Guam Diner Bytes: Uncle Paul's seafood noodle & Bento House
Looking for an unusual place with unusual tastes? If you live in Tamuning, you don’t have far to go! It was a reference PDN writer Lacee Martinez made in an earlier article about combining basil and cinnamon that grabbed my curiosity.
I should also add that this restaurant could have moved closer to Marine Corps Drive so people could catch a glimpse of it as they sped by. I think they chose this spot on purpose since they say some of the best restaurants are little hole in the wall joints located in some back alley! There are a lot of healthy plants outside (almost like camouflage) which always indicated caring and loving owners.
Once inside (make sure to open the door furthest to your left) the ambiance and atmosphere changes. I always appreciate how owners can decorate their establishments with valued treasures from their country. In this case, the owners are from Taiwan and this restaurant’s specialty is unique Taiwanese cuisine. (I think they’re the only Chinese restaurant specializing in Taiwanese cuisine.)
We were seated by Rhodalyn Chen, who I realized was the wife of chef and owner Paul Chen. You have to take some time reviewing the menu because these are not your typical Chinese preparations. Uncle Paul’s offers customers an introduction to traditional Taiwanese cuisine in an ambiance that surrounds you with Taiwanese imagery, which includes the Taipei street market and one of the city’s proudest, if not tallest, creations – Taipei 101, a building that touches the clouds!
We studied the menu and created our order. Since Zee is mostly vegetarian and most of Paul’s menu has meat, we had to improvise. She ordered cold noodles with chicken, which included fresh cucumbers and carrots ($8.50). We ordered “less” chicken. We also ordered Chinese broccoli ($8.50), the smoke chicken leg ($5.50), the rice bowl with braised pork, or Taiwan pork adobo for $7.50 (there is also a smaller size is available for $4.50) and cinnamon basil leaves with egg omelet ($9).
I played some soft music on my iPad since there was no background music (a DVD had just finished playing when we came in). There are not alcoholic beverages so I drank green tea and Zee had water. The more I looked around the dining room the more I felt I was a guest in someone’s house – that’s the feeling you get.
The cold noodles were quite good and Zee would have even liked them heated. They were topped with ground peanuts and had vegetables mixed throughout. There was some intriguing spice that gave this dish a little kick. I would have liked to try it with chicken. The Chinese broccoli was firm and had the right amount of garlic.
The smoked chicken leg was delivered. This is a very attractive presentation as it is golden bronzed and sliced precisely. It had a smoky aroma and when I tasted it I was impressed by the moistness of the meat. It had been steamed and then smoked for some time. Really an interesting taste with a slight hint of cinnamon. There were two legs so one of these went home with other leftovers.
Next to arrive was the rice bowl with braised pork.
This is actually pork belly and a pretty sizeable chunk at that. This dish comes with daigo (pickled daikon radish) and what I thought was cooked red ginger. There was a broth on the rice that had a unique and interesting flavor. Again, the portion was sizeable enough to warrant leftovers.
Last to arrive was the Cinnamon basil leaves with egg omelet. Now this was a leap of faith for me as I didn’t know what to expect since I’ve never combined these discordant ingredients. Well I have had French Toast with Cinnamon (it has egg) but no basil. Good thing I am a basil lover; you’d have to be to eat this! It is just as it looks - an omelet with basil, basil, basil! I wouldn’t know what to add to moisten it up, perhaps a sauce.
I did promise myself to return one day to try some other dishes on their menu which seems to have about 60 items. I think I’ll take some of my Taiwanese friends who can help me navigate through this menu of delicacies.
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