Although “classic fusion” might sound like an oxymoron, Peter Duenas has been rewriting the Chamorro cookbook at Meskla since 2009. What makes Meskla memorable is not its nod to tradition but the way it breaks away.
In addition to the original Hågañta location, the family runs the BBQ and burger joint Meskla Dos across from K-Mart in Upper Tumon, and Meskla on Wheels, a food truck that parks in Dededo during the work week. The home of the Pika Challenge is known for its big plates and bold, spicy flavors.
Starter: Chicken and Corn Empanadas
Also recommended: Chamorro Chesa’ Platter with kelaguen, tinala katni and hineton tapun
Every shore kissed by Spanish ships has its own version of the empanada, but none other compares to the crisp achiote-dyed shell of the Chamorro snack. Meskla’s freshly fried shell holds up in your hand, but flakes away at the first bite, with the satisfying crunch of a corn chip. The filling is a mix of chicken and rice, popping with sweet pieces of corn. The heat lingers on your tongue, but instead of sending you to gulp down water, this burn is better calmed with another bite.
Salad: Fresh Ahi Poke Salad
Also recommended: Seared Ahi Salad with fresh yellow-fin tuna steaks marinated in sweet soy-ginger dressing
If the word “salad” makes you think of bland rabbit food, then you’ve never had Chamorro salad. Whoever orders this vegetable platter will be rewarded for making “healthy choices” with crispy fried tortillas and a great bowl of fresh poke. Cubes of yellow-fin tuna loin, drizzled with soy sauce, sesame oil and seeds, this is exactly what poke should take like. Yellow and green onions add color and crunch, while boonie peppers give this dish a triggerfish bite. In place of dressing, pour mild cucumber avocado mousse over the bitter greens, and mix the poke into the sea.
Entree: Kaduku Chamorro
Also recommended: Shrimp Uhang Burger – 2011 Burgerfest choice for gourmet burger
In Chamorro, “kaduku” means crazy. And it takes one crazy cook to try combining the beloved loco moco with homespun tinaktak. Here, Meskla crowns a bowl of rice with its award-winning hamburger patty, covers it in creamy coconut gravy and tops it all with an over easy egg. If that’s not decedent enough for your royal pallet, order the Kaduku with red rice. Slice the egg-yolk open, and mix the sweet gravy with the savory beef patty. This isn’t comfort food; it’s coma food. When the weather drops to 75 degrees, this steaming dish will keep you warm in body and spirit.
Post-food Coma Course: Red Velvet Cheesecake
Also recommended: Da Slice, a triple stacked chocolate ganache cake, big enough to share
After the empanada, the poke, and the kaduku, there is no way you will have room for desert. Forget about it! But at Meskla, desert is not just some consolatory slice of freeze-dried pie, but a meal worth the trip alone. In solving the problem of over-sweetened cake, pastry chef Lydia Kimberly has created a monster. Instead of frosting, layers of moist red velvet cake alternate with slices of creamy cheesecake. Served with sliced strawberries, covered in chocolate confetti and whipped cream, this cake looks like Cat in the Hat cosplay. After a heavy meal, this boost of sucrose might just be enough to put exclamation points back in your sentences!
Not only is each dish a combination of something old and something new, but diners are almost compelled to combine flavors and textures from the far sides of the plate. And maybe that’s why Meskla means “mixture.”