Guam Diner Bytes: Areunda
I heard through the Thai grapevine some time last year (perhaps August or September) that there were several new Thai restaurants opening up. A GuamDiner.com reader contacted me and mentioned that Areunda Thai had opened and that the food was pretty good. That was enough of an endorsement to prompt a lunchtime visit.
Areunda is located on the north wing of the Compadres Mall, next to Community First and Joy’s Restaurant. This spot was formally occupied by the Phoenix Chinese Restaurant. Once inside, you can tell that the new occupants expended a lot of elbow grease to thoroughly remove the old spot’s residue, since Areunda is quite clean as well as spacious, with enough room between tables to allow some element of privacy.
My lunch server, Rose, was busy with another customer when I entered. She brought me a menu after I’d seated myself. It was a limited menu, with Som Tum (Papaya Salad) for $7 and Laab Gai (Chicken Salad) for $8. The Seafood Salad was $10 with Beef Salad being the most expensive at $12. Of the six appetizers on the menu, I opted for the Fresh Lumpia ($7/5 pcs). I bypassed the soups since I was alone and ordered a Combination Pad Thai ($10). I was in the mood for a curry and went for the Green Curry with Pork ($9) medium-heat, the same as I ordered for the Pad Thai. I also ordered a Thai Tea ($2.50).
Areunda has only been open since the latter part of December, though it has been in the works by owners Aaron and Dara Tanoue for more than five years. It is their first restaurant venture, though they had done some plate sales at Chamorro Village’s Wednesday night market a couple of years ago. Perhaps that was part of their market research.
Now it was my turn to do my market research! The Fresh Lumpia were covered with a few sliced chives and chopped nuts, which seemed to offer a color contrast/distraction to their slightly translucent alabaster skin. The peanut dipping sauce had some pepper flakes. I liked the texture of these lumpia as they tasted as though they had been freshly rolled and weren’t all tough and chewy as sometimes happens. The lumpia were filled with vegetables (carrots, bean sprouts, lettuce, rice noodles) and a bit of shrimp. They were light and you could taste and feel everything you put in your mouth. Pretty good.
Then the Green Curry came. Thai basil leaves adorned the top along with red bell pepper, bamboo shoots, green beans, eggplant, cilantro, and pieces of sliced pork that seemed to float in the rich, green-tinted coconut broth. I liked the aroma and portioned some out onto the rice I’d put on my side plate. The first bite didn’t disappoint! It had captured the taste essence I was craving.
Dara is a great Thai cook! She knows her flavors and spices. So, we were three for three in impressing me! I had Rose wrap my three remaining lumpia, Pad Thai, and Green Curry to go.
Rose mentioned they had a special dessert they’d just made and brought out a green tapioca with pandan leaves.There was grated coconut atop this confection, which I dispatched with in short order leaving none to bulutan!
It was after my dessert when I introduced myself to Aaron. He is a really nice guy, and has lived on Guam since the mid-60s as a young boy who used to go surfing out a Rick’s Reef. He is well aware of the risk he and his wife are taking to be in the restaurant business. I know they are both sincere in their commitment. He’s no stranger to hard work and I’m confident they’ll do fine, especially once word of mouth spreads about how good their food is and that it is served a la carte and is not a buffet like their competitor just up Harmon Loop Road.
When I returned to my office I shared the Fresh Lumpia with some office staff. The feedback was positive, although I should mention that my colleague Vivian’s fresh lumpia is incomparable and much better than you’d get in any restaurant.
The Pad Thai I had later that night for dinner along with the Green Curry. The left over Pad Thai packaging was something to behold and I should have photographed it! It was reorganized with chopped nuts in one corner and a fresh lemon wedge in the other. Very thoughtful. When Zee told me the leftover Pad Thai she took for lunch the next day was “pretty alright,” well that sealed the deal and I was taking her to Areunda that Friday night for dinner.
We arrived close to 8pm and were greeted by “T,” our server. We ordered Chicken Wings ($8), Som Tom (Papaya Salad) medium-heat, and an appetizer I had never had before called Saku Sai Mu ($7). For mains, we ordered the Stir Fry Noodle with Pork ($9) medium-heat and the Beef Penang ($11) hot-heat.
The Chicken Wings were fried whole and came with a sweet chili sauce. They were okay.
The Papaya Salad looked treacherous with the red chili peppers glaring up at us! This was an excellent som tom, with lots of flavor sensations at play.
The big surprise for us was the Saku Sai Mu, which are tapioca balls stuffed with pork.Saku means tapioca, Sai means stuffed, and Mu is pork, though there are a lot of ingredients like garlic, peanuts, chives, coriander (cilantro) and fish sauce. The way to eat this is to wrap a ball with a piece of cilantro in one of the butter lettuce leaves. You can bite a chili pepper just before putting the tapioca ball in your mouth. Anyway, this appetizer was fun to eat and we’ll order it again to share with friends.
The Stir Fry Noodles were fresh and filled with a lot of vegetables like baby corn, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, red bell pepper, green onion, carrots, and flat noodles. The pork was interspersed throughout but didn’t dominate. It was a balanced dish.
The final dish was the Beef Penang. This was a beautifully presented dish, the kind you can tell how good it tastes just from looking at it! The Penang curry was perfect and did have some heat. It was so rich and garnished with kaffir lime leaves, which impart a distinctly unique flavor. We really enjoyed this dish. The only thing Zee had trouble with was that the beef was a little tough. It could have used a tenderizer. All in all, the food tastes and flavors were quite good.
Areunda Restaurant is still in its opening phases and will be expanding its menu selections in the future. I hope you find the special dishes I’ve recommended as good as I did.