Driving down Elliot Road the other day, Pere and I noticed that Sonoma Chicken Roasters had gone out of business and been replaced by a Guamanian restaurant called Island Roots Guam Cuisine. I made a mental note, and decided to give the place a visit soon. Soon came sooner rather than later. Today, Moody and I headed there for lunch.
The interior hadn't changed much from when the place was the Sonoma Chicken Roasters. It had the same bright, clean interior with lots and lots of space, the only real change being the addition of island memorabilia adorning the walls and counter. We were promptly greeted at the door and seated at a table right in between two other tables of diners. This seemed a little odd given that the place is huge and was otherwise empty. Before we had even sat down, our waiter asked if he could bring us anything to drink. Not having had a chance to look the menu over, we both ordered waters.
I think it's hard to say that Guamanian cuisine has a distinct identity of it's own. Given it's location (lying in the Pacific between Japan/Korea, Hawaii, and the Philippines), it borrows heavily from those countries as well as Spain and Mexico. The menu at Island Roots reflects this with dishes like lumpia, pancit, and adobo (Filipino); kalbi and bulgogi (Korean); and Spam musubi from Hawaii. Before we had a chance to look the menu fully over, our waiter returned with our waters and asked if we were ready to order. A few minutes more, and we were.
We started things off with an oder of the lumpia. They came out piping hot and were well fried. The sauce was tangy sweet and offered a nice balance to the meat and veggie filling. For entrees, Moody went with the chicken adobo while I had the Portuguese sausage with fried eggs. Moody's adobo was authentic Filipino and contained several pieces of chicken thigh and leg still on the bone, with skin as well as two scoops of red rice. When Moody asked the waiter what red rice was, his reply was that it was just more flavorful. I think it would have helped if he had mentioned that it was colored with annatto. Moody said the adobo was very good, although there was a fairly high ratio of scraps to meat. The Portuguese sausage plate I had was really tasty. The sausage was nicely grilled, and went perfectly with my over-medium eggs. The annatto in the rice gave it a nice orange color (more so than red), and the rice had good flavor, although I wasn't able to determine where it came from (perhaps bacon?) as annatto is relatively flavorless. Next time, I'd like to try out the Spam musubi. I also hear they have Poke on the weekend, a Hawaiian favorite of mine that I'd like to try their rendition of.
Overall, the meal was decent, and I would definitely recommend Island Roots - especially to Filipinos who find the options for authentic Filipino dishes in the valley to be lacking. I would, however, like to see Island Roots work on their service. I know it's a family run business, but there's just no excuse for lax and uninformed service these days. Given the large size of the restaurant, and the relatively emptiness of the place during the lunch rush, I have to wonder how long they'll be able to stay in business. If Island Roots is going to survive, they are going to have to polish things up a bit.