Le Tasi Bistro - Experience "The Pleasure of a Fine Table"
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
The only items I took home from the Pastries In Paradise event to eat later were the Papaya muffins, the one and same extolled in my past review of the Cafe Tropix at Underwater World (where they are featured), and just one of many creations by arguably the island's top pastry making teams - the fine folks at Le Tasi Bistro. But this review is not about pastries, although I could easily do an entire article on their extensive selection of cakes, pies, tarts, petit fours, muffins, and breads, which they sell in their Hagatna location, underneath the Hamilton Hotel just south of Shirley's. This review is about a dream come true.
Once upon a time, a young Spanish woman named Mari was in London and fell in love with a young Frenchman, Bertrand, and they married and made great food; but it was too cold in England, and they dreamed of living their lives in a faraway destination, on a remote tropical island somewhere in the Pacific, and they dreamed of having a specialty restaurant with a view of the ocean, with tables on the beach, where diners could enjoy the culinary magic their love produced, and where diners would experience "the pleasure of a fine table." That's no fable, it is a dream that has come true for Chef Bertrand Haurillon, wife Mari Carmen Aguilar, and their partners, Peter and Yeonso Park Koppen.
Tuesday night was my first opportunity to do my "food guy" review here - believe me, it's been long overdue, as it has been the most requested by many of their loyal fans who are readers of my "food guy" reviews. "Le Tasi Bistro" translated from both French and Chamorro, means "the beach restaurant" The logo on their calling cards visually depicts their dream: a place setting with a fork and knife bordering a plate painted with the image of two diners sitting under a coconut tree at a parasoled table on a beach looking out over the sea towards Two Lovers Point, raising a wine glass to toast a glorious sunset and memorable meal.
I was greeted by Mari and seated at a quaint little table covered by a checkered table cloth. A candle brought my focus to the open menu on the table, and I noticed the flower arrangement...this place was cozy. I started with a glass of Vina las Torres Merlot ($5.25), a nice, full-bodied wine that complimented the basket of fresh baked baguette and Herbs, basil, and onion bread slices, which I dipped in olive oil.
Looking at the menu I realized I faced another challenge...so much to eat (too much for one person) and I deliberated for a while, without reaching a decision on my main course. To get started, I ordered the Escargot de Bourgogne (snails in their shells stuffed with garlic butter and flamed with brandy - $5.65) and the Soupe a L'Oignon ("prepared as only the French know how" for $4.50). The escargot had a firm, chewable texture, with a surprisingly unique taste created from flaming the butter garlic sauce with brandy. The onion soup had that just baked crust on the mozzarella cheese atop the rich, steamy blend of cooked onions, broth, and French bread. Certainly worth having!
Still pondering my main course options, I was surprised by a request by another diner, Clint Huntington, whom I'd met at the Top of the Reef when Australian pianist/vocalist, Angela Tyler, performed a few months ago, to join me. I eagerly agreed, realizing that this was the "right answer" to my decision-making impasse. Since Clint had already ordered the week's Dinner Special, my preferred choice, I was able to order another popular entree, Carre d'angneau parfume aux herbes (Rack of Lamb for non-French speakers).
Le Tasi Bistro's dinners, served Tuesday - Saturday, feature a weekly Dinner Special of different French and European regional specialties. This week's is "A Taste of France", and begins with "Salad Perigourdine" (named after the town of Periguex, in the southwestern part of France in the same locale as Cognac and Bordeaux). This salad is made with tossed mixed greens in a white wine vinegar dressing and topped with croutons, bacon, and shelled walnuts. The main entree is "Poulet aux crevettes roses", which is Sautéed chicken and shrimps, simmered slowly in a prawn bisque sauce that is flavored with tarragon, and served atop a bed of rice and fresh vegetables. One of the vegetables was candied baked carrot sticks, which were a nice treat.
Since Clint ordered this entree, I made a deal to trade him one of my lamb chops for some of his chicken and shrimp. It was an impressive sight, with plenty of moist chicken pieces and shrimp, and that prawn bisque sauce made you appreciate what the French excel in creating - exquisitely delicious sauces! The Dinner Special also comes with your choice of Pastry of the Day or Ice Cream, and is affordably priced at $18.75. Next week's Dinner Special will be a taste of "Provence" which will provide you with another opportunity to get your passport stamped for eating at a different destination!
My rack of lamb was another culinary masterpiece. Rubbed with fresh herbs and spices, the tender, succulent, pieces were cooked to a perfect medium rare, and the rosemary jus sauce made me a "dipping madman". The lamb literally melted in my mouth with each savory bite! Mari suggested I have the potatoes gratin as my choice of starch (her recommendations were right on). The potatoes were artistically arranged in twin overlapping rows of slices, smothered in a creamy cheese sauce, touched off by a slight crust from broiling. Wonderful! I had the candied carrots and steamed cauliflower as veggies. This dish priced at $19.50. For dessert, it was my destiny to have the coconut cream tart and an eclair...I watched Clint devour his larger slice of the coconut cream pie - it was tres magnifique! (translated as extremely magnificent!), with a baked crust and cream filling that you'll have to try to appreciate.
Other dinner entrees this week include Lazagne Marseillaise, which is a vegetarian dish consisting of polenta lasagne, with mixed vegetables slowly simmered in a tomoato basil sauce, topped with mozzarella cheese, baked and then drizzled with a balsamic reduction ($13.65); a Filet of Norwegian salmon poached in champangne, and served with Japanese rice and vegetables, then glazed with a light champagne sauce ($17.25); a half roasted chicken flavored with rosemary and glazed with a red wine sauce ($14.75); and the "Entrecote au poivre," which is a 10 oz Ribeye steak served with gratin dauphinois topped by a green peppercorn sauce ($18.75). Each week Chef Bertrand makes a variation of these basic dishes - there is also a linguini pasta dish - so that something new and exciting is available each week! Dinner hours are 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (Call 472-7877 for private parties and reservations).
Lunches are served Monday - Saturday, 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, and they have several interesting options for diners, and you can order from their standard menu which includes a Catch of the Day Sandwich ($7.95), a Vegetarian Delight (grilled vegetables) Sandwich ($7.75) and a Salad Nicoise ($7.95). In addition, they have daily specials with three main course offerings, with soup or salad and a French Pastry for $9.95, or just the main course for $6.95 for those lighter appetites. Friday's special creation, and one of Le Tasi Bistro's signature dishes, is "Paella," which is a tantalizing blend of seafood, chicken, and saffron rice.
Although the menus change weekly at Le Tasi Bistro, there is an impressive wine list featuring Spanish, French, and California wines, with some served by the glass and affordably priced. The ambience and decor of Le Tasi Bistro leads you on a virtual tour of parts of France, Spain, and Holland, with art objects you won't find anywhere else on island. Imagine, bona fide large grape and wine baskets, and beautifully ornate hand-painted plates from Cordoba, Spain decorate the walls. The arched windows remind some of the arches in Guam's historic Spanish bridge.
It's easy to get caught up in the atmosphere created by some hard-working people's dream...a dream of a little restaurant near the ocean, the owners taking their guests on a culinary adventure tour of their native countries, and seeing that each and everyone of them enjoy "the pleasure of a fine table!" Try Le Tasi Bistro in Hagatna! Bon appetit!