Guam Diner Bytes: Tapanade Tapas & Sangria
Although I usually don’t write about brand new restaurants so as to give them time to work out their start-up issues, I make exceptions when I feel that that the restaurant offers a totally unique and interesting experience for diners. I was invited to do a pre-opening food tasting at Tapanade (located on the corner of the Agana Shopping Center that used to house Java Junction). Tapanade has grown out of the box (space) that they replaced. They have an upstairs dining area (also that’s the location for the kitchen). The ground floor level, where Zee & I sat, has a very large bar as well as dining tables. Tapanade is a place for foodiesl! They definitely have created an entirely unique culinary vision which delivers on the promise to serve genuine “tapas”. The last time we had a serious tapas line-up was at Le Tasi Bistro.
From the moment you walk in the door, you are impressed by a cozy sophistication that welcomes you to sit either at the bar (the bartenders are spot on with their mixology skills) or at a table. There are TV monitors behind the bar but they are muted. Music will be playing in the background. Tapanade boasts a wine and spirits selection that rivals the top hotel restaurants. I was very impressed with how well the owners, Cliff Takano and Jae Ji, have transformed an empty shell into what could possibly become Guam’s new hot spot for happy hour and “lite” dining.
We were limited to test out only two items off the pre-opening menu. After being seated, we were given the menus and began perusing what looked like an endless wine list! The staff recommended we try some of their beverage concoctions (these we had to pay for) such as their White Sangria ($7). This was actually really tasty and refreshing. We didn’t try the Red Sangria, however we did have one of the Sake Mojitos, which was an unexpected surprise! I can see drinking our way through their beverage creations on future visits.
Zee ordered the Roasted Beet Salad ($8), which is made with mixed greens, cheese fritters, and drizzled with a Sherry vinaigrette, as well as the Grilled Artichoke ($7) that consisted of artichoke hears, roasted red pepper, and garlic aioli, all placed atop toasted French bread . My order was the Pulled Pork Sliders ($9),and the Gazpacho with Grilled Shrimp ($7). While we waited for our sample orders, we were given a starter tray of their special bread popovers, which are very similar to those popover muffins you get with that British classic, Yorkshire pudding. This came with an herbed garlic butter spread.
The Grilled artichoke was quite tasty (good for vegetarians) and I found the Beet Salad to be a refreshing change from your typical salads. The Pulled Pork Sliders were excellent. They are served on a Pretzel Roll and have a zesty BBQ Sauce and Asian Coleslaw.
The Gazpacho was just plain yummy. Gazpacho is a Spanish Tomato Soup that is served Cold .They really have worked the right combination of fresh ingredients to get the right blend! The Grilled Shrimp (there was just one) had that unique flame-grilled taste. One of our neighbors was eating a Kitifi Shrimp (2 pcs - $6, 4 pcs - $11), which has shrimp was wrapped in shredded Filo with a spicy Pineapple sauce. Other menu items include Stuffed Dates (Bacon-wrapped Dates, Chorizo, Blue Cheese, Red Wine Reduction, Chili Oil , Poke Napoleon, Albondiga, and Rosa Lengua de Ternera (Beef Tongue)). They have a children’s menu as well as desserts. I can’t wait to return to this exceptional new eatery with bite-size portions!
I had been craving a good steak for a while and finally was able to have it at Al Dente. I didn’t want just any steak, I wanted the Certified Angus Beef Porterhouse Steak, and I had notice that they had one on the Al Dente dinner menu. Now I do have a history with Al Dente and steaks, since I had glorified the C.A.B. Steak Promotion that then Al Dente Chef de Cuisine, Mirko Agostini, had launched years back. Mirko is now the Hyatt’s Executive Chef so my reason for coming to Al Dente again was for sentimental reasons and because I was “hungry” for a great steak!
Now for those who have yet to have dinner at Al Dente, you will soon discover that they will put something in front of you that is simply irresistible --- pizza bread! My goodness, I don’t know how to stop eating these heavenly slices of fresh baked doughy pizza slices with melted cheese on top and accompanied by a marinara/aioli dipping sauce that makes you feel like singing “dippity do da” while you munch away!