August 27, 2004, Volume 4 Number 35
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
I listened with interest as the KFC employee attempted to explain how the curry in their new KFC Thai Chicken Curry Bowl was different from the type they (the customers, in this case, two UOG students) were used to having. I was waiting for my bowl to arrive while listening to her description of this curry being spicy and not sweet. When my bowl arrived, I sampled a sliced bell pepper and noted the familiar green curry flavor. Interjecting into the discussion (as I'm known to do when food's the topic) we agreed that the type of curry many locals are familiar with is S & B Brand packaged curry blocks, which is suited to Japanese tastes and is a common flavor in many Japanese restaurants serving a curry dish. I suggested that the couple be adventurous and give it a try, or go to The Curry Kebab to experience genuine Indian curry, or go to any Thai restaurant and order a green or red curry, so that they could discover a variety of curry types. I introduced myself as the Guam Food Guy and they laughed and said they'd heard of me. They seemed relieved to know that I was not just some nut who had a habit of bothering customers waiting to order their meals. I do encourage people to try new foods and to explore the range of the world's culinary delights whenever I can. It's my mission and purpose.
KFC's Thai Chicken Curry Bowl was surprisingly palatable. It had fresh local eggplant, green beans, green and red bell pepper slices, bamboo shoots, and chicken chunks in a savory green curry sauce over a bed of rice. For $2.99, it's a deal ($3.99 with a regular soft drink). The soggy weather outside made this a great choice for a meal as it was akin to the comfort factor you'd find in a good kadu (soup). I commend KFC for introducing "A Taste of Thailand" even for a limited time on their menu. It's not in the same league as the green curry dishes you'd find at Thai Kitchen, Ban Thai, Sabai Dee, Marianas Trench, or the King & I Thai Cuisine, but it's a step in the right direction, and for as a "Fast Food" value, I was impressed. They must have had someone with Thai culinary expertise involved in creating this appealing meal - I wonder who? Honestly, I expected to be disappointed, as I have been with so many other fast food promotions that feature photos of sizzling grilled burgers with red juicy tomatoes and crisp green lettuce, only to find anemic tomatoes and tasteless meat patties. I understand this is Guam and that most national promotion ads were created in the states, often with embellished, perfect food images. Although we tend to settle for less when it comes to quality produce that's imported, it's nice when we're finally rewarded with something that actually tastes better than it looks. "Go Colonel...Go Colonel!! Go Thai!!
Our prayers for a speedy recovery to the families who were victims of Super Typhoon Chaba's devastation of our northern neighbors - Rota, Tinian and Saipan. While there was some damage to our island, they were hit much harder and while we are grateful to have been spared the brunt of the storm, we are mindful of their losses.
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
In Today's Issue:
- Heinz Meets Jeff - A Typhoon Dining Adventure in Ipan
- A Bit About Salt - What Chefs Are Using To Enhance Taste
- Around the Island - Le Tasi Bistro, Palace Chinese Sunday Buffet, Manhattan HH
- Doraku Restaurant - New Izakaya Offers Exceptional Japanese Cuisine
Heinz Meets Jeff - A Typhoon Dining Adventure in Ipan
On the only day off from a weeklong cooking schedule during the Palm Cafe's Balinese Food promotion, Chef Heinz von Holzen and his two Balinese helpers, Madde and Inge, were in for an extraordinary treat - experiencing the onset of Typhoon Chaba while on a tour around the island. Although we stopped a few times to take pictures, and once for refreshments at Jan Z's in Agat, we pressed on through Umatac and Malesso, encountering rapidly deteriorating conditions with gusting winds and pummeling rain. At times, there was no visibility - we couldn't see Cocos Island nor any of the popular ocean vista points. As we drove on, we knew there was no turning back due to the certainty of flooding in the low-lying areas behind us where water was already pooling. The weather cleared a bit, however, when we arrived in Ipan, Talofofo home of Jeff's Pirates' Cove. The Cove is in itself a destination that Guam's visitors enjoy, with a maritime museum featuring a rare collection of floats and ancient Chamorro artifacts. It is also home to a wealth of information about the famous Japanese WWII straggler, Sgt. Yokoi. All of this fascinated Heinz and his two companions.
