Guam Diner Bytes: Caravel Restaurant & Grill

by Ken Stewart
The Guam Food Guy

Dear Guam Food Guy reader,

Did you know that the name Caravel describes a revolutionary sailing ship developed by the Portuguese for use in the 15th and 16th Centuries? Now that I know this factoid, I can relate to the nautical themes and maritime impressions I get when dining in the Caravel Restaurant & Grill, which seems to have undergone a revolution of its own recently.

It can all be attributed to the culinary passion and expertise of Caravel’s Chef de Cuisine, Naoki Takahashi, who has launched a fabulous selection of set menus promoting seasonal tastes aimed at satisfying the cravings and appetites of local diners.

I had the privilege of taste-testing Chef Takahashi’s European fusion creations this week and was joined by Aileen L., a fellow foodie who is also a wine vendor. There are four different courses, with two (A and B) priced at $75.00 per person and the other two (C and D) going for $50 and $40 respectively. Dinner does include dessert, coffee and bread, and prices are subject to a 10% service charge.

For this review, we sampled elements from all the courses, which included seafood mains (lobster and salmon) as well as ribeye steak, grilled leg of lamb, and sautéed chicken. The chef and his team have done a wonderful job of putting together what I believe is their best effort to date to cater to a local market that wants more value for their money. In this case, I consider the value of the portion size, which is bigger than the typical Japanese meal.

First to the table came the seafood marinade, which is a visually appealing plating with three clusters of seafood (mussels, shrimp, scallops and squid) with “ikura” (salmon roe) in small piles next to a dot of dill sauce.

The seafood was layered on iceberg lettuce and I thought this was a portion to be shared, which is what we did. Yet this serving is what ONE PERSON gets, and it’s a lot! It is also quite delicious, with fresh tastes of tender seafood pieces that were mostly intact.

We had another menu feature, which is the green salad with roast duck. This was another tasty dish that is sharable and substantial. We were then brought out a hot toasted roll that came with two pats of different seasoned butter. One was basil and the other was tomato. The roll was as good as they get.

Next came our soup course, which was a cream of mushroom soup. These may vary between mushroom and potato. Shiitake mushrooms were used to make this delicious, flavorful soup, that’s laced with truffle oil. While I was eating it, I thought I was seeing things as the bowl seemed to have more soup than is normally served. Think local! Heck, that soup and a roll could almost be a meal itself!

Next in our sampling came the sauteed salmon with capers, which is a hot appetizer for the Course A menu. This is served with mixed greens and garnished with fresh dill. The salmon is drizzled with a lemon butter sauce. The delicate salmon was cooked right, which is notable as many tend to overcook salmon.

This still had moisture and the meat was light and flaky. We’d been drinking Acqua Panna mineral water up to this point when it was suggested we try a Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc! That was Robert’s flagship creation and caused a sensation in the wine world.

The next course was grilled lobster with garlic tomato. These are small lobster tails that are teased with this garlic tomato blend. The tails come with a salad and lemon wedge.

Now was the beginning of the three meats, with the first being the grilled lamb chops, the main entree for Course C dinner! These were quite appealing, with the requisite grill marks; these were cooked medium and quite tender. They were seasoned and came with a red wine sauce and roasted potato cubes. A sprig of fresh Rosemary crowned the trio of chops! I had to use my fingers to eat these tasty grilled lamb treats!

The ribeye steak was swathed in a thick onion butter and flagged by a sprig of rosemary. It also had a rich red wine sauce that is so tasty (Chef Takahashi loves his sauces!).

The last protein we had was from the D menu, which is the sauteed chicken with the herb bread crumbs. Again, this is a portion of meat that should be shareable. It was a really well-cooked chicken thigh that was juicy and had the crunchiness from the toasted bread crumbs. I should confess that we did have a little more sharing support from Tora-san, our host and the assistant manager. If he hadn’t been doing some of the sampling, we wouldn’t have gotten this far!

So now let’s end with dessert (no room for coffee). We a plate of two types of cheese cake and another cake – none of these were sweet like Western desserts. They were light and blended well with the vanilla cream sauce and strawberry coulis.

After all of this eating, it’s a wonder we were able to stand up and walk out of there, but not before thanking Chef Takahashi for a wonderful gastronomic adventure! The food was innovative and fresh, as well as surpassing our expectations.

Try Caravel’s new seasonal tasting menus by Chef Takahashi!

Bon appetit!

Ken “The Guam Food Guy” Stewart

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