Seafood Chef Restaurant's $9 Lunch Buffet -Quality Eating with Mass Appeal
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Usually whenever you hear that there's an all-you-can-eat buffet priced as low as $9, you figure that the old adage of "you get what you pay for" is likely to apply and the food will be mostly so-so foods with bland, mushy vegetables, and sparse meat pickings. This is certainly not the case at the Seafood Chef Restaurant, located on the 2nd Floor of what used to be the Hakubotan Duty Free Shop across the street from the Tamuning Post Office. The Seafood Chef Lunch Buffet is an exceptional, and almost unbelievable value, even when you add the 10% service charge to the $9 price. I have been there about five times, and each time they have had at least four seafood items in the hot line, along with other meat selections, and most notably (for me), they always serve a tasty variation of excellent Soft Shell Crab.
The Seafood Chef's lunch buffet is kind of an anomaly when you consider that the main thrust of this restaurant's raison d'etre is that it houses a voluminous Seafood Market concept at night that caters more to the tourist trade than to the local market. This is where diners pick their favorite selection of seafood (live lobster and crabs, varieties of snapper) and other fish including tilapia and lapu-lapu. When I describe it as an anomaly for lunch, that's because this restaurant's physical and dimensional footprint has the capacity to handle 400 guests. There are three private function rooms, a large bar/lounge area, and a sprawling dining room, so it's much more than just a place with a great buffet.
If I had to describe the cuisine style for the lunch buffet, I'd generally label it as Filipino, since it usually features such favorite ethnic fare as fried and steamed rice, pancit, kare kare, adobo, sinigang, crispy pata, pork afrotado, nilaga, pinakbet, and desserts like halo halo, ginatang, and leche flan. Of course, the fried chicken, steamed tilapia with ginger, stuffed baked mussels, mussels with sweet chili sauce, and egg drop soup lend an international and Asian flair to the menu. All of these foods appeal to local tastes and are prepared with a consistency rarely found in stand-alone buffets. My repeat visits were done to verify and authenticate the quality of food that I was experiencing.
Although the fried chicken was so-so, in spite of the finadene, the crispy pata and kare kare were very good. I can vouch for the soft shell crab, which I had with black bean sauce, with chili sauce, and deep-fried tempura-style. The first bites are what I like best...a nice meat-filled mouthful comes from biting in the center...the more you spread out, the more noticeable the shell becomes. The seasonings and sauces in which these crabs are cooked, extend the flavors throughout these tasty crustaceans. The pancit never fails to have shrimp, chicken and pork well distributed among the noodles. I was told that this restaurant always serves on the "bigger side", meaning that the customers always get more than they pay for, which is one of the reasons why I appreciate the Seafood Chef.
Seafood Chef's salad bar is very basic, with all of the standards you expect along with macaroni salad. The desserts vary a bit, but you can always get halo halo, that popular and refreshing Filipino dessert that is ubiquitous. It is done very well here with shaved ice, cream, macapuno, sweet beans, ube, and sometimes leche flan. Koichi Takai is the General Manager of Seafood Chef, and the owners are Tom & Magi Kallingal, of KALS Corporation. Takai-san originally developed the Seafood Market concept for tour operators when he managed the Kamayan Island Fisherman. Takai-san has done a wonderful job in his new relationship with the Kallingals and people couldn't be happier. The restaurant is very clean and the facilities are designed to accommodate large masses of people.
There are two aspects that lend to the success of a restaurant, and one is the quality of the final product served, which has to do with freshness, texture, taste, and presentation. The other quality determinant is the skills of the chef. Seafood Chef's head chef is Andres Morato, and he's been cooking with the restaurant, for nearly 20 years.This man knows his tastes. This huge facility started out years ago as the Asahi Beer Garden, and later became Restaurant Amantes, K Steak House, and finally, the Seafood Chef and an important part of the team is Chef Andres.
There are not many criticisms I can make of this place but there are times when the chafing dishes may not be replenished while you are waiting. The service is generally good at clearing, but there are times when soiled plates remain at the tables a bit too long. The other one is that some people don't like pre-sweetened tea( the refillable tea comes with the meal). This is not really a 'vegetarian" restaurant, although the salads are generally all vegetable. Smoking is permitted in some parts of the restaurant. There is no valet parking nor elevator at the front entry, so you have to use the stairs or go around to the side entrance where there is an elevator.
The Seafood Chef's lunch hours are 11am-1:30pm and 6-9pm for dinner. They are open daily. I plan to do a separate dinner review in the near future for the Seafood Chef as the dinner set up is quite different from the lunch buffet. I solidly recommend Seafood Chef's Lunch Buffet as an affordable, tasty, and comfortable place to meet for lunch, with either a friend or group of friends. I still think it's the food that makes this place famous! Call 639-0233 for reservations and information.