Guam Diner Bytes: Avenue Steak & Lobster
What a difference a great steak makes, or should I say, a great steak tradition and brand! Yes, the magic word and name is CAB®, or Certified Angus Beef®, which is an assurance that the meat you eat has incredible flavor, is both tender and juicy, with incredible marbling.
I start out his review with these comments because I have experienced a before and after with this restaurant (under previous ownership) and now with a new owner/operator. The previous steak experience I had never written review about on Guam Diner. The steak I had at Avenue recently literally had me howling with glee (slight exaggeration) but I was definitely raving to those within hearing distance.
Avenue also has made another change besides ownership. They have changed chefs, and now have leading their experienced culinary team a dynamic young culinary visionary who was raised on Guam, left the island, went to a culinary school in San Diego and had cooked at Roy’s there. He later cooked Pacific Rim style cuisine in Springfield, Mass. His name is Lingo Quichicho, and I am impressed with what he has done with the new menu (one that actually represents a steak house menu), as well as his ability to restore confidence in what is and should have been a bona fide, high-quality steak house.
The new owners have extensive restaurant ownership and management experience. They are my long-time friends Tom and Magi Kallingal. They have owned K-Steak House, K Seafood, Seafood Chef, and Maharani Indian Restaurant. It’s an ideal combination of talents and experience, and the results are evident in the food you eat!
I want to start with lunch as I did stop by twice for lunch and once for dinner. Avenue Steak & Lobster was previously known as La France, which was an elegant, fine-dining restaurant with European and American cuisine with their primary market being wedding receptions for Japanese tourists. They were open for dinner, with a breakfast and lunch service as well.
The view from the ornate, bird-cage rotunda dining room reveals the life pulse of San Vitores Road below. The adjoining dining room is elegant but lacks the majestic view. For my first lunch visit, I had the pepper steak ($24), which had a New York steak with black peppercorn sauce, garlic fries, mushroom salad , and demi-glace.
The steak was good and worth the money. If you prefer something lighter, they do have salads (the BLT, grilled chicken cob, Caesar, as well as sandwiches, including hoisin glazed short rib, herb crusted rare tuna, cali steak, and a teriyaki burger.)
On my second visit, I was joined by a work colleague and we shared two fabulous dishes, the shrimp curry ($18.50) and the Chamorro barbecue shortribs ($18.50). The shrimp curry was not hot spicy, but it was flavorful, with authentic Indian spices, coconut milk and cilantro. It comes with steamed white rice and red bell pepper and broccoli. There are a fair number of plump juicy shrimp (enough to share). I marveled (as did my colleague) at the tasty rich flavor combinations in that curry sauce. Yum!
The Chamorro barbecue shortribs surprised me with their portions, whch I considered large as they were boneless and meaty. There were two ribs and they were perfectly grilled. The red rice and finedene definitely verified it’s localness!
Chef Lingo’s grilled vegetables enhanced this even more with red and yellow bell peppers, and mushroom, also grilled, and cauliflower and broccoli. Believe it or not, I was full already and we still had some food remaining.
Our dinner was really the game-changer for us. We were served by Gilbert Matienzo, a capable and experienced veteran of the restaurant. We had a lot to order and were joined by Magi in our sampling. We ordered the Classic Caesar Salad ($7), scallops ($15), tuna tartare ($13), potato and leek soup ($8), pan-seared salmon ($35), combination New York and lobster tail ($49), rosemary rack of lamb ($35), and were later surprised with one of Chef Lingo’s dessert creations, a deconstructed funnel cake (not on the menu yet).
The Caesar was perfectly blended and made – everything you wanted in a Caesar with the exception that it wasn’t made in front of you. The Scallops had creamy leeks with a balsamic reduction. The leeks reminded me of a hot slaw and my only suggestion was that there should be more balsamic reduction and maybe a little more salt to enhance the flavor. The scallops were fresh and firm.
The Tuna Tartare is one of those epicurean delights, made with scallions, onion, tobiko, pine nuts, and roasted red pepper aioli. The colorful presentation was appealing. After a few bites, we realized that just a few drops of squeezed lemon juice brought an acidity that sweetened and enhanced the taste.
The Potato and Leek Soup was quite good and had scallions and truffle oil (which elevates any soup or sauce). Zee’s pan-seared salmon had potato, fennel creamed leeks, celery and chowder sauce. It was a full plate of wonderful goodies and I regret not having any more than a piece of the salmon which was quite good.
While we waited and sipped on the Mondavi Private Selection Merlot, I watched a constant procession and flow of servers carrying plateful after plateful of steak and lobster (live lobster) to tables throughout the restaurant. The agents who have brought these tourists know that they are getting a great fine dining experience at Avenue Steak & Lobster. This was definitely not a ramen night for these tourists.
I was wrestling with my main course and was wavering between a porterhouse ($45, for 16 oz.) and a New York 8 oz and lobster tail. Magi kept urging me to try the angus beef tenderloin 6 oz. and half live lobster ($70 on the pre-fixe four course menu). I didn’t know why she was trying to convince me until later.
I did get my New York Steak with demiglace, a beautiful lobster tail (perfectly cooked with the right texture) grilled vegetables, and potatoes gratin (excellent, with some melted cheese). I asked for a Medium Rare steak and I got it! Great! I was working on eating this when Magi asked me to try a bite of her Filet Mignon. She cut me a chunk and I sliced a piece of this (it was fork tender!) and I took a bite. WOW!! EUREKA!!! It was steak Nirvana! How could this filet deliver so much juiciness and flavor in one bite?
I knew I had to have this on my next visit! She said it was their most popular and now I fully and completely understood why. Certified Angus Beef at its best.
As this was a night full of tasting, I was glad we were able to get to sample Avenue’s rosemary rack of lamb (8 oz), which is something I have become quite partial to enjoying lamb. This was served with a delicious parmesan polenta (though the menu said potato). It had a delightfully fresh cooked Kale that was magical, and the chops had a tomato ragout and demiglace with mushrooms. The lamb chops were cooked medium and were very flavorful. We ate as many as we could.
Magi wanted us to meet one of her long-time employees who she calls the grill queen because if anyone could cook any steak to perfection, she is the one. Her name is Sandy Delgado and she is one proud grillmaster! I captured her in a photo with Magi Kallingal and Executive Chef Lingo.
We finished the night with one of Chef Lingo’s dessert experiments - a deconstructed funnel cake, with caramel apples and vanilla ice cream! Oh my – a delightful treat and not at all greasy as funnel cakes tend to be! This was light and airy!
Well, folks, I’ve written a very favorable review of Avenue Steak and Lobster. They haven’t done much in the way of advertising and promotion, and still have some more fine-tuning to do. I know that I will return to eat a fabulous meal – and I use the word “fabulous” to describe the total experience: service, price, quality, taste and ambiance. This place gets both thumbs up high!
Ken “The Guam Food Guy” Stewart