Guam Diner Bytes: Papa's
Papa’s had been open for over three months and I wanted to wait until things settled there and they worked out their service and operational issues, which is something all new restaurants experience. Well in the case of Papa’s, they had a lot more to overcome than just being a new restaurant. They had to deal with the high expectations and pre-conceptions of a dining public looking for a fine-dining steakhouse.
I am glad I waited until I did since I was able to come to the conclusion that all of the negative comments I had heard should not deter me from finding out for myself. I also believe that I can honestly recommend Papa’s as a place with amazing possibilities and outcomes.
For my review I was joined by two colleagues, Mark L. and Jo-Anne Q., both of whom have been expanding their culinary diversity by hanging out with me (not sure if it’s going to be good for their diets!). It’s best to have others share a meal of this magnitude as it gives us the opportunity to sample a variety of their menu selections.
The first thing you notice about Papa’s when you walk through their entranceway is the warm feeling you get when greeted by a smiling face, or two, or three! They have learned the secret Sam Walton came across by having effective greeters at his Walmart stores. The floor on the entranceway has a beautiful inlaid compass rendering, which can symbolize the many directions you can take as you take a culinary tour of Papa’s menu.
The dining room is enormous and spacious, almost hall-like, with a distance spanning over a hundred feet to the back wall. Then there’s the window with that unparalleled panorama of Guam like you’ve never seen before unless you are flying or sitting in a seat at Papa’s! Gosh, it is breathtaking and no one can deny that this key strategic attraction in this restaurant’s arsenal of features.
I’ve been here long enough to remember the sense of empowerment one would get from dining at the Top of The Reef! Well Papa’s overlooks the Reef and all of the others lining the horizon! I could come here just for the view! I will even be sure to make a reservation for a window seat when I’m looking to treat my lady to a romantic evening! An aqua marine canal spans the entire length of the ocean-view window and outside deck and emanates a spa like aura! A magical design element!
It is also apparent that a considerable investment was made to furnish and accouter the interior, including the vast amount of woodwork, light fixtures, doors, and paneling. It is well -constructed and has a sophisticated, yet inviting appeal – comforting and not off-putting in the way some fine dining restaurants can behave. This place has a genuine desire to welcome all, young and old, and more to the point, families!
There is an entire section of the restaurant that can accommodate some of Guam’s larger family groups, some of which roll pretty deep! Another room has the most amazing lounge with a long bar (good for watching sporting events, something the owners value). The night of our review was on a Wednesday, so it was a rather light evening with many people opting to go to Chamorro Village’s Night Market. It is possible that a full house would significantly ramp up the acoustics!
Well enough of the “fluff”– let’s get to the “stuff”! We started off with some Pellegrino and Pinot Grigio for the appetizers we ordered, which included the steamed Manila clams ($10) - cooked with Chinese sausage, anise butter, pickled onions and comes with grilled bread. We also ordered (on our server Danny’s recommendation) the watermelon salad ($9), that features confit cherry tomatoes, Mozzarella and cucumber dressing. This truly refreshes and surprises the palate - something everyone should try.
We ordered the calamari fries ($9) that are drowned in a sweet chili glaze on a bed of cabbage slaw. We were told by Danny that we could order this appetizer with the chili sauce on the side. I wasn’t too fond of these; the texture didn’t appeal to me as I’m used to more crunch to my chew. The shredded cabbage slaw on this dish is a winner that would make anything better.
The achote corndogs ($13) are made with lobster sausage and tobiko aioli. This is almost a “you gotta be kidding me” dishes, however, not only does it play on our childhood love of the old corndogs, it jumps it up a notch with an intriguing blend of flavors that leaves you craving for another bite.
Being a wing fanatic I had to try their Honey Sesame Wings ($9) that are cooked with roasted peanuts and scallions. I liked the rich flavor of these wings, and would rather have more “heat” than sweet.
For the main course, Jo Anne opted for the grilled rack of lamb ($43), which boasts two double cut portions, and served with 2 sides and 1 sauce. Papa’s, like a true steak house offers diners a choice of tasty sauces including Papa’s Steak Sauce, green peppercorn sauces, Bearnaise sauce, maple jus, porcini cream, chimichurri sauce. The rack of lamb was quite good – cooked medium and succulent. I had my portion with my green peppercorn sauce. I think the other sauce was Papa’s.
Mark had the Guihan Palakse’, Steamed Parrot Fish Nizakana Style ($23), served with blistered peppers, shimeji mushrooms and chili oil. This simmered dish is also an unusual and enticing treatment for our parrotfish. Nice!
I should mention that some of the sides we shared included roasted brussels sprouts, roasted garlic potato puree, truffle French fries, and veggie fried rice. Though all of these were palatable and good tasting complements to the entrees we shared, the truffle French fries were the biggest hit, exciting our palates in an addictive way.
My choice for the main course was the Prime Porterhouse ($65), which was 24 oz. of prime certified angus beef. I ordered this medium rare and when it came out and I sliced through it was just slightly overdone, still pink with some red meat. However, the flavor and the taste of the steak was what one expects from this highly regarded and regulated steak.
Where so many other steaks are okay, this steak gives you that “a ha!” experience! I ate this (and shared some) and still had plenty enough left over for a breakfast a few days later. I re-thermalized it and fell in love with it all over again (had that delectable green peppercorn sauce).
As much as we enjoyed our wining and dining, I want to give kudos to the service team (our server Danny was there most of the time) and when he wasn’t he was covered by other team members. It seemed that we just had to think about something and someone would show up – must be some new kind of telecommunication service!
Also, I wanted to honor and acknowledge Papa’s executive chef, Ted Cipollone, whose inventive creations are show-cased throughout the menu. This restaurant was like a blank canvas, and the executive chef is the culinary artist tasked with the job of creating memorable masterpieces. Based on what we tasted, I’d say he’s done a pretty decent job and I believe things will get even better.
Finally, the man who needs no introduction to most of Guam’s masses is Frank Toves, general manager, who is a reputable foodservice manager with a lot of local connections. Frank is definitely the impresario who can energize an F&B team. The prospects for Papa’s are better than good as it is a vision based on the love for food and family – something intrinsic to the foundation of this restaurant. It’s no franchise. It’s a local landmark.