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November 11, 2005, Volume 5 Number 45

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

It saddens me to report that another nice little restaurant has shut it's doors. I'm talking about Mulligan's Cafe in the Tumon Golf Driving Range. We've known Chef/owner Nilo Vega for many years, following his culinary tracks from the Salzburg Chalet, to Bistro, and to Esmeralda, and finally at Mulligan's, which is where I really came to enjoy a number of his specialty dishes, such as his Crispy Pata, Mahi Mahi with Vegetable Salsa, Fried Tilapia, Pork Ginger, and his Signature Chop Steak, made with oyster sauce.

We remember how he had tried to change the direction of his restaurant earlier this year when he partnered with Clint Nozaki (Nilo & Clint's), which, in hindsight, was a decision that created a financial hardship from which Nilo and his wife Rose couldn't recover. So ends another chapter in Guam's listing of favorite dining spots that have disappeared from view. We can only hope that Nilo finds another place where he can once again delight diners with his home-style, visually-stimulating dishes made with lots of heart and soul...he is a talented chef.

Remember Furusato? Or Ivory Gourmet Cuisine? How about the Kurmaya and Seahorse? Creole and Claret? Does the Flamboyan ring a bell? What about David's, Tina Marie's and Pacific Grill - which opened and closed in the same Tumon location next to Flowers By Tand. I mention these places, and even referred to the Salzburg Chalet earlier, because they've all made a lot of people happy and were the scenes of many memorable dinners. We need to keep our special restaurants open. Places like Le Tasi Bistro, The Curry Kebab, Y Kusina, Firefly, Carmen's, Izakaya Katsu, Hava Java Cafe, May's, Thai Kitchen, Mary's Vietnamese, Sabai Dee, Jungle Java, and newcomers like Kaveh Kanes, Central Perk Cafe, and Chung Hae Korean BBQ need your support. You can keep them all active players on Guam's culinary landscape by patronizing them at least once a month. If enough of you do this, it'll keep them from having to follow so many other restaurants that have turned off their stoves and disconnected their phones. Eat out and eat often!

In closing I would like to take a moment to express our heartfelt appreciation to all those who have served in the armed forces of our country as well as to those who serve today. As Americans we cherish our freedoms and we appreciate those who have made military service a part of their lives. Happy Veteran's Day!

Ken, "The Guam Food Guy"

In Today's Issue:

  • More Reviewer Than Critic - Which Would You Prefer?
  • Service Problems - Why You Have to Speak Up
  • Thanksgiving Specials - Cup & Saucer, Firefly, Cake K & Prego
  • The Garlic House's Terrific Fried Rice & Surprisingly Flavorful Tacos
  • Nana's Lunch Specials - Chef Kishimoto's Secret Sauces
  • This Time Last Year - Highlights From the GuamDiner Newsletter
  • Around the Island - May's Steamed Fish, PIC Bistro Bar Menu
  • O'kim's Teppanyaki Restaurant - Where "More" Means "More" and then Some!

More Reviewer Than Critic - Which Would You Prefer?

When I first started out as the "Guam Food Guy", it was not my intention to be a restaurant critic. I really wanted to share "positive" and "interesting" food experiences with people. My early "reviews" were about that over-size 20" Boston Pizza, and the superb Gyros made at The Greek Freak across from St. John's, or the Whole Wheat Pancakes and savory home-cooked Indian specials prepared by Pramila Sullivan's Downtown Deli.

I was pointing folks in the direction to new and unusual establishments, places like Thuy's or Thai Esan, or Izakaya Katsu. Of course, that was years ago and we're "all growed up now", and I've reviewed several hundred restaurants, some of them more than twice. I've been accused of being too kind and too easy on restaurants. It would appear that's true since rarely do I find fault in my reviews...I do state my preferences, and do offer comparisons to foods that I like better. Many readers who know me read between the lines of my writing...I insinuate and make hints, sometimes even use humor, often exaggerating an issue to make a point, such as when I reviewed eating at Chamorro Village, citing how one readily accepts dining with flies. I've commented on slow service, on the lack of service, and on the lack of taste, but have fallen short of coming out and saying, "This blows!" about an entree or dish.

I was recently critical about the Iced Tea at the Beef Bowl ("Safely delivered our unsweetened iced teas and it tasted quite awful, in fact it was terrible." (Sept 23, 2005 Diner Newsletter Review). As my policy is not to do bad reviews, you'll never read about the smoke-filled Vietnamese Restaurant in Upper Tumon whose cooks served Fried Pork Chops that were still raw inside near the bones since they were trying to fry Country Style Ribs.

Guam's a small community, and if I slam a restaurant, it could seriously impact a smaller one to where they may go out of business, which wouldn't be a bad thing if they deserved it. However, even good restaurants have bad days, so there's a need to give the benefit of the doubt.

