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July 7, 2006, Volume 6 Number 27


Dear " Guam Food Guy" Reader,

Though I've been eating all of my life for sustenance, it's only when I started eating for pleasure that I discovered how to appreciate the talents of the pioneering culinarians who made the best dishes I ate. I remember talking to a friend who told me in my early "Food Guy days" that he never really gave much thought to the food he would eat...he'd just eat it until he got full. He went on to say that reading my reviews gave him new insights to aspects of food he'd never considered, and that he became more conscious of appreciating the food he ate, including the texture, taste, seasonings, and freshness.

Several recent events prompted this gastronomic introspection. One was a special five-course dinner hosted by John Bouchard where Sam Choy's Executive Chef Peter Duenas unveiled a bold and exquisite parade of culinary creations. The other was talking to Shisen Ramen Chef Tony Sakamaki, who was trained by the father of Iron Chef Chen Kenichi where he learned the elements of preparing classical Chinese and Japanese cuisines. Chef Tony recounted how 19 years ago he introduced a teriyaki chicken taste that was new to Guam when he opened his first restaurant, Shisen. Shisen was in the same spot now occupied by Tasuke across from the Hyatt which, of course, hadn't been built yet. Chef Tony's current home, Shisen Ramen, celebrated its 9th anniversary on July 4. He laments, however, that while the Japanese customers are steady, much of their local business has fallen off since the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attacks. Seeking to remedy the situation and entice more local customers, he has created a new Special Set Menu showcasing his fusion of Chinese and Japanese tastes in the large portion sizes locals like at impressively affordable prices. [Photo: Tracy Roberts, Polaris Point Fireworks Display, July 4, 2006]

This week's newsletter covers both of these events, along with a few other happenings and recent dining experiences I have been waiting to share with you. There's just so much to eat and so little time!

With good taste,
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

In Today's Issue:

  • Water Aerobics at the Hilton - Where You Can Learn to Do the "Calamari"
  • Bouchard Special Fund-raising Dinner by Sam Choy's
  • This Time Last Year - Highlights from the GuamDiner Newsletter
  • Around the Island - OHG Burger, Fast Wok, Jan Z's Gizzards
  • Ramen Shisen - Traditional Recipes, Iron Chef Quality Training Equals Delicious

Water Aerobics at the Hilton - Where You Can Learn to Do the "Calamari"

Want to get a safe and easy work out that'll cool you down before you get too hot? Try Water Aerobics, with Rowena Perez, at the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa. You don't have to be a swimmer to get involved with aquatic exercise, which provides a safe and effective way to tone your body, gain cardiovascular fitness, enhance endurance, and just make you feel so much better about yourself!

I've gone to two sessions thus far that start at 6am and last until 7am. As soon as I got in the water, I felt immensely relieved. I've had a problem with one of my knees and this is certainly helping to make a difference in my overall well-being as I really want to get myself back into a healthier physical state. One of the interesting aquatic exercises is called the "Calamari," in which you propel yourself backward by bringing your knees to your chest, while using your arms to push backwards.

When you are outdoors that early in the morning you really have a chance to appreciate the island's incredible beauty. The morning sessions are Tuesday and Thursday 6-7am, there are also night sessions on Monday and Wednesday 5:30-6:30pm and an additional Saturday morning session from 7-8am. If you are a member of the Hilton's fitness center, it only costs $30/month. As a non-member, it'll cost $40 per month. I suggest you come and try it. Fitness club members can walk-in and try a single session for $5 and non-members for $10. For more information, just call 646-1835 ext 5885. This has to be one of the best thing I've done for myself since I did "Body for Life" in the early days!

Bouchard Special Fund-Raising Dinner by Sam Choy's

This past Saturday night was an evening to remember! A long-awaited dinner was prepared by Sam Choy's Guam Executive Chef Peter Duenas, whose culinary skills had been put up for bid at the January 13th fund-raiser for Deanna Palmer.

John Bouchard (USAF Retired) was one of two bidders who won and contributed generously to have Chef Peter prepare a meal for their guests. The party of ten was treated to an elaborate dinner with menus personally autographed by Chef Peter and personalized chopsticks made just for the dinner. [Photo: Ann-Marie Bouchard, Peter Duenas, John Bouchard]

The five-course dinner started out with a daringly original Cold Appetizer, Ahi Tartare with Wasabi Cheesecake and Mesclun Greens. No one had ever seen (nor dreamed of) wasabi cheesecake, with a macadamia nut crust - it proved to be an ideal base for the ahi tartare. This was complemented by Laurent Perrier Brut Champagne. The ahi was followed by a Blue Crab & Corn Bisque Soup served in an herb bread bowl, which was a hearty and flavorful concoction seasoned by the bowl.

The Appetizer Course was a Crispy Soft Shell Crab and Lobster Risotto Cake. Chef Peter had rendered lobster broth down to a high flavor concentration which gave that risotto an intense lobster flavor you couldn't resist. Resting on the fried risotto cake was a huge shelled crab claw. This course was paired with a 2003 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc, which offered a vibrant fruity character reminiscent of the tropics.

The Entree featured a Grilled Lamb Loin with Foie Gras-Potato Lumpia and a Garlic-Balsamic Reduction, complemented by a Whitethorn Pinot Noir. The complexity of this course was balanced by the straightforward Pinot, which seemed to be raised for this pairing, conjuring hints of cherry and raspberry.

