Guam. Ever been? If so, you likely know that a person from Guam is a Guamanian, and there’s a good chance you’re former military or served in Asia in the Peace Corps. At least, those are the results I gathered from my recent informal survey conducted by telling folks I’ve been to a new restaurant in the Midtown Global Market specializing in Guamanian and Filipino food run by a woman from Guam. “Guam, I love Guam! I’ve always wanted to go back!” or, “My dad’s always wanted to go back! He was there during Vietnam.”
Guam. I didn’t see this one coming.
But I’m very glad Pacific Islander Cuisine has made its way to Minnesota because it’s a fascinating addition to the local food scene. Like most restaurants at the Midtown Global Market, Pacific Islander is essentially a take-out counter. And, like most, it offers a steam table of already prepared foods: for $7.75 you get two items, like pancit noodles or adobo-sauced chicken. But don’t get those. Don’t get anything from the steam table. As far as I can tell, Filipino and Guamanian food dies on a steam table, becoming leaden and awful.
Instead, set aside the time to order freshly cooked dishes like the chicken curry, made with chicken on the bone and simmered with bell peppers in a light and lilting coconut curry sauce. Or try the roast pork: slices of meat so tender you’d think the meat was poached, served plain with a lively, sour liver sauce for dipping. Combine the roast pork with the liver sauce and you’re in the general territory of a French pork terrine with mustard, played in a different key. The classic Filipino chicken afritada shows the western Pacific’s Spanish influence, combining chicken and chickpeas in a plain and savory tomato base. If there are sour and spicy peanuts in the dessert case, get them—they’re a brilliant little snack. Look, too, for the cassava cake, a plain and gummy, but yummy, dessert.
One word of caution: Pacific Islander often operates as a one-woman operation, so a big order can take quite a while to cook. Your best bet may be to consult the menu online, call ahead for takeout, and then retrieve a little feast from the Eastern Pacific to devour at home. If you do, you may find that Guam, ordinarily some 7,000 miles away, is suddenly within reach. Pacific Islander Cuisine, Midtown Global Market, 920 E. Lake St., Mpls., 612-874-0944, pacificislandercuisine.com