Calvi House - Traditional Korean and Asian Tastes Blend in Unique Creations
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Calvi House, located on the Lobby Level of Tumon's Royal Orchid Hotel next to Capricciosa, is not at all what you'd expect from a Korean restaurant. From the outside, Calvi House appears to be a high-end clothing boutique or private lounge. However, upon entering Calvi House you can immediately tell it is a restaurant since each table has a built-in grill for at-table grilling. Calvi House is not your traditional Korean restaurant in appearance nor taste. It's sleek, avant-garde interior has no Korean artwork or hanging ornaments. The imported tables and furniture are high quality, with a special flooring made with ridged striations matching the textured table's surface - very classy. Calvi House has the distinction of being Guam's only Korean restaurant located in a hotel and the cuisine style is adapted to meet Asian (more specifically Japanese) tastes by the use of dipping sauces and seasonings. Nonetheless, the profusion of fresh vegetables, meat, and seafood, as well as unique marinades combining sesame oil, ginger root, green onions, garlic, soy sauce, cooking wine and sugar, deliver all that you expect in a Korean dining experience, with just a slight variation.
Calvi House's all day menu (served 11:30am-10pm daily) offers a quality selection of popular Korean favorites such as Yangnyeom Calvi (marinated beef ribs $16); Saeng Calvi (beef ribs $18); Japchae (pan-fried clear noodles with beef and vegetables); Gamjajeon (potato pancakes $12); Saeng Deungshim (grilled sirloin $20); Yukhoe (seasoned raw beef $20); Dolsot Bibimbap (rice with vegetables and beef in a hot stone pot$15); Bulgogi (marinated beef $14); Mool Naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles $12); Kimchi Jige (Kimchi Stew $12); Maewoontang (fish stew in a hot pepper sauce$28); and other seafood dishes that can be steamed or grilled. A 10% service charge is added to your meal. A full range of beverage service is available, too.
Although there is a preponderance of beef dishes at Calvi House, seafood and vegetarian options are available. Beef lovers, however, will enjoy the variety of beef choices and treatments served here, "mad-cow" concerns notwithstanding. Joining me for dinner were two colleagues, David and Tom, which started out with a small, well-dressed (a special Calvi House dressing) salad, followed by Yukhoe, the traditional seasoned raw beef with raw egg on top - similar in concept to Steak Tartare or the popular Italian dish Carpaccio. Believe me, many people would have issues with this dish, however, for those familiar with this specialty, you will not be disappointed - it was excellent! Korean pear apple slivers are mixed in with this cool, palate-pleasing meat dish that is eaten with the same relish and ease of eating sashimi, the difference being the seasoning blends. While we savored our Yukhoe, our Grilled Sirloin Steak was cooking on the gas-fired, vented grill. Once done, it was sliced into small, bite-size pieces that we could dip into two sauces. One had coarse salt, sesame oil and spices that really enhanced the flavor of the meat.
The Pan Chan (those delightful little side dishes of assorted marinated vegetables and kimchi) were above average, with broccoli salad and sliced eggplant offerings bringing a refreshing elevation to the typical selection. We then had Japchae, which was laden with vegetables mixed in with beef and rice noodles. It tasted quite good. This was followed by Dolsot Bibimbap, which is a large heavy stone pot filled with rice topped by a variety vegetables (cabbage, carrots, onion, seaweed, spinach) and shredded beef. The pot is super-heated, chili paste is added and then you mix all of the food together for a wonderful dish. It is a favorite of many and very popular with Japanese visitors. The rice on the bottom and the sides of the pot sticks and grills to a flavorful crunchiness that gives a distinctly Asian twist to "rice krispies"! We then had the marinated beef ribs ( sharing made these portions manageable). The marinade used gave a different flavor than what I usually expect from ribs cooked at other Korean restaurants - the taste was not overpowering, and the meat was very tender.
Our final dish was the Gamjajeon (potato pancake) which is like a cross between a pancake and hashbrowns. A special dipping sauce is used that really makes it a treat you'll enjoy. During the course of our meal we were served chilled corn tea - something that I found remarkably refreshing, with each swallow delivering a taste of grilled corn. Certainly something beyond the usual. Our final beverage was the traditional cup of Sujeong Gwa (persimmon punch), that has a clove-cinnamon taste and is served well chilled with pine nuts and sweet rice floating on top - what a refreshing liquid dessert treat!
Calvi House held its soft opening in December and is owned by Mr. D.Y. Lee, who along with his wife, Jinny, has created a quality environment and uniquely intimate dining experience. The ambient music, comfortable seating, artistic serving ware, and bamboo window treatment makes Calvi House an ideal getaway from the hustle and bustle of other restaurants. It's relaxing and pressure free. Calvi House boasts a special chef, Mr. Jung, who was Chief Chef with the Paradise Hotel group in Busan and has over 20 years experience. Calvi House's Manager is Mr. Shin, who formerly managed another excellent Korean establishment, Hagatna's Korea Palace. For information, call 646-6678.
Calvi House will certainly impress you with it's secluded, upscale atmosphere and tasty food - it is definitely a step beyond the traditional, and not at all what you'd expect. Try Calvi House, Guam's "Premier Korean Barbecue Restaurant"!