Palm Cafe Mexican Fiesta Buffet - Big Taste of OLE! Passes Flavor Test
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Somebody at the Outrigger Guam Resort listened and got it right. That's the thought I had when I'd first heard about the Mexican Fiesta Buffet at the Outrigger's Palm Cafe. Yes, they listened, all right and what did they listen to, you might ask? It was at a Cinco de Mayo fundraising event for KPRG hosted by the Guam Women's Club where we got our first taste of what the chefs at the Outrigger could do. Guests were joyously eating carne asada, making tacos, and dipping chips in flavorful salsas, and they unanimously agreed that this was some pretty good Mexican food, with some even suggesting that Outrigger should make a regular thing of this apparent proficiency with one of the Western world's most popular cuisines. They listened, and got it right - Big Time!
The Mexican Fiesta Buffet is available on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 11am-2pm and is priced at $10.95 per person (+10 % sc), and includes desserts and China Mist iced tea. The entire buffet area is decorated with colorful paper Mexican dolls, sombreros, and happy characters, really adding a festive air. However, just as you are standing at the entrance of the buffet area you will suddenly become aware of the glorious aromas of Mexican food! For lovers of Mexican cuisine, this is a good start and for "buffet food", it's absolutely marvelous.
You can start anywhere with this buffet, either at the cold salad section which holds a variety of vegetable, pasta, and salad options, or with hot tortilla chips and salsa, or with one (or both) of two soups. I was told that the entrees and ingredients comprising the buffet may change, so there may be other items than what I ate for this review. The soups I tried were a Chicken & Corn Tortilla Soup and a thick and hearty Chili Soup. Both were outstanding, though I think locals will go crazy over this Chicken & Corn Tortilla Soup since it is a Mexican take-off on the traditional Corn Chowder that's a standard in local cuisine. It is thick, full of tender chicken, and has corn kernels in every bite. Red beans are scattered through out, with the tortilla pieces fairly dissolved into the stock. This soup could have been the meal in itself.
The Chili Soup was well prepared, and I added chips, salsa, and sour cream to mine for a full flavor and texture experience. Among the elements in the buffet line were Refried Beans, Black Beans, Spanish Rice, Melted Cheese for Nachos, Chile con Queso, Quesadillas, Chicken Enchiladas, chicken and beef for Fajitas, ground beef taco meat, (all of these meats are pre-seasoned, cooked, and garnished with plenty of cilantro and green onions), crunchy corn taco shells, soft flour tortillas, and a salsa topping station, where you could add shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, guacamole, jalapenos, black olives, sour cream, green onions, a red salsa and a zesty chunky vegetable salsa with diced pineapple.
I made several trips to the buffet bar and finally sat down to enjoy my Mexican fiesta! The dining room offers a full wall window view of Tumon Bay, which during the lunch hour is dotted with tourists frolicking in the shallow water and sunning on the white sand beach. The corn taco had about as much add-ons as I could manage (I could have made two). It was really a treat...and more enjoyable than going to a regular restaurant because you could build your own taco! The flavors were intense - they were not afraid to use bold and powerful ingredients in their seasonings and salsas.
The Chicken Enchilada had moist chunks of chicken that was slow-cooked to a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, and was flavored to match. The beef and chicken fajita meats were both well-seasoned, and though not grilled on a sizzling platter, their great taste and moistness compensated for that. The Spanish rice had a nice consistency and fresh flavor, which isn't easy to do in a buffet line. I liked the toasted crispness of the quesadilla, which had seasoned ground beef and melted cheese inside.I kept thinking to myself that they really used a lot of onions, cilantro, and tomato to keep the flavors authentic, and surpassed my expectation for what a buffet could offer with it method of serving bulk food versus a la carte. The buffet food was anything but mediocre. For dessert I treated myself to a Tres Leches and Tiramisu...both were spot on.
Much of the credit for pulling off this culinary feat should go to Outrigger's Executive Chef, Christopher Aguilar, who has had extensive culinary experience in North America, Hawaii, and in Guam. His first tour on Guam was with the Hilton on Guam in 1987. Chef Aguilar recently won the 4th Annual Chef's Cup competition put on by the UOGEF and MCA. Other weekday lunch buffets include the Soup, Salad, and Sandwich buffet on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the Hafa Adai Friday Lunch Buffet at the end of the week. Every Saturday they offer their long-standing Prime Rib & Crab Dinner Buffet, as well as a Sunday Champagne Brunch. Palm Cafe even has a special Lunch buffet card that gives you a free lunch after you've bought eight. That's a nice incentive...too bad I can't eat Mexican every day! Palm Cafe also serves an a la carte menu that features sandwiches, entrees, and an East-West Blend of Noodles and Pastas.
I highly recommend you take a trip to Mexico next Tuesday or Thursday at lunch time for the Palm Cafe's Mexican Fiesta Buffet. You owe it to your palate!