Dear " Guam Food Guy" Reader,
I'm sure you've all experienced the dreaded "crash" of your computer at some time or other! Well, it happened to me tonight as I was just completing the newsletter, the Guam Diner Bytes. It's 12:51am and though I saved everything I typed, I am unable to access it since the computer tells me it has an "error loading operating system". Anyway, instead of trying to write everything over again verbatim, I'll detail some of the salient points I'd made and try to recover the review work I'd completed and include it in next week's newsletter.
The important things for today's newsletter that I'd like to share are listed below:
*Tune in to K57's Tourism & You Guam Food Guy Segment this Saturday June 17th from 10am-12 noon. My first hour guest is Joseph Vitale, owner of Vitale's Italian Ristorante. My second hour guest will be announced tomorrow during my Guam Food Guy report on Travis Coffman's "The Big Show", in the 3:30-4:00pm time slot. If he is able to confirm, you will be treated to an interesting discussion with one of Guam's leading food service visionaries.
*Arrivederci, Mirko & Paola!! It's Ciao to Al Dente Chef de Cuisine, Mirko Agostini who, along with his wife, Paola, will be leaving Guam for their next opportunity at the Grand Hyatt Bali. Mirko has been with the Hyatt here for more than 2 years and has endeared himself to both customers and Hyatt team members. We wish him and Paola every success in their new hospitality adventure. We also want to welcome Mirko's capable replacement at Al Dente, Chef Aziz Nadif, who is European-trained and experienced in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern preparations. Chef Aziz recently arrived from his prior assignment in Athens, Georgia.
* As I had already completed a really appetizing write up on a visit to Pappas Bar B-Q in Humble, Texas, as well as my experience with "Kamorro" (Korean & Chamorro) food creations at Island Bar B.Q. located across from Tumon's SandCastle, I will wait until next week 's newsletter to include these.
What I will do is share with you a bit about my recent visit to the brand new Sichuan Kitchen, located in Dhonson Plaza where the old Shirley's and Urijip Korean restaurants were. I want to caution you that I this is not a review...it is just that the food shots are so compelling I think they'll speak for themselves! Sichuan Kitchen is brand-new and going through a soft-opening phase where basically friends and family are dropping in so I don't want the owners, Yang Lawlor and Susan Webber, to be overwhelmed by customers. When I dropped by there were only two other tables. At this point I don't know how well they'd be able to handle a restaurant full of customers. The Grand Opening is scheduled for Sunday June 18th, so they are getting ready!
What I can say is that the food is authentic Sichuan, with a heavy use of Sichuan peppers in many of their dishes. These Sichuan peppers will raise your body temperature and "numb" your tongue! Locals who love "pika pika" will be delighted here. I do know that milder preparations are available also, so not everything is ultra-hot!
My visit was originally to get contact information and to meet the owners, since I was urged to visit to Sichuan Kitchen by friends, Ladd & Fran Baumann, who knew Yang from Saipan. When I arrived about eight o'clock one night this week, Yang knew about me and wanted me to try a few dishes to get a real sense of their unique tastes. I thought I'd be having one or two - a maximum of three - dishes. I was wrong! But I can't complain...it was all EXQUISITE, even though I had to re-set my thermostat later.
The Sichuan-style Flavor Peanuts ($3) are really a great way to start, especially with a beer or soda. I was told by my Chinese friends that the food here is true Sichuan, and that no other Chinese restaurant on Guam has any thing like it. Of course, most of Guam's Chinese restaurants are Cantonese, so it's not really a fair comparison. What should be promoted is the fact that there are have not been many opportunities to enjoy Sichuan dishes on Guam. Chef Li, is from the Sichuan region and his food has drawn high praise from diners who are thrilled to have this very popular Chinese cuisine available as an alternative to the usual Cantonese fare we can find most places.
I also had the Sichuan Mouth-Watering Chicken ($6), a delightful cold dish but plenty spicy. The meat is succulent, just cooked and quite tender. I also had the Kung Pao Chicken, which is fried with chili peppers and peanuts ($7). I've had this at other restaurants and it's usually rather saucy...this version is practically sauce-less and is richly spiced. Eating it this way allowed me to taste the individual ingredients unimpeded by sauce.
I was brought out the Braised Beef with Vegetables ($10), which has a lot of meat and is certainly spicy. One unusual entree not on the menu was a dish called Fen Zen Ruo, which is steamed pork with ground rice and spices. The pork is so tender it's like eating a soft vegetable...or even tofu...but distinctly pork. It's a delicacy that can be prepared on request.
I'm not a fan of Sweet & Sour Pork and actually rarely order it but they brought me out their version ($8) and after my first bite I was notably impressed by the crispness of the pork and the fact that the sauce was anything but sweet. The bell peppers and onions were crunchy and the pineapple chunks provided just the right amount of natural sweetness. This was an amazing discovery for me, since my mind was pretty well biased against sweet & sour pork before.
Another item not on the menu was a really special soup the name of which I didn't catch. It had baby spinach, garlic, and two types of eggs - Salted and Thousand-year-old. The broth was heavenly, full-flavored but not over-powering. Kind of a nice comfort soup that I could have had as a meal on its own. It wasn't spicy, either...just savory with lots of fresh spinach.
It was a surprise to hear that they wanted me to try their Yang Chow Fried Rice...which I did. Thank goodness it was just a scoop...and yes, it had a distinctly different flavor. I also had a small dish of Sichuan-style Vegetable Salad ($4). This dish had a strong taste, and was a little spicy as well.
The restaurant's hours are from 11am-2pm and from 6-10pm, seven days a week. They do offer take-out which you can order by calling 649-2088. Again, I want to caution readers that this was not meant to be a full review, rather it's a sharing of my experience in a new restaurant that's still in its early stages of development. They still need to train service staff and expand their beverage selections which presently include beer and sodas. There are many other dishes on the menu such as Fried Whole Chicken, Ma Po Tofu, Spicy Sichuan Chicken Wings, and Sichuan Hot Pot, all of which were recommended for me to have on my next visit. I am sharing this experience, with all caveats mentioned, because it was too good not to share. You can come to your own conclusions about the food quality at Sichuan Kitchen. I think they're onto something big!
Ken, "The Guam Food Guy"