I should write a longer article on this issue, or maybe write one about our restaurant standards (someone may ask, "what standards?"). Although Guam has made impressive progress in developing world-class dining facilities, we still have room to grow. I am more aware now of the responsibility I have to provide "fair and balanced" reporting. Perhaps I should consider including more of the negative experiences (cold or stale food, hard rolls, etc.) Maybe we could post a "Watch List" on our site, giving diners a heads up on problem outlets, like those restaurants not willing to improve their hygiene, sanitation, proper food handling, etc. I'll give some thought to this, but would appreciate your feed back and comments.

Service Problems - Why You Have to Speak Up

I know this sounds like I'm continuing on my "soapbox", however, I believe that you are really helping a restaurant out when you make a complaint to the manager or owner about something you didn't like, whether it was the food or service. There is a way to complain in a way that it is accepted and listened to and that simply is to deliver it calmly. The difference between a great restaurant and just an average restaurant is how well the management resolves and handles customer complaints. Some restaurants even have Customer Comment cards. The comments can be both positive and negative, and the intent is to give upper management much-needed feedback on how well they are treating their customers.

Busy restaurants usually have acceptable to good service, and bad service is generally the exception in such places. I don't consider delays in being seated to always fall under "bad service" if the service runs like clockwork once you are seated as is the case at Outback. In truth, a restaurant won't stay busy for long if the service is terrible unless the food is exceptional. The downside is that lousy service can spoil an exceptional meal, whereas attentive service can enhance a mediocre meal.

When you deliver constructive criticism to the owner or manager of the restaurant, they take it seriously and will in most instances try to correct the problem, and may even offer some credit or compensation if there is a food problem. So the next time you are not happy about how you were treated or if there were problems with the food, ask for the manager and calmly explain your concerns. You will be doing them, yourself and future diners a big favor.

Thanksgiving Specials - Cup & Saucer, Firefly, Cake K & Prego

Thanksgiving Specials are starting to come in from our restaurant subscribers. First up are the Thanksgiving Brunch Buffet at Cafe Kalachucha and the delicious sounding Italian-inspired Thanksgiving Dinner menu at Prego - both of these restaurants are in the Westin Guam Resort.

Not to be overlooked are the special baked goods and sweets from Cup & Saucer in Hagatna - they are offering a variety of unique breads including a Pumpkin Challah and pastries as well. Check the posted menu as some items will not be available until mid-month.

At Firefly Bistro they are taking a unique approach to holiday dining by offering a 700 Calorie Two-Course Special Lunch for $14.95 - now that's a great way to watch your diet during the holidays! Check out the menu because the food sounds far from "diet-like". They continue with their special evening offerings which you can see here. Don't forget the $29 Three-Course Autumn Menu available on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.

The Garlic House's Terrific Fried Rice & Surprisingly Flavorful Tacos

I'm still surprised by the number of people who have not been to nor heard of The Garlic House in the Tumon Capital Hotel, just above Tarza Water Park. Open only for dinner, this little hideaway has been slowly increasing its local customer base (they already have a pretty good flow of Japanese visitors).

We were there on a Friday night and ordered the Fried Eggplant with Garlic appetizer ($7.98), which was blanketed by fried garlic chips...simply delectable! This was followed by a Spaghetti with Basil in a Garlic Oil Base ($7.98/half order). Talk about a basil infusion...outstanding! Then came our Garlic Fried Rice (The Mix, with bacon, onion, bell pepper and egg $8.98/half order). This was excellent. So good, in fact, that Zee & I both reached the same conclusion - this was the best fried rice we've had locally! Made to order and all of the ingredients mixed generously throughout. I've had the rice before and was once again reminded of just how talented Garlic House's Chef, Tomo-san, is!

I guess it was curiosity that made us try the tacos which were described on the menu as Handmade Tacos with Original Tomato Sauce, 2 for $10.98. We were again impressed...these came on a thick flour taco shell (they didn't have corn), more the size of a big tostada. The sauce was flavorful...kind of a spicy tomato with lots of cumin, giving it a zesty Mexican authenticity.The meat was pork chunks. These were a surprise, not what we'd expected, yet very very good and worth having at least once.

Nana's Lunch Specials - Chef Kishimoto's Secret Sauces

You can always count on Guam Plaza's Executive Chef Kishimoto's knack for creating extraordinary sauces. It's easy to try out his sauce tastes by going to Nana's Cafe for lunch or dinner. There are weekly lunch specials on their menu that often use a special sauce made by Chef Kishimoto. Today I had one of the Lunch Specials, the Assorted Seafood with Fettuccine in Lobster Sauce.($8.95), which included the salad bar, papaya salad, and iced tea. The other lunch special was an Ethnic"Tom Yum Kung", ($8.95) with salad bar, papaya salad, and iced tea.

Nana's Cafe has been slowly improving and upgrading its interior...they have a new salad bar and have done some nice really adds to the tropical ambiance...makes this more and more of a local attraction in the heart of Tumon.

The special had fresh grated parmesan over the fettuccine pasta, and the seafood was battered, deep-fried, plated and smothered in sauce. The lobster sauce was rich tasting, however, the seafood (shrimp, calamari, mahi mahi, and a huge juicy scallop ) were all bland by comparison as they didn't have much in the way of seasoning. However, the Papaya salad which came in a very small side dish, was steeped in fish sauce and had a very strong flavor - it's an acquired taste. The papaya was shredded within this small bowl, and it seemed that there may have been some bagoong in this dressing. I'm just impressed with Chef Kishimoto and have to make it a point to get down for dinner some day! In the meantime, Nana's has very reasonable lunch specials...I'll just have to keep coming back!

