Meskla Chamoru Fusion Bistro - A 'Divine' Mix of Modern & Traditional Flavors
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Meskla Chamorro Fusion Bistro
Hagatna (near Big Hook and Nissan Auto City)
Although it's easy to view restaurants as businesses that serve food, it's refreshing to find those special places where the food is not just a franchised commodity, but where it is created as art. Meskla is one of those divine places and may I just say "Hallelujah!". Conceived by Guam's own "Outdoor Chef", Peter Duenas, Meskla is a fulfilled vision providing the island's residents and visitors with a stimulating dining experience that promotes and celebrates Guam's cuisine with unique fusion recreations of traditional local favorites. At Meskla, which translates from Chamorro as "mix or blend", Chef Peter demonstrates his culinary artistry with a palette of sensational menu items that compel diners to return to try the numerous items they wanted to eat the first time!
For this review, we had dinner on two different nights in order to try a number of dishes. (I did have lunch one day as well, but will do a lunch write-up at some future time) Meskla has quickly become a destination restaurant which is understandable because of Chef Peter's loyal following from his days serving as Executive Chef at Sam Choy's, which was added to by his weekly TV culinary adventure series, the "Outdoor Chef". Some of Peter's kitchen team have followed him to Meskla as well.
The other element that makes Meskla a destination restaurant is the decor and ambiance, with its dark wood tones, hanging lamps that seem to be orbs floating about the high ceiling, and the very structure and layout of the dining room and adjoining bar lounge. Murals and pictures depicting ancient Chamorro life and culture are showcased along one of the dining room walls. And while the interior design has a contemporary feel, there is an emphasis on comfort.
It is easy to see how one can become enamored with Meskla, especially if you like wine(Meskla has a well-crafted wine selection), or if you have an adventurous palette with money to spend. Some have called Meskla "pricey", however, as with anything of value, you get what you pay for!
Let's get on to the food we enjoyed! One of the first appetizers we had was the Chamoru Chesa Platter ($16.95 ) which has Kelaguen, Tinala Katne, and Hinetnon Tapon which is a delicious blend of chopped surf clams, hearts of palm, banana flowers, spinach and cream cheese, baked and served with Garlic Chamoru Flatbread. On this night, the kelaguen was shrimp and it was as good as it gets. Fried Titiyas are on the plate along with flatbread made with olives and donne dinanche. There's nothing better than dipping your Tinala Katne (Chamoru-style dried beef) in the spicy donne! Another appetizer we had was the Curried Hot Wings Chamoru Style ($7.95). The menu describes these as deep fried chicken wings tossed in a fresh local tumeric ginger curry sauce. I was intrigued by the taste of these and wanted more!
On the first night, we tried the Pika Prawn Salad ($14.95). These were head-on tiger prawns dusted with a spicy dry rub, pan-seared and served with mixed greens topped with a fruit salsa. This was refreshing on the palate, though I expected more flavor from the salsa. On the second visit, we had the Calamari Salad ($12.95) with featured crispy fried calamari rings served over a zesty avocado salad and mixed greens which was fabulous! The avocado, cherry tomatoes, red onion slices and vinaigrette filled your mouth with flavors. The calamari was tender and well-seasoned.
For main entrees, our first was the Laggua Katidyu ($21.95) a whole fresh local parrot fish, deep-fried, then doused with coconut milk, onions, eggplant, and green beans. This was simply heavenly especially when we dipped each piece in the Anchovy Finadene (an incredible taste sensation you have to try to truly understand the unique flavor). There was also a Tuba Finadene served with the fish. The parrot fish literally melted in our mouths. You can also have the fish steamed or just plain fried, if you prefer.
The next main course was vegetarian, Vegetable Pancit ($16.95) which was simply a local-style rice noodle pancit loaded with crisp vegetables. This was not one of my favorites though I know it's there as a consideration for vegetarian diners.
My second main entree was the Tuba-Marinated Lamb Chops ($25.95), tender New Zealand lamb marinated in our local coconut, wine and spicy mustard, served with a spiced tomato cream sauce with saffron essence. These are finger-licking good! Even the fat is so well marinated and seasoned that you don't mind eating it. My only complaint is that there aren't enough - one could eat a couple dozen of these easily!
One of the desserts we had on our last visit was the Bonelos Aga (banana donuts) with whipped cream and ice cream. After a full night of eating, this was a bit too much no matter how delicious.
As you can see, this was a lot of food to cover and it just scratches the surface on Chef Peter's full menus (lunch & dinner), which include Rib Eye Steak with a Red Wine-Pugua (betelnut) reduction, Pork Chops, Baked Salmon, and even live Whole Maine Lobster - all prepared in a variety of interesting and creative ways. Meskla is open 7 days a week, with lunch served from 11am-3pm and dinner from 6-10pm.
Come on down to Meskla Chamoru Fusion Bistro! It's an adventure in discovering local gourmet fusion cuisine!