Chao's Restaurant - Serving Tantalizing Chinese With Ease
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Note from Ken, the Guam Food Guy: Please see the latest on this restaurant in the September 28, 2012 Newsletter.
Chao's Restaurant, in Dededo's Daily Plaza, adjacent to the Bank of Hawaii near the Flea Market, offers what everyone is always searching for - good Chinese food priced right. Just ask anyone who's been there - you'll get the same big smile, head nods, and comments praising Chao's food. Chao's is small, almost tiny, with only 4 booths and 3 tables, and though they are open daily 10am - 10 pm, they have already outgrown their capacity during lunch time in the six months they've been open, without any advertising. Chao's owner is a youthful man with an easy smile named Zhang Zi Min, who hails from China's Fujian province. Zhang has 16 years cooking experience, during which time he's honed his skills and perfected his cooking methods. He cooked in Saipan for 10 years before moving to Guam. He was a chef at the Nikko's Toh Lee Chinese Restaurant for a number of years. He has already established a reputation with the local Chinese community. Zhang's wife May, is his partner in the restaurant and manages the front of the house activities. The restaurant is smoke-free, and uses no MSG in any of its soups and vegetable dishes, and will eliminate it entirely from any other dish by request.
Diners can decide on ordering from the hot-line of steam table pans or a la carte, which is what I prefer. I started out with a Roasted Duck & Roasted Pork Combo Appetizer ($8). I think the duck and charsu pork sold themselves since the golden/bronzed meats were displayed on the order counter. Chef Zhang's presentation of the duck and pork was masterful, with the meat sliced precisely and garnished by slivered spring onions. A boonie pepper was carved to look like a budding red flower. The duck was very tender, moist, and came right off the bone. The pork was cooked and flavored perfectly and could be enjoyed with or without the plum sauce that accompanied.
One criteria I have for judging worthy Chinese food is how they cook their Salt & Pepper Shrimp ($10). Of all the Salt & Pepper Shrimp I've had on Guam, Chao's serves the largest size shrimp, and they are split and cooked headless. These are large and meaty, adequately seasoned with salt and pepper, and covered with sliced red chili peppers, green chilis, and white onions. Zhang likes to dress up his entree using fresh vegetables, and he managed to cut the spring onion garnish so thinly that it looked like a grass nest. Although these huge shrimp were totally fried, a couple of them still had veins, which I quickly removed. All in all, Chao's Salt & Pepper Shrimp, were very good, though possibly too big. I'm sure there are customers who are quite happy with their large size.
The last dish I ordered was Chinese Broccoli with Garlic ($6) which ended up being my favorite since it was deliciously fresh and steamed to the ideal doneness, leaving the crunch in each stalk and stem. The leaves were thick and savory, infused with plenty of sliced garlic and doused with a Chinese wine. This was a large portion and would make any vegetarian happy. Other vegetable entrees include Kankong with Garlic, Baby Pokchoi with Garlic, and Braised Eggplant with Garlic Sauce (all $6). The same price gets you Braised Fried Tofu, Fried Tofu with Spicy Sauce or Ma Po Tofu.
Some of the popular favorites are Orange Chicken ($6) and Deep Fried Chicken ($4), which is boneless breast. Most dishes are priced between $6 to $8, making everything quite affordable for most working families, and the soup dishes range from $5 for Hot & Sour to $7 for Seafood Tofu Soup. One soup not on the menu and served to a loyal customer was an appealing Oyster Noodle Soup. Many of Chao's Chinese clientele do not order from the menu, rather they order Chinese specialties from the kitchen, such as Zhang's famous Shark Fin Soup. Live crab and lobster is available, too. The steam table price options for are 1-choice $3.50, 2-choice $4.50 and $3-choice $6. BBQ Pork or Roast Duck are also fast food options, with a single item going for $4 with the combo plate priced at $6.75.
For dessert, you can select from 8 different flavors of Nestle Ice Cream, with a variety that includes Green Tea and Taro along with the more traditional flavors. Take-out and catering is available from Chao's Restaurant, too. Call 637-2388 for more info.
Considering the recent demise of Tumon's popular Joyful Chinese Restaurant, I'm glad that another Chinese restaurant has come to the forefront with food as good with lower prices. This week I highly recommend Chao's Restaurant in Dededo for good, affordable Chinese - the kind you like to talk about!