Chuan Fu Chinese Restaurant - Another Hidden Treasure In Tumon
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Located on the 2nd floor of Tumon's Central Bldg., across San Vitores Rd. from the Grand Hotel and on the corner of the street which takes you to the Fujita Hotel, the Chuan Fu Chinese Restaurant has (for the past two years) been quietly preparing some of the tastiest a la carte Chinese food I've had in a while. Why do I say "quietly"? Well, for one thing this restaurant is not listed in the Yellow Pages nor the 2001 GBN Restaurant Guide (both sources I refer to at times to research dining choices), and another is the fact that they don't do any advertising (other than word of mouth). How did I find out about this modest place that is devoid of all the red, gold and black decorations and ornate lighting fixtures typically found on the walls and ceilings of "fancy" Chinese restaurants? I was invited by a reputable "authority" on good Chinese cuisine - Alice Chou, owner of Victory Sporting Goods, and an active member of the Chinese Merchant's Association, and who is the coordinator for next week's (August 26) Chinese Gourmet Cooking Contest to be held at the Hyatt Regency. We were accompanied by "Doc" (my visiting globe-trotting dad) and Alice's friend, Julie Hwa.
Doc & I were first to arrive after finding Chuan Fu (just follow the signs in the corridor), and upon entering saw good friend and restaurateur, Frank Toves (Sam Choy's GM) sitting at a window-side table that was filled with several Chinese dishes. A regular customer, this was his second visit to Chuan Fu in a week, and he told me I'd have to try the Honey Walnut Shrimp, which he said was one of the best on island. I met James, one of the owners, and we were seated. I was surprised that I'd not been here before. After all, I've been to this building numerous times, since it houses one of my favorite Japanese restaurants, Izakaya Katsu (the "Green Door", on the 3rd floor). The view from the large window comprising an entire wall spanned northwards, and included the Hyatt, the SlingShot ride, Tumon Sands Plaza and the verdant hills of Tumon
Events moved rapidly once Alice arrived and she took charge of the ordering after we'd mentioned a few dishes we wanted to try. The first menu I saw was Chuan Fu's Lunch Specials (there are 45 items with the prices ranging from $5.95 - $8.50, with this highest entree being the Honey Walnut Shrimp. The lunch specials also include soup of the day. However, Alice ordered from the regular menu which had larger portion dishes at a higher price (the Beef w/Black Bean Sauce cost $9.50 vs. the lunch special price of $5.95). I clearly remember when this first entree arrived...it was a beautiful sizzling platter full of glistening red and green bell peppers, onions, carrots, chunks of sautéed beef, and cabbage, all draped in a savory black bean sauce. I still remember the stimulation of my taste buds as my anticipation increased. Next to arrive was a giant platter piled with green Kang Kong that was stir-fried with fresh garlic slices. The fragrance emanating from this steaming vegetarian treat further taunted my appetite.
Our conversation (which by the way, was truly an experience in cultural education, with Alice sharing pearls of Chinese wisdom, insights on life, and extolling the virtues of living on an island with so much cultural diversity that was openly exchanged) turned to the food on the table. Both the Beef and Kang Kong were as good tasting as they looked. As we ate, the Shredded Pork with Pressed Tofu arrived ($12.50). This was an intriguing combination of ingredients, with tofu strips, celery, mushrooms, carrots, onions, pork strips, bamboo, and a preserved, semi-sour root with a straw mushroom-like appearance and chewy texture. The blending of these varied ingredients and sauce proved to be a continuous source of gustatory pleasure throughout the lunch, with the flavors becoming even more pronounced as the dish cooled. Then the platter with the Honey Walnut Shrimp arrived. They were definitely one of the highlights, since they tend to be everyone's favorite at most Chinese restaurants. I can't say they were the best I've ever had, but they were certainly worthy contenders and I'll wager you will not be disappointed.
The next delivery was one of Alice's favorites (ours too), which was the Ma Po Tofu. This dish was full of the spicy pork, tofu, and slices of red pepper blended in that distinctly spiced Szechuan sauce. I find it easier to eat this with steamed rice to "cut" the spiciness. There are four tofu dishes on the menu, and I look forward to trying the Tofu with Crab Meat ($13.50) someday. A large bowl of Combination Won Ton Soup was put on the increasingly crowded table. The won ton dumplings were freshly-made and were more flavorful than most won ton I've had, due to Chuan Fu's using their own recipe. The soup was good, filled with shrimp, chicken, squid and pachoy.
We constantly sipped on hot Oolong Tea during this feast, which certainly aided our digestion. Jing, who is the sister of James, and co-owner of Chuan Fu, came over to our table several times to check on us and see how we were doing. She was very glad to know that "the Guam Food Guy" was enjoying their food. Chuan Fu is open every day from 11:00 am - 3:00 pm for lunch, and 5:30 - 11:00 pm for dinner. Their phone number is 649-6890.
Doc & I were both astonished when the final entree was placed in the center of the table. It was a medium-sized steamed Tilapia in ginger sauce with green onions. Alice expertly cut through this steaming fish and placed several portions on our plates. It was light, delicate, and very flavorful. Alice told us that the underbelly of the fish was the part that wealthy people particularly enjoyed. I thought all of the fish was good, however, I could relate to what she was saying about the belly, since the meat's texture is softer and flavor is richer.
Eating at Chuan Fu Chinese Restaurant was a pleasant surprise since it was my first time and exceeded my expectations - the cooks did a remarkable job preparing these dishes so that everything was always fresh, hot, and tasty. Alice shared one final morsel of Chinese philosophy, saying that Chinese people "live to eat." With food as good and healthy as the Chinese have been preparing for hundreds of centuries, I can appreciate their motivation and passion for food!