Guam: Meskla Bistra and Meskla Dos do fusion with no confusion
“Fusion” cuisine has gotten a bad rap in recent years, as restaurants attempt flavor combinations in the name of creativity that ultimately crush the soul out of the cuisines they melded together.
Guam’s native Chamorro cuisine is fusion, but in this case it would be ridiculous if it weren’t.
Guam is America. It was Spain. Its tourist area might as well be Japan, with a bit of the rest of the Asia-Pacific region thrown in.
Guam’s barbecued pork looks like it would be perfectly at home in Missouri, while its Kadun pika (spicy chicken) is close relations to a Filipino chicken adobo.
Then there are the many dishes generally fit for a Latin American kitchen, but spiked with typical Pacific island foods like coconut milk and spam.
The local chain of Meskla restaurants is similarly all over the board, with offerings ranging from a 1-pound cheeseburger to lamb chops marinated in local tuba herbs.
The flagship Meskla Bistro opened in 2009 as something like a fancy-for-Guam Chamorro restaurant. In other words, it’s a place on the island where the diners are actually wearing full-length pants. The restaurant has thrived, leading chef Peter Duenas to open Meskla Dos, a sandwich joint just up the hill from Hotel Row, as well as the beachfront Meskla on the Cove.
The Bistro is where you’ll see lots of families, couples on dates and a business lunch or two. It’s also the most likely place to find something you’ve probably never tried before. The savory cheesecake, which fused the texture of the dessert with flavors reminiscent of quiche, was my first experience with the restaurant a few years ago.
Alas, it wasn’t on the ever-changing menu during a recent trip. Some of the bistro’s mainstays include their St. Louis-style ribs and other barbecue meats, but I decided to go the seafood route this time.
The stuffed calamari are nothing like the fried rings of rubber doused in marinara made ubiquitous by stateside chains. They’re small squid, stuffed with shrimp and chorizos, along with a chili oil kick. The flavors work well with a beer; absent the drink, I found them a little salty.
Up next was La’gua, or parrotfish. Available steamed, fried or with an Asia-inspired Chamorro Ka’diyu sauce, the fish is a hefty portion. I went with the less interesting but more healthful steamed version. The fish flaked off the way it should at the touch of the fork, offering a firm texture and a light flavor, though not so light that you wouldn’t know it was fresh fish.
Quality fish doesn’t need much seasoning. Neither did this one, though here I thought they went a touch heavier with the pepper than I’d prefer.
For dessert, I ordered the young coconut pie. If your first thought is “Yum, young coconut pie,” you’ll be very happy eating this one.
Service at restaurants in Guam doesn’t have the best reputation, but Meskla Bistro’s was friendly and attentive. It’s a clear point of emphasis at the Bistro, and even at the takeout counter of the sandwich shop Meskla Dos.
Dos is very popular on ratings website Yelp and not far from the tourist hordes, so expect a line at lunch.
While hamburgers and barbecue plates make up most of the menu, if I had to choose just one entree, it would be the Uhang (shrimp) Burger. It’s a 6-ounce panko-fried shrimp patty with a flavorful tartar sauce on a fresh bun. The only thing I have to compare it to is the shrimp sandwich at McDonald’s in Japan, which is sad, because it’s like comparing prime steak to, well, a McDonald’s hamburger.
The Rancheru Burger is a nice twist on the everyday burger, with its fried egg, bacon and spicy ranch sauce topping. My only complaint is that the patty was cooked medium-well, absent any stated preference. Let them know if you’d like it less done, and you’ll have a very satisfying meal.
Address: 130 E. Marine Corps Drive Ste. B103, Agana, Guam 96910
Hours: Weekdays 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sat. 5:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.; Sun. 9 a.m.-2 p.m. brunch
Prices: Entrees in the $20-$25 range for dinner.
Information: (671) 479-2652/3; firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 413 A&B N. Marine Corps Dr., Tamuning, Guam 96931
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Prices: Most sandwiches and barbecue $7-12
Information: (671) 646-6295; http://mesklaguam.com