Guam Diner Bytes: An amazing feast of flavors!
When I first wrote about Tapanade during my “sneak peak” in January 2014, I was greatly impressed by the sophistication and style of Tapanade, both for its ambitious menu and avante garde ambiance. I’m a sucker for art and their larger than life Picasso re-prints captured my mind. We hadn’t had a decent tapas experience (in the Spanish tradition) ever since Le Tasi Bistro closed. The “sneak peak “was just a preview to a review I never did and when I did return in June for a special dinner celebration with off-island friends, Carmelo & Renee Lafata, we had a dinner comprised of only tapas that had just been introduced in the new menu. Today’s review incorporates food photos from the June tapas dinner and this past Wednesday night’s entree tasting event! I want to thank Aileen and JoAnne who joined Zee and me on this latest menu sampling.
Tapanade has several dining areas, one upstairs, one downstairs in the same room with their elongated, well-stocked bar (where you can also dine), and an outdoors patio dining area that is semi-enclosed (covered) and separated with a perimeter fence. This multi-dining set-up makes it seem like you are in three different restaurants! True to their name (and Spanish influence) Tapanade boasts an array of exciting beverage concoctions, with their signature Sangrias guaranteed to quench your thirst (they offer a red and white Sangria). Other exotic must-try beverages are their mojito selection, which includes an awesomely refreshing Sake Mojito. Tapanade boasts a broad wine selection and their mixologist bartenders will skillfully create whatever you crave.
The mastermind behind the food creations at Tapanade is Chef Cliff Takano. His partner, Jae Ji, worked on the elaborate design and construction of this masterpiece bistro/cafe/bar. Their combined vision has made Tapanade an exciting and dynamic culinary destination for foodies and bon vivants who are searching for something beyond the norm. Although we didn’t eat everything on the menu, we did give Tapanade an extensive tasting as you can see from the photos, which include 10 Tapas selections (these are served from 11 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. daily).
Tapanade’s Fried Calamari ($9.00), is among the more creative and tasty I’ve had. They are specially seasoned, dipped in hominy and fried to perfection. They are tossed in a spicy pineapple sauce and are drizzled with a garlic aioli sauce, then topped with Mango salsa! Talk about flavor variety!
We had two different salads. First was the Garden Salad ($7), which uses Tri-Head Lettuce with Yellow Grape Tomato, Sliced Red Onion, Blue Cheese Crumbles and Fresh Seasonal Fruit, all tossed in a Champagne Vinaigrette. Our second salad we shared was the House Salad ($5), which has Tri-head Lettuce, Yellow Grape Tomato, Sliced Red Onion and a dressing choice (we had the Lemon Myers Caesar). The freshness of ingredients was complemented by intriguing dressings you don’t get everyday!
Our next tapas dish had the look, feel, and name of a traditional “tapas” selection - Rabo de Toro Con Chorizo ($10), which is slow-braised Oxtail with Chorizo Sausage, Mushroom and Olives. This is accompanied by toasted French bread. The beauty of tapas dining is sharing and enjoying with wine or a beverage of your choice. The tenderness of the oxtail and flavor combination of the sauce and chorizo was wonderful (could have had more!).
Another tasty tapas treat was the Stuffed Dates ($7), which are Bacon-wrapped Dates stuffed with Chorizo and topped with Crumbled Blue Cheese, Red Wine Reduction and Chili Oil. Again, amazing tastes and intense, rich flavors! It’s a bacon-lover’s dream date!
Moving on, a must-try tapas dish at Tapanade is the Poke Basket ($12), which has fresh Ahi Poke, Mango Salsa, and Green Onion Aioli all perched on a cute little Wonton Baskets. The fresh side greens and vinaigrette add to the overall appeal of this creation.
We had the Denanche Burger Sliders ($10), which are a local favorite. Who doesn’t like a spicy burger grilled to your liking with Garlic Aioli and Caramelized Onions on soft-toasted Pretzel buns? Yumm!
