Guam Diner Bytes: Open Blue Delights at Al Dente Ristorante

by Ken Stewart
The Guam Food Guy

The Hyatt Regency Guam’s Al Dente Ristorante is making a major culinary commitment to support ocean conservation. Always in the forefront of major global trends, they have managed to take up this noble cause and share it with the people of Guam as well as any visitors dining at Al Dente via a special four course set menu featuring Cobia, a remarkable ocean-farmed fish that’s lighting up the culinary world with its versatility. Al Dente’s Chef Cristiano Pozzi has created this provocative menu which utilizes Cobia from appetizer, entree and, believe it or not, dessert!

Cobia is known for its firm texture and mild flavor. It makes for excellent sashimi, with a taste and texture similar to yellowtail. It is rich in Omega-3’s and can be prepared in a variety of ways. The quality and freshness of Cobia is even further enhanced by the skills and creativity of a chef who is passionate about using fresh ingredients to make his menu. We had the distinct and memorable pleasure to sample the creations of one such prolific and passionate artisan who pushed the envelope four times, astonishing the small tasting group assembled at our table.

We started out with the Smoked Cobia carpaccio, alfalfa sprouts salad, with capers, and tomato confit. The cobia was cold-smoked and took on a light smokiness that blended well with the delicate olive oil marinade. Caperberries were actually used here, adding a poignant high note to the mildly delicate thin sliced cobia bites, which would include the savory tomato confit chunks.

Next Chef Cristiano dazzled us with a Spaghetti basil pesto with pan-fried cobia, semi dried tomatoes. There were cherry tomatoes that had been sauteed, though the green beans on the menu were not present for this tasting (such is the case with ingredient availability). The spaghetti was cooked “al dente” and basked in the rich pesto coating created by Chef Cristiano. The juicy cubes of cobia pushed through the spaghetti and gave us another version of cobia done well.

The main entree was delivered (I should also mention that wines were paired with each course (Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot as I recall) to an appreciative table with guests collecting food shots with their smart phones. I almost took a “selfie “with my cobia but I was dissuaded by my more conscientious partner. The main entree was a Grilled Cobia with braised fennel in saffron, boiled asparagus, romesco sauce and almonds. The grill marks on the cobia revealed the oil-laden and forgiving nature of cobia. The meat was still delicate and flavorful, not dried out as other fish could be. Chef Cristiano’s insistence on freshness, lightness, and simplicity allowed each ingredient on the plate tell its own story...promoting a sensation on the palate with each bite. Having that splendid romesco sauce as a foundation for this seafood monument was ingenious...the rich nuttiness with red pepper and tomato was an ideal companion for this upstanding fish.

The final course, dessert, was certainly a leap of faith, and now, thanks to “Padre” Chef Cristiano, we are all believers! Who would have ever dreamed it possible to make a dessert from a fish? As I said, it was pure faith, with the right ingredients! He made Caramelized cobia lollipops with pistachio ice cream and raspberry coulis! It was another course in culinary art, and the cobia had been coated and fried and nutted! We picked up the wooden skewers and bit into the lollipop (these were for biting not sucking or licking) and chased it with the cool refreshing ice cream. The raspberry coulis brought a spark of tart excitement on the palate. It was a fun dessert to eat. All in all, this was an amazing demonstration of this remarkably versatile fish, which we are looking forward to enjoying at Guam’s restaurants. I am sure there will be signs on the menu that will trumpet their use of this great fish! Bravo to Chef Cristiaono and his kitchen team at Al Dente!

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