Sam Choy's Guam, Where A Big Taste of Aloha Meets our Own Hafa Adai
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Sam Choy's Guam is fantastic! There, I've said it. Now let me tell you why.
The other night we walked in unannounced (I was joined by my friend Roland) and were being escorted to our table when I was drawn to the most spectacular flowing chocolate display I've ever seen...it was like being in a chocolate factory. Yes, it was their famous Chocolate Fountain, which is the centerpiece of the dessert buffet. I'll get back to this later. Meanwhile, we were seated and greeted by our server, Jon Herrero, who had an impressive demeanor and a confident attitude.
We ordered a bottle of Van Asperen Merlot along with some appetizers. While I was originally inclined to order exclusively from "The Chef's Menu - Culinary Innovations from Chef Peter Duenas", I opted instead for just one item on that list, the Crispy Soft Shell Crab Martini Salad ($8.95), as well as two other appetizers from the regular menu, the Kalua Pig Quesadillas ($8.95) and the San Vitores Crab Cakes ($10.95). Sam Choy's new menus have every category translated into Chamorro, so the Starters are called "Gof Mangi Na Chesa" (sounds like something Chef Peter would say, or his jolly trusty sidekick, Sous Chef John Fernandez, neither of whom were there that night).
Once the appetizers arrived, we decided to order our main courses. This was not easy since there were so many entrees that I was somewhat overwhelmed...however, I did spot a new item on the "Ginen I Tano" (Island Entrees from the Land) menu section, which was Sam's "Perfect Oven Roasted" Duck ($23.95). Roland had originally wanted just the Onolicious Ribs, however I suggested he get "Da Big Man's Platter" ($42.95), which was listed under Chef Peter's Island Combo Platters". This had both a full rack of ribs and the Hawaiian Style Ginger Roasted Chicken (usually $19.95 as a single entree).
I'd been sipping on my wine, which I'd swirled in my big burgundy glass, and I could taste hints of cranberry, cherry and vanilla, balanced by the rich oak tannins. This wine certainly had character and was an easily drinkable selection. The first starter I tried was the Kalua Pig Quesadillas. This has smoked pork shredded and stuffed inside a flour tortilla with Monterey Jack cheese, and is served with lomi lomi salsa, smoky BBQ sauce, and sour cream. This was even better than I thought it was going to be, and I was thinking "good". It worked well with the wine, too. I then moved on to try one of the San Vitores Crab Cakes (there were two, and Roland had already put his away, describing the sauce as having a little "zing"). That "zing" comes from one of Chef Peter's trademark sauces, this one being a sweet boonie pepper aioli. The crab meat was indeed fresh, and compared to other crab cakes I've had, this had a heck of lot more crab than "cake". That sauce is awesome, Peter!
I had the final appetizer, the Crispy Soft Shell Crab Martini Salad, to myself. This was a soft shell crab cut in two laid atop a bed of greens and was nicely presented in a martini glass. The dressing was a creamy sesame dressing, and the vegetables seemed to be some rocket (ruccola) along with radicchio, red bell pepper slices, and tomato wedges. I made quick work of this, enjoying the crunchy crab surrender its flavors into my mouth as I chewed.
Our server, Jon, returned with our soup of the day( we'd both selected soup instead of salad) which came with our main courses. The soup was Cream of Mushroom, and seemed a little bland and watery, although I would occasionally get little chunks of mushroom that seemed to impart more flavor. I didn't know if it was my taste buds having had too much sensory satisfaction from the appetizers, however, Roland concurred on the lightness of the soup. We noted how efficient the serving staff was, at bringing dishes and removing the used ones. They were clearing tables quickly, too.
When Jon brought our main courses, we were impressed by their presentation. There was a lot of meat on these and "Da Big Man's Platter" was "no lie"! We divided up the meat portions, with me giving Roland half my duck while I received half a rack of ribs and whole chicken quarter in exchange. I started with Sam's "Perfect Oven Roasted" Duck, which the menu describes as a "Long Island Duck roasted with our secret blend of spices served with a special orange sauce, over kapakahi mashed potatoes". The duck was splendid, and yes, cooked "perfectly". It paired nicely with the wine, and I couldn't have been happier. The kapakahi potatoes had plenty of bok choy, broccoli, carrots and onion. I then took a bite of the slow roasted ginger marinated half chicken, which was also on point. Jon had earlier brought us a bowl of finadene, which we both were using for the chicken as an enhancer...finadene rules! When I got to my glazed ribs, I hit my pleasure meter and after having two, I put the rest aside for to take home along with the remainder of my duck and potatoes.
Jon brought our dessert plates (Vlad Tudela, the Operations Manager, who seemed to be on top of everything, invited us to take a trip to the chocolate fountain on the house), and we went up to the display where there were big red Korean strawberries, fresh pineapple chunks, bread pudding squares, brownies, marshmallows and what looked like fudge squares. Well, the object is to spear one of these ingredients with the wooden skewer and then place it under the flowing molten chocolate cascade, coating it entirely with it's luscious silky sweetness. They have to have one of these fountains in Heaven! This was just divine.
When we returned to our tables with chocolate-loaded fruit, we decided on coffee, with Roland getting a Illy Cafe Latte and I had an Illy Cappuccino (both $5). I tasted mine immediately...the temperature was perfect, though Roland observed that there should have been a bit more foam on mine. It was still good, and a perfect end to a delightful meal.
There is much to recommend about Sam Choy's, whether it's the service, the staff's energy, the superb cuisine (there's a lot of territory to cover on the menu, with food like the Seafood Laulau, or the Macadamia Nut Crusted Fresh Island Fish, or the Pika Prawns, or the humongous Bumbucha King Crab Legs served with drawn butter, or the Local Style Live Coconut Crab, or the Vegetarian Menu items, or the Rest of Chef Peter's Bi-monthly Culinary Innovations Menu, or even Auntie Maggie Flores' "to-die-for" desserts, or the soothing island sounds of Jessie and Ruby performing in the Tail of the Whale lounge. You can make reservations by calling 649-6637. Lunch is served from 11am to 3pm and Dinner is served from 6-10pm.
Sam Choy's Guam is definitely where the Big Taste of Aloha meets our own Hafa Adai!