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Matua’s: Where Innovation Meets A Unique Cuisine

   Mix Internet technology, a sense of innovation and entrepreneurship  – and Chamorro food – and what do you have? The latest entry into the relatively small world of Pacific Island  cuisine.
   
Ray Rodriguez is known around South Bay as the former co-owner of Yokozuna’s Restaurant in Chula Vista. After juggling two careers, restaurant and construction, he decided he needed a break in 2009. Juggling enterprises “was not working out,” he said. “I needed to make a move.”
    
That’s when he threw himself into construction while at the same time working as vice president of Qube Energy Inc., creating a knowledge-based platform that used micro-gasification techniques to convert waste into energy.     Rodriguez, 48, is still working as a civilian contractor providing high-tech support for the U.S. Navy and other branches of the government. But the restaurant bug bites deep.
    Last month, Rodriguez opened Matua’s Sushi Bar and Island Grill, a family restaurant specializing in Pacific Islander dishes – Chomorro and Haiwaiian – and more. Rodriguez also employs his IT expertise and Manager Isabel Martir’s penchant for hospitality to cater large events with a distinctively Islander touch. It’s kind of like being at a family picnic, hanging out, with soft guitar playing and just plain kicking back. That is also the atmosphere behind the new Matua’s Sushi Bar and Islander Grill at 626 E St., Chula Vista.
   Rodriguez’s one-stop shop can bring Guamanian food right to your door. Or, if you prefer, you dine in the laid-back setting that is Matua’s.
Rodriguez’s roots in the San Diego run deep. His family migrated from the villages of Agat and Sinajana in Guam almost 50 years ago. Matua’s, too, is a true family business with daughter Racquel, 22,  at the helm as co-owner. Rodriguez and wife Cherly have two other daughters, Victoria and Jewel.
    
“Opening a restaurant where we could share our Chamorro heritage and passion for food with others has been a dream that we’ve hoped to realize for generations,” said Ray Rodriguez, who serves as general manager.
    
To that end, Matua’s incorporates many family recipes, including the special “Uncle Frank’s ribs,” which is actually named after Ray’s father, whom, he says, “was a great cook. Those ribs are an attraction at any family gathering.”
    
Other house specialties include the traditional Chamorro Special of barbecued ribs, red rice and potato salad. Matua’s also boasts a variety of sushi dishes, including the house’s tuna maki roll, and Guamanian specialties such as kelaguen and kalua pig. Kelaguen is a Chamorro dish from the Mariana islands that thrives on a marinade of lemon juice, fresh coconut, green onions, salt and red hot chili peppers. The restaurant seats 70 and is open Sunday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Visit www.matuas.net for more or call 619.427.9090 for reservations.
    
The Chamorro language has faced a steep decline in its use since World War II. Whereas 75 percent of the population was literate prior to that, fewer than 20 percent of Chamorros living in Guam speak the language. That figure is a lot less in the U.S. With that in mind, Rodriguez sees his venture as more than catering and food but also as an effort to keep alive the Chamorro culture, which reflects the indigenous people of the Mariana islands, including Guam. One of the larger populations outside the islands is in San Diego with some 25,000 residents, he says..

The word “matua” in Guamanian means “people who lead.” And that’s exactly what Rodriguez intends to do by preserving both cuisine and culture.


 
 
 
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