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BIZ BEAT: Toa Bar and Grill — a winning combo

When it comes to real estate, the most important point is location, location, location. When it comes to restaurants, the value of great service cannot be overestimated. Put those two together — terrific location, excellent service — and include, of course, the key ingredient — great food, done up right by a home-grown local chef — and you have a winning combination for a superb new dining experience in the territory.

 The beautiful new Toa Bar and Grill, conveniently situated on the ToaCom corner where Lions Park Road meets the main Highway in Nu’uuli is that place. And who doesn’t want a great new spot to eat something tasty, join friends for lively conversation, listen to lovely island music, or sing the night away with a very updated Karaoke... and all at very reasonable prices? (That’s a trick question, right?)

It is, of course, exactly what we want. Toa Bar and Grill is all that and more.

Walking into the lovely new restaurant, one is transported. It is sophisticated and cosmopolitan, and at the same time, friendly and welcoming. In addition to the charming, woodsy and warm island motif and soft lights, you are greeted with some of the best serving staff — well — “in the history of the world” as my friend Evelyn likes to say. Knowledgeable and sharply dressed, the young ladies and gentlemen who will take your order are there to make your dining experience special. And they do a wonderful job of it.

Chef Tafa Satele is at the heart of the operation, and his enthusiasm and energy translate into some wonderful, creative dishes as well as time honored standards. With appetizers like Oven Roasted Garlic Poke, salads such as his Samoan Steak Salad (a manly salad if there ever was one!); specialties such as char-broiled T-Bone Steak; and yummy deserts using local produce (Banana Cream Pie and Banana Splits)  are all on the menu, along with many other time-honored favorites.

Sandwiches are featured — the “Late Night BLT” is a good one (for any time) and there’s a menu for (even the fussiest) kids. Really something for everyone.

Satele began his culinary career at Jeffrey’s Restaurant as a young man, where, he said he learned a great deal about the business. He had the opportunity to move up the ladder, and move he did, right on up to prep cook and later, lead cook. He went from there to the opening of the first Equator Restaurant, working under head chef Dino Meredith.

(Dino is the grandson of ‘Soli’ Meredith, who established Soli’s Restaurant in Pago Pago. The old man is a legendary character in American Samoa fine dining. His son, Mark and wife Ponti, later took over the ‘on the bay’ restaurant and continued its reputation for dining and entertainment into the 1990’s.)

Meredith, with his culinary arts degree, gave Satele valuable knowledge and experience, for which Satele is grateful. He taught me some really terrific lessons about cooking, Satele said. He was there for a few years, and then moved to Sadie’s Inn, where he gained still more experience turning out consistently fine meals.

Today, he is an accomplished cook with many years of experience behind him, and he brings with him a strong sense of fine dining, using only the best and freshest ingredients.

His favorite things are sauces, soups and chowders, along with the island foods we all love. He calls chowders “everyone’s soul food” and his are full of well, you guessed it... soul. (And — he will tell you straight up — the best and freshest ingredients possible. “It’s very likely that fish you’re enjoying slept in the ocean last night!” he smiles.)

Satele says you will also fall in love with Toa “Smoothies” which are made using fresh local fruits, and best of all, you can create your own right there.

Instead of a daily special, there will be a “chef’s plate” that he promises will be “fantastic” and varied. His yellowfin tuna drizzled with lemon butter sauce will melt in your mouth, and his homemade seafood chowder is the best this side of Massachusetts.

The beautiful bar at Toa’s is well stocked and the lovely lady supervising drinks there is Sherry Ah Hing, who does wonderful “energy drink cocktails”. Try the Atomic Cherry Martini for a great pick-me-up. She loves to fix blender drinks, and uses fresh coconut in many of them.

The new restaurant also features a “Flavia” coffee machine, which will produce just about anything the coffee lover could ask for, including flavorful cappuccinos and spectacular “Milky Ways”.

 They will be open for Super Bowl Sunday beginning at 10 a.m. and serving some “Super” Bowl pupus and snacks. With three big screens around the room, there will be plenty to cheer about.

If football is not your thing, there is always Karaoke, a great setup which features current tunes as well as old favorites. Of course, there is no shortage of talented singers in the territory, so when you have the urge to sing your heart out, think of Toa. You’ll be joined by the best of the best.

Speaking recently to Samoa News, George Reid, who is the proud owner of the new restaurant, said, “I never thought I would do this... yet here I am on the other side of the bar!” He noted that ToaCom had started out as a computer store, then moved into an Internet Cafe, with just a few snacks and treats, and then decided to become a full restaurant. “And” said Reid, “you can’t have a restaurant without a nice bar — hence the birth of ‘Toa Bar and Grill’.

Tonight is their grand opening, and owners George and Bobbie Reid welcome you to stop by.

Whether it’s for an early morning meeting, a repast at high noon, or a late night snack, beginning Monday, Toa Bar and Grill will open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Fridays will feature live music, and oh, did we mention.... the great Karaoke?