Chef Peter's Dessert course was a resplendent Lemon-Lime Panna Cotta with Candied Zest and Blackberry Compote. This fantastic creation was large enough for two to enjoy and was the perfect ending to an extraordinary dinner where friends appreciated a specially-created feast to aid and assist another friend. Bravo Chef Peter and thank you, John and Ann-Marie Bouchard for a marvelous evening of fine dining and laughter.

This Time Last Year - Highlights from the GuamDiner Newsletter

July 8 2005 Vol 5 No 27

Restaurant Reviewed: Chung Hae Korean BBQ - New Eatery Boasts Great Cuisine and Homey Hospitality

Highlights:
July 4th Celebrations
Mahie's Orchids and More - A Tropical Garden of Wondrous Surprises

Around the Island - OHG Burger, Fast Wok, Jan Z's Gizzards

I recently had Old Hagatna Grill's Black Peppercorn Spiced Burger with Balsamic Aioli, Sauted Mushrooms, and Swiss Cheese ($9.50) and found it to be one of the best-tasting burgers I've had in a long long time. It certainly has to do with the use of pepper and spices seasoning the meat. The onion bun, generous spread of melted Swiss cheese that covered those flavor-laden mushrooms plus the distinctive flavor of the balsamic aioli really brought a this burger to a gourmet level. I highly recommend it and place it near the top in the Burger Wars competition.

If you've not recently been to Fast Wok Chinese Restaurant in the Oka Pay-Less Arcade, you'll be happy to know that they've expanded their menu to list over 81 entrees, not including lunch and dinner specials. I paid a visit there the other day and ordered two things I'd not enjoyed there before - Shrimp Egg Foo Young ($8.95) and Beef with Flat Noodle ($9). It wasn't just the size of the portions that impressed me, it was also the taste, which came through even bigger than their respective sizes. The Egg Foo Young had lots of big shrimp layered throughout along with cooked green and yellow onion. The egg blend was just right, and the slightly browned top and bottom gave way to a moist, flavorful and almost rich tasting, Egg Foo Young. The flat noodles were fresh and drenched in a savory sauce that covered every aspect of this dish, which had bean sprouts interlaced with green onion. For take-out, call 647-8989.

Got Gizzards? If you like gizzards the way I do, then you'll not have any problem understanding why I'd be willing to drive down to Jan Z's in the Agat Marina just to get an order of the Fried Chicken Gizzards Appetizer ($6.75). These are battered and fried to a golden crisp not the least bit dried out and are accompanied by a honey mustard dip and finedene. They do a pretty decent job with their gizzards, and you can even embellish these a bit by adding a few dashes or more of any of the assorted hot sauces available there. Call 565-2814 for more information.

Ramen Shisen - Traditional Recipes, Iron Chef Quality Training Equals Delicious

Just as you can't judge a book by its cover, the same applies to judging a restaurant by its surroundings or appearance. Such is the case with Ramen Shisen in Tumon. Located in the building adjacent to Western Frontier Village, in front of the Reef Hotel, Ramen Shisen is not new, in fact, it just celebrated its 9th anniversary on July 4th! Looking at it from outside, you'd probably have second thoughts about entering as it looks like a strictly Japanese tourist-type place. But if you knew that the chef inside here was trained under Iron Chef Chen Kenichi's father, the same father who trained his internationally-acclaimed son how to prepare classic Chinese cuisine, you'd probably walk right in and try it. Other good things to know about Ramen Shisen are: the water used for cooking and drinking is filtered and purified to the same standards as the water used at GMH, and the chef introduced a home-made Teriyaki sauce to Guam 19 years ago that has since been widely imitated but never duplicated. This is a sauce that once you taste it, you'll know it's the real deal, the original.

If you've been to Ramen Shisen, then you may already know that the food here has a different taste, that the ramen noodles are of a unique freshness and size not served anywhere else. You would also know Chef Tony Sakamaki, who opened his first restaurant on Guam 19 years ago. It was called Shisen and was located where Tasuke is now across from the Hyatt. Chef Tony's as nice a guy as you'll ever meet, and so humble that you'd never guess his culinary background. It isn't until he starts talking about the preparation of each dish he makes, and about the time, attention, and special care he gives to making the sauces and marinades, that you realize he's been in the major leagues of culinary proficiency.

It is due to Chef Tony's love of the island of Guam and its kind-hearted people that he has created a Two-Choice Main Plate Special Set Menu for $8.95. This menu showcases his mastery of Japanese and Chinese cuisine, and you get two choices from a selection of eight main plates, along with two Deep-Fried Gyoza, Kimchee, Rice and Soup. This is not just a lunch special but is available all-day from 10:30am to Midnight daily. The phone number for take-out is 646-7228.

The eight main plate choices are: Stew Hamburger, Shrimp Tempura, Sweet & Sour Fish, Teriyaki Chicken, Fried Chicken, Spicy Sauce Noodle, Deep Fried Chicken Chopsuey, and Stir-Fried Vegetables. For the purpose of this review, I sampled six of the eight, and will briefly describe my impressions of each dish as it was served. I requested no additions such as the gyoza, kimchee, or soup, so I'd have enough room to try all six!

The Spicy Sauce Noodle came first. This had cucumber slices on one side and bean sprouts on the other, with tender slices of chicken on a bed of spicy sauce laden noodles in the center. The chicken was the cold Chinese juicy chicken appetizer you order in Chinese restaurants.

This was followed by the Fried Chicken, which came with a lemon slice. Chef Tony uses a different kind of flour for his chicken, which seems to keep it crisper and less greasy. Moreover, he marinates his chicken in a sake blend before frying, giving it a distinct aftertaste.

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Itadake masu!

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