Polynesian Grill,

Taste the Pacific Rim on South Tacoma Way

By Jennifer Johnson on January 24, 2008

First place winner for best entrée at the Taste of Tacoma in 2004, Chico and Annie Mageo’s Polynesian Grill restaurant offers laid back dining and the chance to experience East Asian, Hawaiian, Filipino and other Pacific Rim tastes blended to create unique dishes.

As obvious first-timers, we were warmly greeted by the smiling young girl behind the counter. She walked us through the menu hanging above the cafeteria-style counter and answered our questions about dishes with tricky-to-pronounce names. We quickly ordered a six-piece appetizer of five-inch long Filipino fried egg rolls stuffed with moist ground beef and pork, onion, soft carrot and spices (Lumpia, $3.50). A heaping stir-fry dish of egg noodles, sweet Chinese sausage, pieces of thin pork and vegetables (Pancit Canton) was a satisfying steal for only $4.75 and easily shared by two. The steam table selection is bargain eating at its best; $3.85 for one choice with two scoops of rice and $5.75 for two choices, rice and a soup broth called Sabao.

Dinuguan, a dish whose description stood out, is made with pig blood. Adamant about trying new things, we put on our adventurous eater faces, ordered it and were glad we did. Chunks of incredibly tender pork seasoned with garlic and vinegar drowning in a thick, deliciously rich dark chocolate colored gravy (blame the richness on the blood, I’m told).

Televisions on either side of the simple, yet comfortable dining room made it hard not to watch the football game while we shared one medium-sized Longanisa. The sweet Filipino-style ground sausage in a thin skin ranked high on the naughty, but tasty, fat chart and had an interesting tangy flavor. Beef Caldereta, a vibrant tomato sauce based stew of simmered garlic, onion, beef bits and spices, was our next choice. It reminded us of the Yankee Pot Roast dish popular in down home American eateries, but with the flavor turned way up. Sadly, a bit too much oil visibly coated all the ingredients. Menudo, a similar Filipino-style stew, was prepared much the same way. Halo Halo (pronounced hollow hollow, $4), made of shaved ice, soft slightly sweet red beans, vanilla ice cream and milk was a another new treat.

[Polynesian Grill, 10518 South Tacoma Way, Tacoma, 253.584.6494]