We decided to stay and have lunch, and ordered a selection of popular foods from Jeff's menu, including a Lamb Gyros, Greek Salad, Jeff's Signature Home-made Cheeseburger, Crispy Fried Chicken Wings, Fried Potato Wedges, and Jeff's BBQ Fiesta Plates. We were also treated to three superb kelaguens - Chicken, Marlin, and Scallop. The food came out on platters and plates, and we eagerly divided up servings of everything. Some of the foods were new to Heinz and his staff, however, we all agreed that what we were eating was definitely good. It was pleasing to watch them eat - the portions were huge, and we ate as though there was no tomorrow. Jeff's was fully powered with television, music, water, and ice...he's self-sufficient as he has to be to survive Guam's storms.
The waves were breaking over the reef, something that rarely happens, but when it does, it means we're in for some serious weather. There was enough visibility of the northern coast for Heinz to take out his tripod and mount his Leica, one of the world's best cameras. He is an accomplished photographer, and was able to get a few more photos later at Ricky's Beach in Yona, which had close up views of enormous surf slamming the coastline with a powerful ferocity. Heinz was very impressed by the natural beauty of the southern part of our island, and will certainly be able to take many more photos in better weather when he returns, perhaps next year. One thing for certain is that we experienced something special during our day's journey that we will bind us in memory forever - the excitement of exploring new vistas and relishing them with passion.
A Bit About Salt - What Chefs Are Using To Enhance Taste
Did you know that the Greeks, Arabs, Tibetans and Romans bartered with salt several thousand years ago? This precious commodity was used as a currency in Ethiopia about a thousand years ago. We're not talking about common, iodized table salt here, but rather some varieties that are being now being used by chefs to enhance the dishes they create. Among these arcane varieties are French gray salt, Peruvian pink salt, Hawaiian red sea salt, Australian Murray River salt flakes, Hawaiian black lava salt, and Danish and French smoked salts. These salts are unprocessed and are gaining popularity for their textures, colors, and the special flavors they impart to particular dishes.
Here's a couple of salt types as described in Salt Traders and SaltWorks, which are both businesses involved in marketing these specialty salts:
"Sel gris - Moist and coarse, this intense salt is harvested along the coasts of Brittany and Normandy. Also known as Celtic gray, its color comes from gray clay."
"Smoked salt - A variety of smoked salts has come on the scene. One of the more popular is the Danish Viking smoked salt from Denmark. Smoked over juniper, cherry, elm, oak and beech, these salts are used to impart a hint of smoke on dishes such as gravlax or eggplant ravioli."
"Australian Murray River salt flakes - Soft, crunchy flakes the color of pale apricot that instantly dissolve on the tongue."
"Japanese nazuna sea salt - Complex sea-salt crystals prized for their clean briny flavor."
"Mexican benequenes - This fine, powdery salt from Chiapas, Mexico is valued for its pure saltiness. Chefs sprinkle this on French fries, nuts and tortilla chips."
"Sel gris with seaweed - French gray salt is combined with seaweed for a taste of the ocean. Chefs shower this on sushi."
This certainly gives new meaning to taking things "with a grain of salt"!
Around the Island - Le Tasi Bistro, Palace Chinese Sunday Buffet, Manhattan HH
Don't forget to mark your calendars for next Tuesday, August 31 for the "Wine and All-You-Can-Eat Cheese Buffet" at Le Tasi Bistro. For $15 you can feast on a selection of hors d'oeurves created from fine cheeses specially imported for LTB and accompanied by a glass of wine of your choice (subsequent glasses $5 each). This gourmet and wine lovers happy hour lasts from 5:30 to 7pm. On Thursday nights you can join them for "Tapas Thursdays" where you can nibble on all manner of Spanish tapas while enjoying the sounds of the Pago Bay Reefers and drinking Domestic Beers for only a $1.50 each. For reservations and information call 472-7877.
