Guam Diner Bytes: Katre Bistro

by Ken Stewart
Guam Food Guy

Foodies Rejoice! Awesome! Magnificent! Divine! The superlatives seem to come from all directions when it comes to Katre Bistro. There’s no doubt that Katre Bistro has in a very short time period inserted itself into Guam’s dining scene “Buzz Circuit” as the “Go To” place to eat! Barely open for just three months and still operating off their soft opening menu, Katre Bistro’s overnight success can be attributed to a lifetime of work achieved by Chef/owner Roxs Cailao, who has developed his culinary craft from classic continental melded with Asian and Mediterranean influences.

I consider him “old school” in the most complimentary way. He lives and breathes flavors and tastes, and knows how to wow a palate! There may be a lot of “hot shot” young chefs out there who are making their marks with nouveau cuisine and other interesting (and praiseworthy) creations, but there’s Roxs Cailao, whose skill and time-tested knowledge of ingredients and taste combinations puts him in a league of his own – he’s the veteran chef who many would love to learn from. Just eat his food and you’ll taste what I’m talking about!

I had stopped by for lunch and later had dinner with friends. The lunch was where I got my first look at this small cafe which is located in the old Take 5 Coffee shop location. It’s a small place and still new, but people soon forget the size and newness once they take their first bites.

I started with the Thai salad with julienne vegetables, bean sprouts topped with roasted peanuts, grilled chicken, tortilla crisp and Thai chili cilantro dressing ($7.95). What struck me was not only the workmanship of the presentation, but the fresh tastes and ingredient flavors that were jumping off the plate! I remember using the phrase intensely concentrated flavors. I found myself pushing my fork through the dressing and chili cilantro “paint” dabs on my palette (plate). Yum.

I then tried the first appetizer, which was bruschetta, traditional with boursin, basil, tomato salsa and pesto ($4.95). Boursin is a soft creamy cheese with a unique texture and flavor similar to cream cheese, ideal for spreading. I liked how well he made the salsa and pesto. My only issue was the bread, which I thought could have been a little better quality-wise. (I was thinking Hilton’s French baguette or Leo Palace’s French bread). Unfortunately, the island’s high-end bread resources are limited. Katre’s bruschetta wouldn’t have bothered most people.

Next to come was Katre’s Spiced Shrimp a la Gambas with confit of onion and garlic in olive oil ($8.95). You may have noticed these prices are very reasonable – the whole menu is! The most expensive menu item is a Grilled C.A.B. Rib Steak for $26.95! Everything else is closer to half that price. The Gambas were also intensely flavored, and I definitely liked how all elements worked together.

I took a super close up photo of the dish, which exposed all the details of the vegetables, herbs and spices that were used. The caramelized onions had a crunch and taste that I enjoyed, too. It was a masterful rendering. The portion was fair sized and easily shareable.

When my next order came, I was delighted by the simplicity and complexity of the flavors. It was the Crostini Open Faced Sandwich with ham, tomato, mozzarella, arugula and roasted peppers ($8.95). Let’s just stop here and reflect on our fast food sandwich culture. I’m talking about Subway and Submarina. Well, this is “Hammer Time” and what MC Hammer will tell them about this Katre Bistro creation is: “You can’t touch this!” Eating this crostini is not about volume, it’s about the quality of taste. The ham itself was fantastic and married to the roasted pepper and mozzarella! Exciting!

The salad greens on the plate were dressed in a vinaigrette and had gorgonzola sprinkled on top. They were surrounded by a sensory onslaught of diced red and yellow bell peppers, sliced grapes, capers, pesto, and chili – just an amazing focus on taste and textural sensations.

As a main course (the lunch and dinner menus are the same), I opted for the braised pork belly with sherry, soy and sugar, spiked with fennel, star anise and cinnamon ($11.50). This was served with steamed rice and looked fabulous! Fragrant, aromatic, and inviting; I plunged in and sliced off a piece of the lean pork. It was so fork tender and seemed to just melt. Yes, another winner. A little on the sweet side for me, but still skillfully created, and dressed with caramelized onions (Chef Roxs seems to put these everywhere). Definitely a spice treat.

I was given a bite of another entree, which was the ox tongue braised with port, aromatic vegetable, mushroom and herbs ($12.95). I can easily understand why so many people were enamored with this soup-like dish – it’s delicate and delicious.

On my return visit for dinner I did have the scampi – sautéed shrimp with olive oil, garlic, white wine, and grilled veggies ($13.95). This was a little more subtle than the previous dishes which I considered more intensely flavored and seasoned. I did enjoy this pasta dish – perhaps just a tad more garlic for me! We finished off our dinner with a slice of coconut cream pie from our favorite French chef and colleague, Bertrand Haurillon of Le Tasi Bistro bakery. Pies and cakes are made by Le Tasi Bistro and subject to availability.

As you can tell, I’m already a fan of Chef Roxs. I appreciate his inventiveness and considered use of ingredients in his preparations. It’s food you notice with more than just your eyes – you notice with your mouth! Chef Roxs hails from the Philippines and had his culinary training in the Philippines and in Washington DC. He has been an executive chef with Marriott in New York and Washington D.C. (where he prepared food for King Saud of Saudi Arabia), Sheraton in Virginia and the Renaissance Hotel in Washington.

He was the first Filipino certified by the ACF (American Culinary Federation) as an executive chef. You can read various newspaper articles posted on one of the walls of the back function rooms about Chef Roxs’ illustrious career and rise through the ranks. He’s a modest man and doesn’t have an over-bearing ego. His humility is disarming, making him easily approachable. He’s always smiling. He’s a gift to the people of Guam! Thank you, Chef!

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR’S from the Guam Food Guy and the team!

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