Islander Terrace Theme Nights
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
The Islander Terrace theme nights started in February, 2001, and have been successful in developing a loyal following for each of the different buffet "performances." It may appear a little grandiose to use what would normally refer to a theatrical expression, however, I truly believe that the F&B team has made a concerted effort to "stage" distinct and individual culinary productions to reflect each separate theme. This especially applies to evenings when the decor is modified to represent that evening's particular theme. Although the physical decorations are pleasant and help to set a mood, the real focus is on the food, with some dishes showing true artistic creativity in their preparation and presentation. Achieving food quality and offering value is targeted and accomplished each night, and diners are overwhelmed by the number of selections available.
Take the "Sizzling Night" for example. In the buffet line, a warm spinach salad was prepared for me that was made with minced garlic, fresh mushrooms and real bacon bits. Appetizers included couscous, curried baked fish, macaroni prawn salad, salmon string bean salad, fresh oysters, mussels and shrimp, and salmon sushi rolls. I even had a quesadilla stuffed with artichoke and cheese. This was already a lot of food to eat, with more choices not mentioned. However, I was "stunned" when I saw my main course delivered, which happened to be the Seafood Combo (Lobster Tail, Grilled Mahi, and Scallops). It was an entire meal on a hot platter! In addition to the seafood, there was a baked potato, baked stuffed tomato, and steamed zucchini and carrot sticks. Lemon Soya Butter Sauce was poured slowly over the seafood and caused more sizzling excitement. I looked around at my neighbors and saw one with a sizeable Rib Eye Steak and others having the Seafood Combo. It appeared these diners were as impressed by the size of their portions as I was. For the Chicken and Steak selections, diners have a choice of Teriyaki, Pepper, and Mushroom sauces. The lobster was very sweet and had the perfect texture. The scallops were plump, and melted in my mouth. The medium-sized baked potato was cooked just right. The baked stuffed tomato was a joy to eat, topped by toasted bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. This was good eating, and I'm not even mentioning the desserts.
Tuesday's buffet is quite popular since the Asian theme appeals to a cross-section of local residents, many of whom are Asian. Large wooden Japanese boats boast full decks of sushi and sashimi. Bowls of ramen and miso soup are custom made with fresh ingredients including chicken, egg, fish cake, scallions, and pork rind. A shrimp tempura station cooks up a constant supply of shrimp, onions, carrots, and eggplant. A curry station sports several types of curries, from seafood, beef to chicken. In addition to the roast duck and char siu pork, there are many other meat treatments, such as roast chicken, beef broccoli, fish skewers, pork spare-ribs in BBQ sauce, and Roast Lamb. The appetizer buffet is replete with a variety of salad creations with some kimchees and other spiced/marinated vegetable dishes. Desserts are colorfully and artfully displayed on risers, with cakes, mousses, jello, cream and fruit tarts, jelly rolls dusted with coconut flakes, custard merangues, local banana lumpia, young coconut crepes, and ice creams.
Wednesday's Epicurean Theme brings an appealing sense of style and refinement to this buffet's gastronomic fare, featuring some unusual creations such as an artichoke stuffed calzone with a special sauce. Two large mahi mahi are warmed atop a broiler grate, and have choices of three toppings- savory curry, spicy cajun, and flavorful marinara sauces. Other selections were Hungarian Goulash, Baked Sea Bass, Salmon Mousse crepes, Sea Bass with Bok Choy and Laksa Sauce, Poached Egg wth Asparagus, Roast Duck, Red Pepper with vegetable couscous, and Kakiyagi (vegetable tempura). One particular item that caught my eye was a bundled fresh vegetable pack, which was a collection of fresh asparagus, celery, carrots, radish, zucchini, and cucumber that are held together by a red bell pepper ring. This is dipped in a creamy Ranch-style dressing.
Chef Durliat's French Night on Thursday converts the Islander Terrace into Guam's largest French Restaurant. There are far too many items for me to list in this review, however, the fresh frog legs are a sight to behold as they are sautéed at a cooking station on the buffet line, and several escargot serving dishes are heated on an iron griddle. I was able to convince a few local customers to venture into attempting their first taste of frog legs...which they finally enjoyed! The Hilton's serving dishes are artfully designed and colored to display natural earth colors, complementing the fantastic salad preparations. The gelatinous terrines are rarities on Guam and it's a treat to see several types displayed, with vegetables and seafood ingredients. The paté is well-blended and rich tasting. More interesting dishes are the Trite (trout) Au Amands, Pommes Williams, Coq au Vin, and that exceptional Pacific Seafood Bouillabaisse. For desserts, the Poires Au Vin Rouge (pears poached in red wine) were a special treat, with other fresh-fruit based desserts filling the table, along with whipped cream creations, cakes, and pastries. I think the French dessert display is their most elaborate and creative.
Friday and Saturday theme nights are easier to visualize for resident diners, since Seafood and Prime Rib are the central draws and fairly straight-forward. What should be emphasized is the volume, the variety, and the quality of the available selections, especially seafood. Yellow fin tuna, salmon, mahi mahi, swordfish, red snapper, lapu lapu, parrot fish, shrimp, prawns, crab legs, snow crab, oysters, mussels, octopus, squid, and lobster are usually displayed in one or more forms of preparation. The appetizer buffet and dessert selections are large and impressive. Hilton's bread display has also been constant every night, with fresh-baked whole wheat rolls and loaves, baguettes, French bread, and pumpernickel are among those available for your dining pleasure.
Sunday's Island Fiesta theme night certainly shows off Guam's culinary melting pot of diverse food creations that have both Spanish and Asian influences. One interesting treat I had recently was a stalk of lemongrass in my iced tea. That was a nice touch, and the flavor was pleasingly different than just a lemon slice. Although most food items are easily identified by locals, it might be a good idea to label some of the dishes for visitors. After all, how would you explain Kadon Pika or Arroz Caldo to some one just in from Nebraska? The roast pig was succulent, and several sauces are available for dipping. I was also very impressed with the amount of chicken in the Arroz Caldo. The chicken was boiled to a "melt-in-your mouth" perfection. I had a palate-cooling salad dish that was made with sliced asparagus and artichoke hearts. The prime rib and roast chicken provided familiar options for those wanting less spicy meats, since most of the meat dishes were seasoned or in spicy sauces. Among the desserts were some local favorites, such as pumpkin turnovers and banana fritters.
The Hilton's Islander Terrace offers Guam's diners seven distinctly unique and interesting dinner buffet themes, with specialty dish preparations made for each theme. The appetizer buffet offers a complementary service to the theme dishes, providing diners with one of Guam's largest dinner buffet selections, and certainly Guam's most varied! Try Hilton Guam Resort and Spas' Islander Terrace theme night dinner - you'll appreciate discovering its value!