Agostini, who oversees all of the restaurants at the Hyatt Regency Guam, says that's what the Hyatt is all about. And that's what he's brought to The Lounge's latest pop-up concept, Classiques du Panier, now available every Friday through Sept. 28.
Classiques du Panier combines French tradition with 1970s flair, and it's all done right next to your table. Known as a guéridon service, dishes are wheeled out on a cart by a chef dressed in crisp, vintage-style whites and prepared tableside.
Prepare to "ooh" and "aah" as the chef flambés foie gras and peaches, an intensely rich dish given a modern twist with a garnish of fresh arugula.
Or, go for something surprisingly light: the classic steak tartare, which daringly combines raw, certified Angus beef tenderloin with a raw egg, black truffle paste and plenty of herbs for a bright and citrusy treat that goes down all too easily.
Set in the back of the Hyatt's large lobby area, The Lounge is casual and spacious, yet still intimate, with high-backed yellow couches set against floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the hotel's gardens and pool.
Born and raised in Italy, Agostini said rather than creating "fusion" menus that combine French style with Eastern flavors, he tries to keep his cooking authentic, noting that the Italian cooking tradition favors simplicity over France's sophistication.
But he couldn't resist the appeal of bringing back guéridon, a novel and very French service named for the small cart it's prepared upon, and which was popularized in the '70s.
"As a younger (person) you can never see, you can only Google ... and see pictures and see video of how it's been done in the old day," Agostini said. "If you come to the lobby, you can visual(ize), you can really taste it ... be part of the emotion, the experience."
Each dish stands on its own, highlighting rich ingredients such as caviar, beef tenderloin, foie gras and pork belly. If you want to try them all, plan on sharing. Otherwise, the service is a perfect option for drinks and appetizers, with wine and cocktail pairings available as well.
Rising star sets the stage
On a rainy Friday night in early August, one of Guam's rising culinary stars set the stage for that night's guéridon service as a keyboardist played classic lounge music nearby.
Junior chef Philip Lopez, who is also a culinary student at Guam Community College, kicked off the night with shrimp cocktail and caviar, perching two gigantic tiger prawns in a tall martini glass, topped off with two different kinds of caviar.
Entrusting the service to his young kitchen apprentices underlines the point behind Agostini's vintage menu.
At age 20, Lopez has big dreams, hoping to someday cook in a Michelin-starred kitchen – one of the most prestigious rankings for restaurants. Agostini, who sees himself as a kitchen coach, has big dreams for Lopez, too, saying that he hopes someday Lopez can fill his own shoes.
For now, Lopez is plenty busy impressing guests with gastronomic pyrotechnics and dishing up pork belly with truffle honey at The Lounge.
"It's very fun, actually," Lopez said. "Ever since I started doing this in January, I always look forward to every Friday."
'Great food with your friends'
In months past, The Lounge has featured sushi, oysters and Italian aperitivos as part of its Friday night pop-up restaurant concept.
"You have the casual, you have the live music, you have a chef entertaining you, you have great food with your friends," Agostini said. "It's not place where you worry."
Although the dishes featured in Classiques du Panier are – go figure – classics, they're offered up with modern embellishments.
"We take that kind of dish," Agostini said of their foie gras plate, "we twist it and we bring it to the lobby."
A unique experience
The experience is a unique one, Lopez said, and worth checking out no matter your age.
"It's a chance to try something from the old style in a new generation," he said. "'Cause on Guam, we don't normally have anything like this."
Located at the Hyatt Regency Guam, The Lounge is open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m. and live entertainment takes place Wednesday and Saturday beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Classiques du Panier will be available every Friday beginning at 6 p.m. through Sept. 28. Reservations are not necessary.