La Brasserie's Daily Lunch Buffets - Where Fresh Means Best!
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
In what certainly qualifies as one of the island's "best kept secrets," the Holiday Inn Resort Guam's La Brasserie offers diners five (one for each work day!) fresh market lunch buffets, each uniquely enticing, with three of them having a build-your-own meal feature. Most amazingly, they are all value-priced at $9 plus a 10% service charge!
From 11am until 2pm, the weekday line-up includes: Low Carb Monday, Mongolian BBQ Tuesday, Vietnamese Wednesday, Thailand Thursday, and Filipino Friday. For the purposes of this review, I sampled the Mongolian BBQ, the Vietnamese, and Thai buffets, and based my recommendations on the exceptional quality of these all-you-can eat lunch specials, since I don't think anyone else offers diners a comparable selection of fresh vegetables and meats.
La Brasserie has a palatial ambiance, with a pleasing decor and ocean views, and enough space in its dining room to accommodate small to medium-sized groups. The single/double party window-side tables are my favorite spot since the view of Tumon releases my mind from office pressures and the daily work grind. The restaurant is located on the Lobby level of the Holiday Inn, which features a small but impressive exhibit of Guam's History and Culture. Take time to walk through this thought-provoking display when you visit.
The most compelling aspect of these buffets is the selection of fresh vegetables and meats, especially in the Mongolian and Thai buffets, which also include a variety of dipping sauces and condiments you don't find at other restaurants. Among these veggies are fresh eggplant, bok choy, green cabbage, zucchini, red onion, green onion, celery, white cabbage, broccoli, bean sprouts, baby corn, cauliflower, and bean sprouts. (This alone is a treasure trove for vegetarians!) For Mongolian BBQ, the meats include pork, shrimp, chicken, beef (Certified Angus), and squid. All of these ingredients are attractively lined atop a garden-like display. You decide on the portions you want and then choose from the condiment sauce selection, which includes soy sauce, roasted garlic oil, honey, chili oil, ginger water, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, ginger oil, sugar water, oyster sauce and fish sauce! (As I said, you don't get this much at other Mongolian BBQ offerings).
Once combined, your plateful of "sauced" goodies is dropped on the griddle or in a wok, cooked thoroughly in a few minutes and handed over to you fresh off the grill! The meals include a salad bar, hot rolls, soup, ice tea, and fresh fruits - all of this for just under $10! I've eaten at both Mongo Mongo and Top of the Mar, and neither place can touch the terrific quality and value you get at La Brasserie.
Vietnamese Wednesday doesn't require as many vegetables, meat ingredients, and sauces as do the Mongolian and Thai buffets, since it has something the other two don't - fried lumpia! You have chicken, tofu, and shrimp for your soup choices, along with vegetables (I took plenty of bok choy), and you can add chopped red chilies or chili paste to season your soup. The lumpia was a real treat, though, primarily because it wasn't grease-laden. The wrapper is super thin, not thick, so grease is not absorbed. This is a smaller lumpia than the thick, longer ones that are staples at all Vietnamese restaurants. It was crisp, light, and surprisingly tasty. What this lumpia lacked in size was certainly made up in flavor. The secret is oyster sauce, as it really enhanced the taste.
Thai Thursday has a few other ingredients (tomatoes, water chestnuts, mushrooms, with the shrimp pre-cooked) for a different meal, which happens to end up as a soup. This time your plate of ingredients is sauteed, then added to your choice of noodles (rice or clear), which are quickly re-heated in boiling water before being put in your bowl, followed by a ladle of a Tom Yam Kung soup broth. You can add your favorite condiments to this custom-built Thai soup, the likes of which you can't find anywhere else!
Executive Chef Sean Tweten is the driving force behind these impressive buffets. He is assisted by Sous Chef Willie Nicolas and Jessie Orallo, a young cook who has shown a lot of promise. Low Carb Monday has a selection of deli-style cuts of meats, some pre-made sandwiches, wraps, and a Chicken Sandwich with Onion Marmalade. The ingredients may vary day to day, however, there is still a "build-you-own meal" involvement.
Although not included in this review, you can order from La Brasserie's a la carte menu, which is available for both lunch and dinner. The prize-winning Soy Poached Salmon we sampled at the ACS Relay for Life is featured on this menu, as are sandwiches, steaks, chicken, and seafood items. I did witness a thick, juicy handmade burger grilling on the char-broiler. This burger appears to be a contender in my search for Guam's "Best Burger" - I'll let you know when I try this one. La Brasserie also features evening buffets including Prime Rib Thursday dinner, Friday Seafood Extravaganza, Saturday BBQ, and a Champagne Sunday Brunch. For more info and to make reservations, call 647-7272, ext. 213.
Check out La Brasserie's Daily Lunch Buffets, where fresh means best!