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By Jane Cassie
Images by Brent Cassie
Japanese bentos, spicy Asian, all-American; Palau’s multi-ethnic cuisine is pleasing to any foodie’s palate and is a direct offshoot of this tiny nation’s culture and past. The lush North Pacific archipelago, located between the Philippines and Guam, has seen its share of dictators. It was ruled by Spain in 1686, bought by Germany in 1899, sold to Japan in 1914 and won by the United States after WWII. Finally on October 1, 1994, it gained independence and became a free nation. Although it’s enough to make your head spin, coming out of this political game of pass the hot Palauan potato is a culinary line-up that offers a lot more than just spuds. And during our week-long stay, we have the opportunity to sample the fusion of flavours. Here are a few of the recommended eateries.
Palasia Hotel Palau – For the first five nights we tuck into this centralized high-rise that towers above Koror’s jungle-like vegetation and every morning are lured by the aromas that waft from the Desomel, its main floor diner. Saucy chow mein and pot stickers attract the Asian crowd, fresh-grilled tuna and pan-seared taro tantalize the Palauans and French toast, sausage links and eggs-any-way-you-please, keeps us grounded to our Canadian roots.
Palau Plantation Resort – You might not think that pizza’s worth writing home about, but if they’re the ones at this quintessentially Palauan resort, then think again. We go for the seafood, topped with fresh-off-the-boat shrimp, squid and clams that are spread out over a flavourful crust –and here’s the cuisine clincher –instead of being made with flour, Chef Edwin Garbo utilizes the Palauan staple that thrives in the plantation just steps away –tasty taro!
Penthouse Hotel Restaurant – When the locals rave about a restaurant, chances are it’s going to be a taker. That’s certainly the case with this one that resides on the lower floor of a small Koror hotel. Our feast begins with taro soup, enriched with coconut milk and seasoned with shallots. It’s followed by slim slices of melt-in-your-mouth sashimi and perfectly-prepared parrotfish. And as a grand finale, we share the Tiramisu, a four-layer chocolate topped wonder that’s guaranteed to put another inch on my hips!
Carp Restaurant – This popular nosh spot, located on the waterfront in Malakal, is named after the owner’s private Rock Island. Although it offers a mix of ethnic options, Japanese fare definitely dominates the menu. The helpings are all very generous and extremely reasonable! Our three heaping platters with rice and fruit, comes to total of $26.00. Daring foodies go for their fruit bat soup, a delicacy that’s boiled, then cooked in coconut milk. Although it sounds intriguing, I pass.
Barracuda Bar & Restaurant – When the Bornovskis sailed to Palau eighteen years ago, they brought with them two things: the ability to transform Fish ‘n Fins into a state-of-the-art dive centre and the culinary expertise to open the only Mediterranean restaurant in Koror. Home-baked artisan bread, balsamic-infused carpaccio and eggplant puree are followed by an eclectic display of oysters, grilled vegetables, herbal rice, and freshly caught Spanish mackerel. Topping off our Greek pleasers is the best (and only) cappuccino in town.
Bottom Time Bar & Grill – Sam’s Tours has won the blue ribbon as the world’s best dive centre –not just once, but twice! We discover their adjacent waterfront cafe is a happening place as well. The daily catch features a platter of tender calamari and garlic-doused yellow-fin tuna. Burgers satisfy the western grazers, quesadillas add a little Mexican spice to the menu and a glass of Red Rooster, Palau’s signature micro-brew, goes down real easy with any of their offerings.
Palau Pacific Resort – Our two final nights are spent at Palau Pacific Resort, a five star gem that hugs up to the jewel-toned Pacific. As well as enjoying casual fare at the poolside Mesekiu Waterhole and fine dining in the classy Meduu Ribtal Restaurant we gravitate every morning to the Coconut Terrace where a smorgasbord of Asian, Palauan and American dishes link together in flavorful harmony. Presented here each evening is a varied ethnic theme –Japanese on Sunday, Italian on Monday, French on Tuesday. Without leaving the country, we’re offered the finest in global grazing that’s accompanied by live entertainment. Ironically, Wednesday night becomes our favourite. Crispy fried fish, island-style seafood and suckling roast pork are just a few of the features showcased at the bountiful buffet. The Palauan spread is topped off with an awesome sunset and heightened by the Ngermid male dancers. And while watching their tribal war dance we are once again captivated by both this nation’s intriguing culture and sumptuous cuisine.
For more information contact Palau Visitor’s Authority.