This Time Last Year - Highlights from the GuamDiner Newsletter

November 12, 2004, Vol 4 No 46

Restaurant Reviewed: i'natibu - 'The Native' Restaurant Serves Big Portions of Local Favorites

Highlights: Tokyo Mart Celebrates 30 Years of Bringing Japan to Guam Nov 9-13
Directions Features GFG Top Picks for Appetizers, Entrees & Desserts

Around the Island - May's Steamed Fish, PIC Bistro Bar Menu

May's Restaurant continues to prepare food that meets the taste expectation of the local population. We just had their Steamed Lapu Lapu with shredded Ginger and green onions. The white fillet just falls easily away from the bones...this is excellent eating.

If you're looking for an extra special getaway in Tumon that's romantic, soothing, quiet, and empowering, you should run over to the PIC's Bistro lounge for happy hour or for any evening hour that they're open. The Bar Menu has four different appetizer selections that cost $7.50 each. These include King Crab & Shrimp Cocktail with a Tropical Fruit Salsa, Lump Crab Cake with a Roasted Red Pepper and Baby Leek Fondue, Pepper Crusted Tuna Tataki served on a bed of Mixed Greens and Wasabi Soy Dressing, and Divers Scallops served on a bed of Saffron Butter and Caper Berries. These all sound terrific. However, the other night when we went for a glass of wine, Chef Willie surprised us with a magnificent appetizer creation that had a big lobster tail in a marinara sauce, fresh greens in a crisp red-colored tortilla shell bowl, and some garlic cheese toast. Bistro has many surprises awaiting you, for lunch and dinner.

O'kim's Teppanyaki Restaurant - Where More Means More and then Some!

The menu sign on the entrance to O'kim's door says it all - "New & Improved - Feel the Difference - Taste the World"! They could have put up another sign that said "O'kim's - where you'll get more food than you expect"! That's really what it seemed like eating at this chic, ultra-modern, impeccably designed eatery just across from Tumon's Pacific Island's Club. And if you were to ask me if the food was any good, I'd say, "Yes, perhaps, possibly, and depends," basically because the cuisine at O'kim's is not typical Korean, it is a fusion of Japanese teppan cooking and innovative, sauce-happy, ingredient-intensive nouveau Korean entrees.

The exterior of O'kim's is impressive, and is so well designed and built that it has to have increased the overall property value of the Asahi Building. Polished metal framed wood doors with smoke-glass full length windows allow you to see in and out. There are large colorful food posters promoting some of the dishes served. Since this dining here for this review, I understand that they have changed the menu somewhat and there has been some personnel changes. Regardless, you will be impressed by the cook's uniforms and big hats...this business is very aware of the importance of image.

For this review, I was joined by my colleague Orleyne. The tables here are large booths with a griddle in the center and can seat up to eight people comfortably. We were offered menus which were sophisticated two-tone leather bound tomes. We ordered a Seafood Lover's Course - $35 for Salmon Steak, Lobster Tail, Mussels, and Shrimp accompanied by soup, salad, veggies, and fried rice and a Rib Eye Steak Course - $29 for teppan cooked beef with red wine along with the standard complement of soup, salad, veggies and fried rice. Though we could clearly see the color photos in the menu, we still didn't know what we were in for. Both of us were surprised by the continuous flow of food to our table. Each booth is assigned a cook once your order has been placed. Our cook was Peter a dapper, smiling and confident young man. The service is good with the staff constantly roaming the room checking on customers orders.

The first appetizer we were served was a barbecued chicken wing, garnished by a pink-colored flower shaped radish and parsley. This sauce was spicy hot, but not oppressive. Next came a minestrone-like soup along with two dipping sauces (I think one was a ponzu), though frankly, I didn't need these sauces for this dish. Next we were given another appetizer, which was an Italian-style Gyoza with Walnut Shrimp Sauce. And this is where one begins seeing the 'world' come in to play. This gyoza was like a deep-fried spring roll and the walnut shrimp sauce was light and not overbearingly mayo-like nor sweet.

Our cook Peter then started chopping shrimp and calamari on the hot griddle, and added some minced garlic, bean sprouts, onion and green bell peppers. As this cooked on the griddle, Peter splashed some 151-proof vodka on it to get a spectacular flare-up. This sauted blend of seafood and vegetables was called "veggies" on the menu, and was for us probably the best tasting thing we ate (there were no sauces, and everything was cooked fresh right in front of us by Peter, who deftly cut, turned, blended, and portioned out the steaming, flavorful veggies. A plate of cubed radish kimchee was brought to us to enjoy which is exactly what we did with relish! We were also brought out a complimentary glass of white zinfandel and cabernet, adding yet another beverage to our iced tea and iced water.

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Chal Mokkeisumnida!

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