'Made with love'

BEEF TENDERLOIN: The beef tenderloin entree is sauced with demi glace and served with seasonal vegetables and thinly sliced crispy onions. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

What better way to celebrate the day of love than with a romantic dinner for two followed by a spectacular show – acrobats, white tigers and all – at SandCastle?

Valentine's Day is upon us, and we all know that some of us may still be scrambling to find the perfect dinner spot for tonight. SandCastle's Valentine's Day special, available for $289 per couple (and $50 per child if your babysitter's already booked), takes dinner and a show to a whole new level, with dazzling sets that will transport you from island beaches to the deserts of Arabia while acrobats twist and turn right over your head and tigers appear out of thin air.

SandCastle is a Tumon landmark, and perhaps one of those things you think can only be done once. But think again: With a new executive chef on board, there's a whole new SandCastle experience waiting for you. On top of a new-and-improved dining experience, you'll end the night with the Zubrick show, a spectacle unlike anything else on island, featuring song, dance, magic and even aerial entertainment.

Though the price is somewhat steep, keep in mind that discounts are available for local residents – call 646-8000 to learn about local rates.

SandCastle goes all out for dinner, too. The Valentine's Day special includes a surf-and-turf entree with tender filet mignon and buttery lobster tail over a bed of nutty, creamy wild rice pilaf. The first and second courses are just as delectable, with Lobster Bisque and Candy Striped Beet Carpaccio, the latter flown in straight from the states.

But dessert is the real showstopper, and a perfect segue into the night's second act: Flaming Hidden Love uses – you guessed it – flames to reveal a dessert hidden within a dome of white chocolate. We won't ruin the surprise, though – to find out what's within, you'll have to check it out for yourself.

A portrait of family

Executive chef Marlon Simbulan, who oversees all restaurants for Baldyga Group, has been hard at work since joining the team last summer to infuse fresh life into SandCastle's kitchen. For Simbulan, his team is family, evidenced by the "family portrait" that hangs proudly in his kitchen-side office.

"The whole concept behind it is to have everyone that comes into the kitchen to have pride as they walk in," Simbulan said of the portrait. "Everything here in the kitchen is essentially made with love. Nothing comes out the kitchen without it being 100 percent."

A family man through and through, much of Simbulan's culinary inspiration comes from the people he loves most.

"My mom, my family," Simbulan said, listing off the people who have inspired him over the years. "My family taught me to share ... just being very hospitable and loving others before yourself."

"I try to implement that to my team," he adds. "That's why I developed that whole concept of taking a family portrait of my entire team, to show them that there's not only one person that can do it – it's everybody and we're a team."

'I'm really proud to be home'

Originally from Guam, Simbulan has spent much of his culinary career learning the ropes at a top-tier French-Mediterranean restaurant in San Diego, followed by NOVE Italiano, Las Vegas' best Italian restaurant, according to Zagat. There, Simbulan worked his way up from line cook to sous chef in just a year. Not long after that, he was promoted to executive chef.

More recently, Simbulan returned to Guam to spend time with his family. And now he's taken the helm at SandCastle (as well as The Beach Bar & Grill, which will offer its own Valentine's Day special featuring Tomahawk Steaks).

"Now I'm working for the best company on island," he said. "I'm really proud to be home. It's nice to be home and I love my entire team, I mean I can't express it enough."

Love what you do

Since around May 2018, when he joined Baldyga Group – which includes SandCastle, The Beach Bar & Grill, TaoTao Tasi and Big Sunset Dinner Cruise – Simbulan has implemented what he calls "little" changes that seem to be making a big difference.

Simbulan bought his team new chef coats, started celebrating birthdays and made sure decorations were always up for the holidays.

"The morale just boosted up," he said. "Little things are what matters. And now you know our service scores from each venue, food scores went up. ... What I tell my guys is, 'You have to love what you do.' And it shows through our food."

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