Try the Palace Chinese Sunday Lunch Buffet at the Guam Plaza Hotel in Tumon, where for $12.95 adults and $9.50 children 5-11 (plus 10%) you can eat from an array of tasty treats including Lapu-lapu in Soy Sauce, Deep-fried Crab Legs, Steamed Shrimp with Ginger and Green Onion Sauce, BBQ Pork Spareribs, Roast Duck, Seafood & Bean Curd Soup, Hot & Sour Noodle Soup, Century Egg, Stir-fried Baby Bok Choy, and Seafood Fried Rice. There's more and while the menu may change slightly each week, there's always a large selection of Cold and Hot Items as well as Soups and Desserts. Dining hours are 11am to 2pm every Sunday. Call 649-7760 for reservations and information.
Chef Jeff dishes up culinary delights from Spain for Manhattan's Happy Hour on Thursday, August 26. Starting at 6pm you can feast on a variety of great dishes prepared in the Spanish way including Caldo de Rez (beef soup) Paella, Garlic Shrimp and Arroz con Leche (rice pudding) for dessert. Call 649-7263 for information.
Doraku Restaurant - New Izakaya Offers Exceptional Japanese Cuisine
Of the many blessings for which I am grateful and truly appreciate is having "foodie" friends tell me about new places I've not tried before. When Keiko N. asked if had I been to one of her favorites, Doraku, I replied I hadn't and then embarked on a strategy to seek out this hidden treasure with someone "in the know" who could help me navigate through the Japanese menu.
Fortunately, I was able to arrange a dinner meeting with my friend Chie, who works at the Japan Consulate, and whom I later discovered had an unabashed enthusiasm for food adventures that mirrored my own. Doraku Restaurant is on the ground floor of Tumon's Pia Resort, located on the road behind the DFS Galleria and past the R&C Tours headquarters building. Parking is tough, but not impossible, with only 6 spaces devoted to the restaurant in the main parking lot. More than likely, you'll have better luck parking along the road (where there is ample parking). Don't let parking deter you from trying Doraku, for once you've eaten here, you'd walk the length of Tumon for a seat at Doraku's sushi bar!
When I had arrived, Chie was already seated and having a Calpico High cocktail (a blend of Shochu with Calpico Water - a popular Japanese non-carbonated soft drink that's both sweet and refreshing). I ordered one as well, and then we perused the menu. Doraku is only open for dinner Monday through Saturday from 6pm to midnight (last order at 11pm). Daily specials are posted on two black boards mounted on the walls. This place is clean, has style and class, yet is very relaxed and casual - kind of an after-work meeting place for business types. (I know my review will make some of them unhappy since the new customers will take away the intimate isolation some of them presently enjoy!)
We ordered appetizers and started with Kawa-ebi Karage (fried fresh water baby shrimp - $6), that were just magnificent, with plenty of these golden-colored, bite-sized crustaceans to share. You can eat them plain or with a drizzle of lemon, either way, they are delicious. Our next dish was the Tofu Steak ($6), which I needed to try to compare with Izakaya Katsu's Tofu Steak, my favorite. Doraku's Tofu Steak is served on a cast-iron platter on a wooden underliner (known in the trade as a sizzling platter, though nothing was sizzling). Like the Kawa-ebi, the presentation was impressive, with strips of seaweed, bonito shavings, and scallions covering the top, all of which made a slow curling motion as they reacted to the heat. There were several slabs of tofu seated in the center of the platter and bathed in a savory, semi-spicy sauce with minced chicken (similar to Ma Po Tofu in taste). Our server, Marie, asked my opinion of their version....I said that it was quite good but a different style than Katsu's. One difference is that this version is not suitable for vegetarians since there are fish flakes and minced chicken present.
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Pia Resort, Tumon
Open Mon-Sat 6pm to Midnight (last order at 11pm)
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