Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Over the course of the past several months since my Guam Food Guy review of Marriott's Manhattan Steakhouse, I've closely followed the evolution of this property, as she transformed from an aged, grande dame, to what can now only be described as the "Belle of the Ball," in a near re-enactment of the Cinderella fable. This has not just been a mere "face-lift" - it's a metamorphosis! The transformation of the worm to a butterfly, and my, what lovely "wings" she has!
I don't want to exaggerate the improvements made by using hyperbole and literary fantasies, however, I do think it appropriate to applaud all of those involved in the superior planning and execution of the hotel's amazing renovation.
Today's review will primarily focus on The Marriott Cafe, the newest outlet to open at the Marriott. In what was previously the Cafe Sirena, The Marriott Cafe has been the subject of speculation, curiosity, disbelief, and skepticism. No one could have imagined just how complete a change could be, and yet, someone did. The Marriott Cafe has raised the ceiling by lowering the floor, and has provided a wrap-around view of the ocean - consistent with the hotel's desire to capitalize on the magnificent ocean panorama available from it's unique vantage point. New carpets, shutters, floor, wall and ceiling treatments, floral highlights, lavishly comfortable chairs and solid wood tables, ultra-modern buffet lines and islands - all reflecting a meticulous consistency in quality, attention to detail, and an elaborately defined sense of taste.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: CHEF LELAND'S BACK!
One of the highlights of the opening event was seeing Chef Leland Feng, previous Chef de cuisine of the Pacific Star's Lotus Garden, and the award-winning chef whose legendary dim sum's quality rivals that of Hong Kong's best. Refreshed from his visit with his family and eager to re-ignite and satisfy the taste buds and appetites of his loyal customers who've missed him these past few months, Chef Leland's definitely back and is busily preparing his savory dim sum specialties in his new home at the Marriott Cafe. His dim sum and other Cantonese creations are just some of the special treats awaiting you at this innovative new eatery.
The Marriott Cafe is open from 6 am to 10 pm, and serves three buffets daily, with a la carte menu items available between the buffet services. A la carte service is from 10 am - 11 am and from 3 pm to 5 pm.
Live action stations give diners a "front row" view of freshly prepared dishes. Those dining from the buffet lines were impressed with the unusual, high polished chrome serving dishes with the hinged tops and brass handles. My previous experience in the foodservice equipment supply business provided me an insider's perspective their selection of cookware and serving ware. These were made by SPRING, a highly reputed Swiss manufacturer of the world's best institutional cookware. Moreover, these special serving/cooking dishes are on induction cookers/warmers. This is the latest in serving/cooking technology since the transfer of heat is minimized and there's no flame used, so smoke is greatly reduced if not eliminated.
The Marriott has decided on a bold and unusual service standard for their prepared food served on the hot buffet line. They are preparing small batches of each dish, in order to assure freshness. So instead of a large batch of fried rice being prepared and left in the kitchen for re-filling the buffet line, fried rice is prepared in smaller portions. This will also result in less food waste. A change from mass-production to small portion preparation represents a paradigm shift in the food service quality to which we've been accustomed. The result is as close as one can get to providing a "made to order" service. This is an intriguing concept whose proof will be in the doing.
The fresh sautéed vegetables and mixed, seasoned stir-fry meat dishes that were created maintained their just cooked freshness. A spaghetti dish that was in the warmer had pasta noodles that were cooked al dente and were also maintained for optimum service quality, with no apparent degradation in the pasta's consistency.
The roast beef carving station was quite popular, and for a good reason. The beef was of the highest quality, offering the complete range of doneness guaranteed to satisfy all taste preferences. Both horseradish and au jus are available condiments. I couldn't help but avail myself to the prime rib bone cut! Veteran Executive Chef Michael Devlin explained to me that the breaded green stuff in one of the deep-fried fish dishes was fried parsley, a first for me. Well, it was actually very good, especially since it was a garnish.
A make-it-yourself Caesar salad station was a hit as well. Talk about magical, full-flavored ingredients! For you dessert lovers, you'll have plenty of delightful preparations from which to select.
Since the entrees on buffets vary widely, one would have to continuously dine at the Marriott Cafe to get a better sense of the variety of food offerings. Based on my two days experience of the lunch service, I noticed several changes in how certain foods (meats/fish/vegetables) were prepared and served. I'll have to try breakfast and dinner on future visits.
All said, the casual elegance of the Marriott Cafe is an ideal setting for a business or social meeting. Once seated, you'll find that the conversations will soon center on the remarkable presentation, quality, and taste of the food, which makes eating at the Marriott Cafe more than a preferred choice - it is a selected pleasure.