Open Blue Delights at Al Dente Ristorante
Hyatt Regency Guam
The Hyatt Regency Guam's Al Dente Ristorante is making a major culinary commitment to support ocean conservation. Always in the forefront of major global trends, they have managed to take up this noble cause and share it with the people of Guam as well as any visitors dining at Al Dente via a special four course set menu featuring Cobia, a remarkable ocean-farmed fish that's lighting up the culinary world with its versatility. Al Dente's Chef Cristiano Pozzi has created this provocative menu which utilizes Cobia from appetizer, entree and, believe it or not, dessert!
Cobia is known for its firm texture and mild flavor. It makes for excellent sashimi, with a taste and texture similar to yellowtail. It is rich in Omega-3's and can be prepared in a variety of ways. The quality and freshness of Cobia is even further enhanced by the skills and creativity of a chef who is passionate about using fresh ingredients to make his menu. We had the distinct and memorable pleasure to sample the creations of one such prolific and passionate artisan who pushed the envelope four times, astonishing the small tasting group assembled at our table.
We started out with the Smoked Cobia carpaccio, alfalfa sprouts salad, with capers, and tomato confit. The cobia was cold-smoked and took on a light smokiness that blended well with the delicate olive oil marinade. Caperberries were actually used here, adding a poignant high note to the mildly delicate thin sliced cobia bites, which would include the savory tomato confit chunks.
Next Chef Cristiano dazzled us with a Spaghetti basil pesto with pan-fried cobia, semi dried tomatoes. There were cherry tomatoes that had been sauteed, though the green beans on the menu were not present for this tasting (such is the case with ingredient availability). The spaghetti was cooked "al dente" and basked in the rich pesto coating created by Chef Cristiano. The juicy cubes of cobia pushed through the spaghetti and gave us another version of cobia done well.
The main entree was delivered (I should also mention that wines were paired with each course (Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot as I recall) to an appreciative table with guests collecting food shots with their smart phones. I almost took a "selfie "with my cobia but I was dissuaded by my more conscientious partner. The main entree was a Grilled Cobia with braised fennel in saffron, boiled asparagus, romesco sauce and almonds. The grill marks on the cobia revealed the oil-laden and forgiving nature of cobia. The meat was still delicate and flavorful, not dried out as other fish could be. Chef Cristiano's insistence on freshness, lightness, and simplicity allowed each ingredient on the plate tell its own story...promoting a sensation on the palate with each bite. Having that splendid romesco sauce as a foundation for this seafood monument was ingenious...the rich nuttiness with red pepper and tomato was an ideal companion for this upstanding fish.
The final course, dessert, was certainly a leap of faith, and now, thanks to "Padre" Chef Cristiano, we are all believers! Who would have ever dreamed it possible to make a dessert from a fish? As I said, it was pure faith, with the right ingredients! He made Caramelized cobia lollipops with pistachio ice cream and raspberry coulis! It was another course in culinary art, and the cobia had been coated and fried and nutted! We picked up the wooden skewers and bit into the lollipop (these were for biting not sucking or licking) and chased it with the cool refreshing ice cream. The raspberry coulis brought a spark of tart excitement on the palate. It was a fun dessert to eat. All in all, this was an amazing demonstration of this remarkably versatile fish, which we are looking forward to enjoying at Guam's restaurants. I am sure there will be signs on the menu that will trumpet their use of this great fish! Bravo to Chef Cristiaono and his kitchen team at Al Dente!
Majesty Chinese Restaurant - Revisited
I had an opportunity to revisit Saipan's Majesty Chinese Restaurant earlier this month with three of my travelling colleagues (Aileen, Mark and Jo-Anne). It was Aileen's first time and I had been with Mark & Jo-Anne last September when I did my first review of this Cantonese landmark. We arrived just after 9 p.m. (they close at 9:30) so we ordered the Roast Duck (half for $23.00) BBQ Pork ($12), Corn & Crab Soup ($14), Baby BokChoy with Garlic ($10), Fried Shrimp ($20), Certified Angus Beef on a sizzling platter ($18), and Yangchow Fried Rice ($10). Well we started out with that delicious soup, followed by the savory Charsiu Pork. While the baby bok choy exploded with fresh flavors, we were all overwhelmed by what had to be one of the juiciest, tastiest roast ducks I've ever eaten! It really was amazingly delicious! The Fried jumbo prawns were also juicy and well seasoned. The shell was so crisp you could eat the entire prawn! Then while we were eating different dishes (the beef was also tasty), the manager stunned us by bringing out this large platter with what had to be a nearly 3 lb. spiny lobster that had been steamed, broken up and smothered in a light cheese and garlic sauce. It was still alive maybe 10 minutes before we got it! It was just superbly fresh and juicy and meaty...we were in lobster heaven! The manager told us his owner said that if I ever came back to make me something special...they had many visitors come to Majesty based on my September 2013 review! Amazing grace!
Truong's Vietnamese Restaurant
Susupe (Between Kanoa Resort and the World Resort)
Hours: 11 :00 a.m. - 9:30 p.m (Monday - Sunday)
Though I'd been to Saipan scores of times since Truong's had opened here, I had yet to visit there to eat until recently. Thank goodness I was accompanied by my work colleagues who are always up to one of our great food sharing adventures!!
I had first reviewed Truong's in Guam in 2002 (some 12 years ago) and had visited the Guam location (originally in Yigo and now in Upper Tumon's East-West Center). Their food was compelling and exciting and as I was a much younger Guam Food Guy, my excitement at finding tasty and sumptuous Vietnamese cuisine was immense. This family had a great story and I was so impressed by how the family took such pride in their cooking. I didn't have the opportunity to find out much about the owner/operators here, but I knew that the menus were professionally created and very well developed, telling the story of each entree very articulately.
We ordered an assorted selection of appetizers and entrees. First to come was the Fresh Lumpia (whole order of 4 pieces for $7. 00). This was actually better than many I've had, made with fresh ingredients - shrimp, pork, bean sprouts, noodles and lettuce wrapped together in a rice paper. These are served with their original peanut sauce.
Next came everyone's 'favorite', the Crispy Noodle ($12.50), which is their top selling dish. It is made with fresh egg noodles that are deep-fried, topped with stir fried shrimp, chicken, squid and mixed vegetables. This is ideal for sharing and I can see why they sell so much of these as well as their Fried Lumpia, which is one of the most popular Vietnamese dishes anywhere (I still love a good Pho).
The Chicken Broccoli ($9.50) came next. It has sliced boneless chicken sauteed with broccoli and onions. This also comes with rice. These portions are large and the dished lend themselves to sharing quite easily.
We had a Beef Salad ($10.50), which has Chopped Salad topped with Certified Angus Beef that's sauteed in Truong's special spices (served with rice). Now, to be fair, not every Vietnamese restaurant uses Certified Angus Beef. It does make a big difference even though it's sauteed and great seasoned...the meat quality is superior! Fresh cucumbers and tomatoes makes this one of those healthier meals you could eat after working out. It is nutritious and delicious.
One of the final items delivered was the Chicken Wings ($8), which has six pieces of deep fried wings cooked to a crisp. You can either have a mild sauce or a hot n spicy sauce. We just had the sweet chili sauce in the center on plain deep fried wings. These were bigger than most and were juicy and seasoned right.
We were at Truong's a little after the main lunch rush occurred. It has a relaxing, care-free atmosphere and I'm looking forward to a return visit. The Truong family legacy is alive and well!