Nayon Turo-Turo - A Family's Passion is Sharing Delicious Filipino Food
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
"We Are Family"...that's the tune and lyrics that come to mind as I watched a continuous procession of customers line-up to order their entree selections at Nayon Turo-Turo Fast Food Center, located in Tamuning's Hafa Adai Exchange. With one of two entrances facing the Hafa Adai I Theatre, it's not difficult to find this increasingly popular eatery that cooks up some of the best Filipino food on island. It is located next door to the original Rambie's (another popular Filipino restaurant that has outlets in the Micronesia Mall and GPO), however, Nayon Turo Turo has elected to stay put and expand their existing location.
"Turo Turo" translates into "Point, Point", since that is what one does when standing in front of the rich variety of hot food entrees in the glass-protected display warmer. You point to this one and to that one, and that's what you'll get. The colorful, assorted foods are a veritable feast of fresh-cooked favorites that are enjoyed throughout all the provinces in the Philippines, and include Kare Kare, Pork Adobo, Lechon, Fried Galunggong (mackerel), Beefsteak Filipino, Monggo Beans, Fish Sinigong, Beef Sinigong, Fried (bangus) Milkfish, Pork Binagoongan, Beef Nilaga, Adobong Pusit (squid), Chicken Tinola, Pancit Guisado, and Vegetables Chop Suey.
One thing that strikes you on entering is how clean and well air-conditioned the large dining room is - it is big enough to easily seat 80 people. Nayon Turo Turo opens at 6am and closes at 5pm, Monday - Saturday. People begin lining up for the lunch service as early as 10:15am, which was about the time I arrived. I witnessed an endless stream of people coming in, standing in line, pointing to their food, and sitting down to eat. Prices are reasonable, with 1 Entree with rice priced at $3.50, 2 Choices for $4.50, and 3 Choices for $5.50. An extra small cup goes for $2.75, while the medium sells for $3.75 and the large cup costs $5.75.
I was introduced to Nayon Turo Turo by an old acquaintance, Andy Padilla. Andy is a friend of the owners, Bernie and Tess Calalo, who with their daughter, Lanie, have made this family-run enterprise a Guam success story. Nayon Turo Turo has been constantly expanding while it's neighbors have been seeing declines in their business. I attribute their success to the personal connection to the food they create and serve. All three are busily involved in the preparation and serving of the food. The prime creative force is Tess, who has always loved cooking and sharing her food, which goes back as far as 1980 when she was selling food in the Harmon Flea Market. This is a hard-working family, who take enormous pride in the service they provide. Speaking of service, Bernie is a retired Navy veteran, and he's managed to keep things "ship shape", something you can tell by how well-organized things are. Believe me, it's not what one expects to find in the Hafa Adai Exchange, which has held an image as a rag-tag, flea market and bazaar.
If you wanted to discover Asian foods, the Philippines has been known as one of the best places to begin your culinary journey, since it is a mixture of East and West. Distinctly Filipino, it has combined food ideas from Thailand, China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Spanish influences are found throughout, since "adobo" a Spanish stew. I sampled several dishes during my review, and found myself jumping from dish to dish in a frenzied pace to get mouthfuls of delicious tastes and textures in my mouth. The peanut butter based Kare Kare is one of my all-time favorites...with oxtail and tripe. I like to add bagoong (shrimp paste) to this to intensify the flavor. The Lechon (crisp fried pork) was scrumptious, especially when dipped in Mang Tomas' Sauce. The Pork Adobo was tender and succulent, cooked in a savory vinegary spice blend. The Beef Nilaga (soup) was also quite good, having extracted its rich essence from a long-simmered beef bone. I also thought the Monggo beans were wonderfully prepared - just good, down-home comfort food.
I was most moved by the Chicken Tinola--a dish I could eat everyday!! It is a nutritious, vibrant soup made with Malunggay leaves, which are horseradish tree leaves. It was filled with tender, meaty chicken chunks and Baby Bok Choy. The Malunggay leaves have a special curative power---good for colds and recommended for other ailments such as diabetes. It is also said to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. My first spoonful was an awakening for me...I could tell there was something activating my senses, making me feel better. It also tasted great, too.
I had to save room for the classic dessert--a refreshingly soothing Halo-Halo, which looked so magically delicious, I had to take a picture. It is a shaved ice mixture with milk, macapuno (sweet baby coconut), sweet beans and flavored gulaman (gelatin), which they claim is best made in Philippines since all of the ingredients can be found there. I thought theirs was terrific.
Nayon Turo Turo has endeared itself to hundreds, if not thousands, of diners. Bernie is already preparing the restaurant for yet another expansion to the bay next door. This will be another great draw, he says, and it will be called "Ihaw Ihaw" (which is "BBQ" "BBQ"!!). One can't help but feel the excitement of this family's passion for cooking and sharing delicious food. For take-out, group and party reservations, and catering, call 649-8763.
The best way I could describe my Nayon Turo Turo dining experience was my enthusiastic and emphatic statement, "Ang sarap"! ("It's so delicious") It was something I repeated over and over again as I ate from bowl to bowl! Ang sarap! Ang sarap!