Marianas Trench - New Home Infuses New Life to Old Thai Dive
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
If you want to witness a real-life 180 degree turnaround, then you've got to see the new Marianas Trench Thai Restaurant & Lounge, recently relocated to the Northwest Plaza, just across Marine Drive from Atkins Kroll. It's a difference between night and day for the Trench which used to be dark and cavernous with a bar-room atmosphere. Over the years customers had gravitated to cleaner, brighter Thai restaurants that had opened in Tamuning and Tumon. Today, however, the Trench's new owner, Malee Thompson, has caused a "Cinderella-like" transformation for this venerable, 16 year old restaurant, retaining the original Thai food quality in spacious new digs with plenty of parking and seating.
The Som Tom (Papaya Salad, $8) is a great way to start your venture into a rich Thai dining journey. A wedge of lettuce and long beans are stacked next to the nut-covered blend of shredded papaya, bean sprouts, and tomatoes. These undressed veggies are eaten after each bite of the papaya salad to dilute the intensity of the spicy fish sauce dressing.
Although there are several appetizers, including Fried Calamari ($7), Fresh Spring Rolls ($6), Chicken Satay ($7), and Thai Style Chicken Wings ($6), we opted to forgo these for a soup, salad and shared main course since we wanted lighter lunch. The Tom Yum (Lemon Grass Soup, $9) was perfect for recuperating from a cold, and ordering heat level 6 (on a hotness scale of 1-10) gave a sensation bordering on "semi-nuclear"! The steaming red broth was filled with bamboo, cilantro, lime leaves, lemongrass stalks, green onion, and big shrimp. It was a fortifying, eye-wiping soup - something you just had to eat no matter how much it sizzled your taste buds.
We ordered a traditional favorite, Pad Thai ($7.50), and told Toy, our server, that we wanted it to be a combination of Shrimp and Chicken, which adds a dollar to the price. Toy was the Trench's previous owner, and she's stayed on to assure a continuity of the great cuisine for which the Trench has long been known. She cooks at night and another experienced Thai cook, Thieu, handles the lunch shift. The Pad Thai was good - it's hard to not make it so - however, during our eating we discovered a new way to enjoy it...by combining it with our papaya salad! The Pad Thai's rather bland ingredients offer a perfect contrast for the pungent pickled flavors of the papaya, achieving more completely what squeezing a lemon wedge over the Pad Thai noodles imparts. Try it some time.
There are many other entrees from which to choose at the Trench, among them some unusual items not typically seen on other menus. The Gang Kua (Pineapple Curry, $8.50), is a favorite among some regulars, as is the Evil Jungle (Vegetarian Curry, $8). There are Beef & Chicken Dishes, such as Crying Tiger (Steak with Spicy Sauce, $12) and Nuea Pad Prig (Pepper Steak, $9), that have appealed to many of the Trench's stalwarts.
Among the seafood entrees are a Trench Talapia (Fried Talapia w/Ginger, Curry, Panang or Sweet & Sour Sauce, $12), and the Hoi Nang Pu (Mussels w/ Chili Sauce, $10). There are so many ways to enjoy shrimp, squid and other seafood, whether it's in a curry blend or a soup. Vegetarians have their way, too, with a Tom Ka Gai (Coconut Milk Soup, $9), or a Tom Tao Hoo (Tofu Soup, $8).
The Marianas Trench has two large rooms which are well separated - a main dining room which is smoke-free, and a bar section which allows smoking. The large bar is well stocked, and the room has a big-screen TV, a free juke box filled with contemporary music and classics, and lots of tables. One can easily see the amount of work Malee's done to decorate and furnish the new Marianas Trench, from the hanging designer lamps to the solid tables and chairs brought in from Thailand. Thai art pieces and pictures adorn the restaurant's interior, with plants and Thai music creating an atmosphere that immerses you in Thai culture. It's an amazing transition from the old Trench, and something former customers should come and experience.
Lunch at the Marianas Trench is served from 11an - 3pm, Monday - Saturday, with dinner service from 5pm - 10pm. The Trench serves dinner only on Sunday from 5pm - 10pm. The bar is open daily until 2am. The Trench offers take out as well as providing catering, which can be arranged by calling 646-4049. There's a lot to be said about this new Marianas Trench, which retains much of its original cuisine and charm. I recommend you make a trip to the "Trench", one of Guam's landmark Thai restaurants now in a new location. You'll be pleasantly surprised!