Cindy Zhang first thought of opening an upscale resto-pub across the Imperial Pacific Resort in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed her plans. It finally happened last Dec. 25, when Zhang opened Ocean Star Restaurant in Garapan. The newest food haunt on island offers an unobstructed view of Saipan’s magnificent casino hotel and offers a dual menu of Chinese and Filipino dishes.
With tourists not expected soon, Ocean Star Restaurant is currently focusing on the local market and that’s the primary motivation in bringing in two topnotch cooks—one Chinese and one Filipino—to the fold.
Ocean Star Restaurant serves popular Filipino fare with a twist. For example, their kare-kare comes with a full order of crispy pata as the protein to complement the rich and thick peanut sauce and vegetables.
Their burgers are also nothing to scoff at as they don’t scrimp on the meat. The Mac and Cheese Burger, in particular, is pure decadence as who would’ve thought incorporating those golden carbohydrates would work well with 100% beef.
The Seafood Spaghetti also is a homerun for fans of shrimp, squid, and mussels as Ocean Star Restaurant makes sure to pack it with the bounties of the sea. Another crowd favorite is the Ocean Star Shrimp Kelaguen. Zhang said it’s the spirit of the sea in a wine glass and is always a perfect appetizer for either lunch or dinner.
Their Chinese menu is populated with surefire hits like golden shrimp, honey walnut shrimp, beef broccoli, sweet & sour pork, shrimp fried noodles and house specialties like dry fried small shrimp and spicy small cuttlefish with XO sauce.
And, of course, there’s Ocean Star Restaurant’s location smack in the center of Garapan’s tourist district and a stone’s throw away from the Imperial Pacific Resort. Its ambiance also has big city feel as Zhang even flew in a famous interior decorator from Beijing to spunk up the place and give it a modern and electric vibe. Her hope is Ocean Star Restaurant will be the most Instagram-able place on island.
An introductory promotion, all food at Ocean Star Restaurant is 10% off. That’s on top of the newly opened restaurant’s already ridiculously low prices (as much as $2 lower than comparable restaurants on island). Aside from seats to accommodate 42 customers, Ocean Star Restaurant also had a private room.
As to why she named the place Ocean Star Restaurant, Zhang has a simple answer: “Saipan has become sort of a star in Chinese tourism circles mostly because of the casino and, of course, we added the word ‘ocean’ because we are located on an island in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.”
Future plans include offering bubble tea and hot and cold coffee and introducing a barbecue menu once tourists return by the boatload. Before the pandemic brought the global travel market to its knees, Zhang was thinking of opening a restaurant that primarily serves Hong Kong-style dumplings, as well as more high-end dishes like salmon, lobster, and king crab. She may revisit those plans in the near future when the tourism industry goes back to the pink of health.
Zhang and staff comply with the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force’s guidelines, with social distancing measures, the use of face masks and hand sanitizers, directional arrows, temperature checks, and customer check-in fully enforced at Ocean Star Restaurant.
Ocean Star Restaurant is on the same building where Cha Café & Bistro is located. It is open from 10:30am to 10pm from Monday to Sunday. For more information or for reservations, call 233-1555 or 788-6686.