During the June dinner we were served the Ratatouille Paella, ($9 for 1-2 & $32 for 4-6). Actually, we had ordered the smaller version and somehow the order came out with the larger portion. It was pretty good (especially for vegetarians), but impossible to eat this much!! The other Paella has chicken and chorizo, and I will have to try that one in the future.
Being a rib lover I had to try the Chipotle Baby Back Ribs ($10, spicy). These four pork ribs are basted in a Chipotle BBQ Sauce and come with Coleslaw. They are thick, tender and meaty, and sharable. Not as spicy as some can eat, though!
There are some things you eat that are irresistible. Tapanade’s Truffle Fries ($7) are one of those goodies! Imagine, Truffle Oil and Parmesan Reggiano on Fries! Try one...and see what happens!
The epicurean gourmet award goes to the final tapas selection we had, which was the Roasted Bone Marrow ($11.00). Perhaps an acquired taste (like escargot is) this exquisite creation has seasoned bone marrow that’s roasted on a grill and drizzled in a Chimichurri Sauce, then topped with fried capers. You add this to a slice of grilled bread and “voila” - it’s an indescribable pleasure that must be rooted in our primordial code! It is a hugely popular dish at Tapanade!!
We now move on to the entrees we selected for dinner. Our first was the Asian Pesto Salmon ($25), which has Steamed Salmon in a glorious Asian Pesto Sauce served on a bed of Mesclun Mix Tempura, Mushroom Ragu and comes with a side of Steamed Rice. I have to share with you the various sounds that were being made when this dish was tasted! Audible moans of pleasure could be heard at the surrounding tables! The tempura was ingenious (lettuce was fried as tempura!!) Delicious !! As was broccoli). The tender Salmon combined beautifully with that Asian Pesto sauce (which evoked the unique flavor of Chinese cold ginger chicken). Great dish and beautifully plated!
If you thought the table noise was audible from the salmon, you would be amazed by the “yum yum” sounds we made from the Basa Loco Moco ($20) that came next! Imagine, a Lightly-Seasoned Basa topped with a Fried Egg, then drizzled with a Garlic Butter Sauce, layered over a Vegetable Hay Stack on a bed of Garlic Rice! I don’t think I’ve had better prepared or tasting basa! This really was an exceptional seafood dish using what many take for granted-basa! It’s what Chef Cliff did with the basa that made this world of difference! This was also a marvelous food art presentation! Picasso would have enjoyed eating here and playing with his food no doubt!
For you meat lovers (I should clarify this is BEEF), the next two entrees are both home-runs! The BAM BAM ($27) is a Fall-off-the-Bone Braised Short Ribs with Truffle Mash Potato and Sauteed Local Vegetable Hay Stack. Fork tender, flavorful and marvelously conceived, this is one of those dream dishes that you have on special occasions. It would actually make any meal a special occasion! Definitely a portion that’ll satisfy some of our island’s heartier appetites (who don’t get their fill from tapas)!
The final and crowning achievement (in my opinion) was the Tomahawk ($48), which is a humongous 20 oz. Ribeye with bone-in, grilled how you like it, with Sauteed Locally grown Vegetables, Garlic mash Potatoes and a Bordelaise Sauce. This was the ultimate ending for our amazing food odyssey! I still recall my first slice and bite. I had to close my eyes to fully appreciate the sensory overload this brought. This is one of the times when I really love the work I do when taste causes an emotional reaction. Our foursome, as full as we were, still made short work of this dream steak. I even picked up the bone for some final cleaning. This should be a signature dish of Tapanade if it isn’t already!
As a sign of appreciation for our visit the staff at Tapanade served us a dessert platter of items not on the menu. The lemon meringue tart was decadent, and the cream puff was dreamy. These were appreciated in return (they disappeared!). The service at Tapanade is on point. These folks take pride in where they work and the great food and beverage experience they extend to their guests. I will definitely return to try more of these amazing food innovations at Tapanade Tapas & Sangria!
Ken “The Guam Food Guy” Stewart