Caravel Restaurant - Onward's
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
If it's Italian you're seeking then it's Italian you'll get at Caravel Restaurant, a surprising discovery that astonished and delighted during a recent dining adventure. Caravel is located on the beach level of the Onward Resort, and opened a few months back after undergoing extensive renovation. Caravel is only open for dinner, Tuesday through Sunday from 5:30pm-10:30pm.
I'd been tipped off about Caravel by the executive chef of one of Guam's larger hotels, who had eaten there in December and told me that the food was really good. Coming as this did coming from a gentleman who hails from Europe, this endorsement carried some weight and I'd been planning to review this restaurant ever since. Now that I've dined there, I am unable to control my enthusiasm over Caravel, and my deep admiration for the culinary talents of Yoji Akiyama, Executive Sous Chef and Caravel Manager, who has made this menu "rock" with awesome, authentic creations.
We started off with a Spinach & Pancetta Salad ($8.95), which had warmed fresh spinach, bacon, almond & balsamic vinegar, along with onions, tomatoes, black olives, garlic and egg. The bacon is the Italian version known as pancetta and while it is cured with salt, pepper, and other spices it is not smoked. Taken only from the belly, it generally sold rolled up into sausages, as opposed to American bacon, which is taken from the sides and belly, usually smoked and cut into slices. The spinach was not cooked at all and only heated by the sauteed mix of ingredients. This was the kind of salad that you ate without stopping...hoisting delicious bites you don't want to miss! This was accompanied by the Oven Baked Garlic Bread ($2.95) we ordered, which is served in two large slices. It was like a toasted baquette, and had chunks of roasted garlic on top of its buttery face.
Next came our Pasta selection, which was Spaghetti Puttanesca ($11.95), which is loaded with green and black olives, anchovy, capers, garlic, and tomato. Fresh parmesan cheese was grated tableside over this spaghetti. It was another wonderful choice we made, as good in quality and flavor as the salad, which we thought was "off the charts". The pasta was cooked al dente and the portion was plenty for two. Our server, Remy, was very attentive. She had a charming personality that embraced service, and this was reflected in her warm smile and pleasing manner.
The Pizza al Prosciutto was delivered to the white cloth-draped table with little fanfare but loads of interest as we saw that this pizza was covered by fresh green Rucola. Priced at $15.95 for what looked about 12" in diameter, this thin-crusted pizza had a generous amount of sliced prosciutto ham over mozzarella cheese and marinara. The Rucola, a.k.a. Arugula, Arugola,or Rocket, was the real treat and secret to this pizza's incredible power, for each bite combined these fresh, uncooked leaves with the cooked prosciutto, cheese and crust. Rucola has a distinct, aromatic flavor, and is a commonly used ingredient in Italian salads and pastas. According to folk lore, its leaves and seeds have been used as ingredients in aphrodasiac concoctions. I can only say that we really "loved" this pizza!
Chef Yoji asked if we'd like to try a sample of his steak. How could we refuse. He prepared a Ribeye Steak that we'll not soon forget, not just for its amazing presentation (Chef Yoji seems to be entering every dish into a competition!!), but for its unique taste. This particular steak preparation was made by briefly marinating the meat in bourbon, Dijon mustard, and orange juice. It was grilled to perfection and served with a tasty sauce accompanied by fresh mushrooms, asparagus, and baby zucchini. Also on the plate were some red and green pesto dipping sauces for even more taste sensations and visual appeal.
Chef Yoji's final and crowning achievement was a magnificent dessert plate that had a puff pastry filled with chocolate mousse, fresh whipped cream, and a hard chiffon wafer, with fresh berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, oh my!), plus young, nearly-ripe mango and a passion fruit & raspberry sauce, with small balls of sherbet. It was overwhelming and a fitting finale to a grand dining experience.
Other menu items include Spaghetti Crudaioro, Farfalle with Sauteed Shrimp, Potato Gnocchi Carbonara with Chicken, Grilled Lamb Chop, and Grilled Filet of Salmon & Half Shell Oyster. A full course children's menu is available ($13.95) that includes Breaded Shrimp, Corn Chowder, Spaghetti Meat Sauce, Ice Cream and Orange Juice. A full range of wines are also served in this airy, festively decorated (in Italian colors with flags and banners) restaurant with a view of the beach and pool. Reservations are accepted though they weren't needed the night we visited as most of the diners were hotel guests but you can call 647-7777 to reserve if you like.
I highly recommend you try Caravel and be sure to meet Chef Yoji, whose mild, self-effacing and humble manner belie what I consider to be a world-class culinary ability. I hope you enjoy Caravel as much as I did and plan to do!