“Grand Bleu.”

That’s what the sign said above the empty space in the building next to The Taj. It was a very attractive sign too, bold white letters over a blue background, reminiscent of water. It appeared over a month ago and we all wondered what it was going to be. I crossed my fingers that it wasn’t going to be another Chinese souvenir shop full of trinkets.

A few weeks later the words 'New York Kitchen Bar' found their place on the sign. The prospect of a new restaurant was a welcome one. Even if the food was as average as the rest of the food on these islands, at least it would be something different. At the same time though, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the Chinese were behind this. They’re the only ones with money here at the moment, and that sign was a little too pretty compared to the eyesore that the rest of Koror has become.

A few weeks later the windows were pasted over with posters of the Manhattan skyline, and someone informed us that the restaurant was actually owned by a Korean. So I was close, Nothing against either nationality, but I’m sure they both know about the same of New York food. Hopefully I would be proved wrong.

Fletch took me out to dinner for my birthday and when he asked where I wanted to go, I replied, the new Grand Bleu place. I was very curious.

Grand Bleu chose the movie poster of the French freediving movie, “Le Grand Bleu,” as their logo or motif or what have you. I’m not sure what that film has to do with New York, but the movie poster was printed out on a sheet of white paper and taped to the front door. It also appeared on the front of the menus and on the backs of the employees’ tshirts.

The interior of the restaurant was very nicely done. Several of the walls were brick with various photographs of New York framed and hung (and a few of Chicago). The lighting was dimmed, the tables black, and the chairs upholstered in faux leather. To complete the nice atmosphere, a soundtrack of good lounge music was playing (so far the most American aspect of the place) . I haven’t heard anything aside from last year’s worst pop hits and auto-tuned, Palauan covers (of last year’s worst pop hits) since I’ve been here. Hearing Etta James’ At Last was, well, music to my ears.

Then we got to see the menus. I’ve only ever spent a couple of days in New York, but the first foods that come to mind are bagels and pizza. Maybe a good steak. On the entire menu, there was one semi-American option. New Yorkers, it is my duty to inform you that your food is being represented in Palau by meat spaghetti in tomato sauce. The rest of the options were all Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. I guess they were going for the whole melting-pot side of New York. 

Knowing the owner was Korean, I went for the bibim-bap (bippity boppity boo) and ordered a glass of house red wine on the side. The server didn’t understand what I meant by ‘house wine’ so I just pointed to the cheapest glass on the menu (still more expensive then the meals). The drink that came out tasted like a Full Moon from Thailand. If you haven’t been to Thailand, Full Moon is a wine cooler you can find at 7-Eleven that comes in red, white, or rose. It is carbonated sugar water, well worth 30 baht, but not $9.

Fletch's Inari Zushi
My food though was exactly what I wanted! I got a bowl of rice with nice chopped green lettuce (not iceberg), cucumber shavings, shredded carrots, sliced mushrooms and a sunny side egg on top. I’ve seen the vegetable offerings at restaurants here and it leaves a lot to be desired. A few months back I was so desperate for something fresh that I ordered a mixed salad at Rock Island Cafe, even though I knew it would probably be a bad idea. They brought out a massive bowl that was topped off with sliced bell peppers and carrots, and for a moment I was thrilled for such a nice salad. After eating away that top layer though, I discovered that the rest of the punch-sized bowl was nothing but iceberg lettuce. Such a tease. If you want a good salad (over rice) go to Grand Bleu and order bibim-bap. I think it’s the freshest meal out I have had here. Add a little hot sauce and enjoy.

So Grand Bleu has absolutely nothing to do with New York aside from the photos on the walls, but the atmosphere is relaxing and the food makes a good, fresh, light meal. The drinks are way overpriced but that seems to be the norm here. It’s worth a visit.