khansamas). They use only authentic ingredients. The service is ornate, colorful, rich, and exotic, which pretty much describes the food.
On this trip I was quite surprised to see that the old Taj as I knew it was a thing of the past! Owner/Manager Robert Scaria has expanded the dining area and bar to now include a stage for a band, 2 large opulent circular couches with colorful drapery and beautiful artwork. Moreover, they have a built-in aquarium with fish and the largest living coral colony I have ever seen in a small aquarium. There is a large dance floor and enough room now to accommodate a bus-full of tourists! I saw the renovation both during the day (the colors are magnificent and brilliant - well designed and color coordinated in a tasteful style) and at night! The renovation has made an entirely new ambiance!!
On my first night Robert had prepared me a Taj sampler of dishes, including Chicken Curry, Tandoori Chicken, Lamb Curry, Goa Fish Curry (mahi cooked in a coconut flavored sauce), Shrimp Chettinadu, and colorful Kashmiri Pulao (aromatic long Basmati rice cooked with dried fruits, nuts and saffron. I enjoyed the variety and intensity of flavors as my palate was immersed in the rich savory spices that created unique tastes for each dish. On this first night I was treated to a bowl of Kulfi ($5, Indian ice cream enriched with nuts and flavored with rose water).
I was on a very short trip so on my last night Robert went all out and set out a feast that I shared with others. I was bedazzled by the Lobster Malai (a very juicy lobster cooked with fresh blended herbs, coconut, almonds and cream). It sells at the market price. Another huge dish was the Tandoori Mix Grill ($50), which is more than enough for 2 people, and combines tandoori chicken, malai kabab, seekh kabab, Boti kabab, Tandoori Shrimp, and Fish Tikka. This is accompanied by a fresh Garlic Nan bread and Dhal Malkhani ($12, Mixed lentils combined with onions, garlic, ginger and a hint of bay leaves simmered over a low fire until tender).
Another sensory blast came from the Peshwari Raan, or Tender Leg of Lamb (Half - $35/ Full - $60), which is marinated in rich exotic herbs and spices, then barbecued to mouth-watering perfection in a clay oven. Something I had not had eaten anywhere before was the Kashmiri Nan Bread ($6), which is a special nan stuffed with dried fruits and raisins. This was delicious...something I could eat at anytime!
What am amazing feast! I don't recall ever being so full of rich spices and flavors. How I managed to still have room to drink some Masala Tea, I don't know. I'm glad I did since it relaxed my belly and warmed me from the inside out.
If you ever have the opportunity to get to Palau, I highly recommend you stop by The Taj for an extraordinary dining experience you will never forget!
Bon appetit & Namaste!
Ken, The Guam Food Guy
You can find Guam Food Guy links and reviews at the following sites:
Also available on Your Docomo Pacific web-enabled phone