i was a little upset when the little mom and pops store in front of ypao beach in tumon closed down; it was one of the few truly local touches in the mostly touristy part of town. i am however, appeased by the fact that the restaurant that took over the space, proa, is locally owned and operated, and features island-inspired food. also, proa (btw, the name comes from a type of sailing vessel) took what was a rather dark and dingy space, and made it over into a lovely, bright yet calm dining room.
the menu is quasi-continental with a guam touch; i don't really know what that means, but it sounds better than it's sort of american, it's a little european, it's not really asian, and there are things about it that really guamish. truthfully, a cursory glance at the menu yields nothing too adventurous or exciting--the pay-off is in the execution. everything is expertly prepared, plated well, fresh, tasty, and consistently so.
we started with the soup of the day and barbecued chicken quesadilla with roasted tomato salsa and buttermilk ranch dressing. i was a little wary about this because i'm not a big fan of ranch dressing, especially if it's a commercial prepared product. however, the grilled quesadilla had a good amount of lean chicken and not so lean cheese within, and although the amount of tomato salsa given was meager, it packed quite a bit of flavour. the dreaded ranch dressing was very light--it seemed more like a lightly spiced crema than salad dressing, and it helped to lighten and cool the dish. the soup that day was pumpkin which had a nice full-bodied flavour of squash, but without a heavy creaminess; perhaps made with pureed pumpkin and some sort of stock instead of relying on a lot of dairy product.
on one occasion, we tried two of the three sandwiches on the menu: a soft-shell crab in a cornmeal crust, and a sirloin beef burger with mozzarella and fried egg. both were served with a mixed green salad and a generous amount of house-made shoestring potatoes, which were lightly salty and exceedingly tasty. crunchy, not too greasy, addictive. the soft-shell crab was a little overwhelmed by the cornmeal crust, but the crunch was a nice foil to the creamy crabby innards and soft kaiser roll. the burger was very good--beefy, moist and tender, with the flavour enhanced by a bit of runny and sunny egg yolk and buttery melted mozzarella.
a good portion of the menu is devoted to barbecued/chargrilled items: the burger, chicken, ribs, and shortribs. island-style barbecue is a relatively simple process of marination in a soy sauce-based marinade and a reliance on charcoal or wood, not gas. proa does a very good job of chargrilling items; the meat is tender, not overpowered by the marinade, and smoky, not burnt tasting.
there is only one fish entree, a steamed fish with green beans, tomatoes and balsamic dressing in parchment that is light and tasty, but in order for me to think of proa as a more "pacific rim" type restaurant, i'd like to see more fish and seafood options. also, i'm told they will be opening up a bakery, but there is only one official dessert on the menu, a tasting plate with strawberry creme brulee, orange chocolate chip cookies, panna cotta with a mango sauce, and a coconut encrusted banana fritter. the strawberry brulee is particularly appealing--a fresh strawberry is halved and topped with a dollop of custard and sprinkled with sugar, then either run through a broiler or blowtorched until the sugar caramelizes in a thin, brittle crust. it is obviously not the standard ratio of dairy to fruit, but i like the berry's advantage: a nice combination of fresh and sweet, crisp and juicy. the panna cotta and banana add more tropical goodness to the plate and are much lighter on the stomach and palate than one might think, but there is an odd commercial? artificial? flavour to the chocolate chip cookie; however, they are so small that it's not that offensive.
proa opened late last year, and it seems to be quite popular already. the prices are very good (most entrees are under $10), the quality and service are consistently good. i look forward to seeing this little restaurant establish itself as a true local spot on the tourist track.
at the ypao beach main entrance,