December 1, 2006, Volume 6 Number 47
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
One of the island's great Christmas traditions can be seen in the lobby of the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa - it's the Hilton's Holiday Train! It seems that every year we make a mention of this mesmerizing winter wonderland display with trains moving synchronously through pine forests, quaint hillside villages, and across bridges while balloons float above, their highly-visible brand names easily recognized by locals. Proceeds from the advertising sponsorships have generously supported the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
This year, a new addition is a true-to-scale replica (the large red-roofed buildings pictured above) of the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa, California complete with vineyard. It's amazing to see the personalities of so many island enterprises on display - it does the island proud by exemplifying the caring and sharing philosophies that so many here hold dear. It's a good reason to love Guam. Another good reason is our fabulous food!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
Marriott's Gingerbread House Ribbon-Cutting & Tree Lighting
I was delighted to witness the Marriott's Gingerbread House Ribbon-Cutting and Tree-Lighting Ceremony on November 30. There's nothing quite like a fabulous Gingerbread House to create a Christmas mood and the humongous one Chef Michael Devlin and his pastry elves built in the Marriott lobby certainly qualified. They used 100 lbs of cake flour, 100 lbs of honey, 180 lbs of powdered sugar, 160 lbs of rye flour, 4 lbs of ginger spice, and an untold quantity of water, eggs, and man-hours!
The event, which was attended by First Lady Joann Camacho, was not only an official kick-off of Marriott's Christmas Holiday Festivities, it was also an occasion to honor the Rainbows for All Children organization, which was represented by it's director, Marie Halloran. Joining Marie and two of her facilitators were nine youngsters supported by Rainbows who were each presented with a beautiful gingerbread house gift-wrapped in cellophane. They were also treated to a fabulous buffet dinner at the Marriott Cafe. It was really one of those special Christmas moments that are a blessing to enjoy.
Jia Asian Bistro
Guam Plaza Hotel
It'll take your breath away! A veritable metamorphosis has transformed what had been the Palace Chinese Restaurant into the marvelously seductive and ornate Jia Asian Bistro! If you were brought here blind-folded and had your eyes opened once you were seated, you would have a hard time telling if you were on Guam or in ultra-modern Singapore or a lavish part of Hong Kong....such is the attractive ambiance of this comfortable eatery with its contemporary, trendy demeanor. It's like eating in an art gallery, with many alluring pieces adorning the walls and filling small spaces. Each seems to have been carefully selected from all across Asia. Jia Asian Bistro is open daily from 11:30am-2pm for lunch and there's also a breakfast service from 7-10am. Dinner service is not currently available, but will be in the future.
For $12.95 you can partake of the lunch buffet (children 5 -11 yrs/$7.95), which includes a salad station, appetizer station, entree, soup, bread and dessert. For $3 more ($15.95), you can have a featured entree. The lunch buffet had an intriguing selection of Asian favorites, including Vietnamese Pancit with fried Lumpia, Salt & Pepper Squid, Cold Tofu with Chinese Miso Sauce, and Chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard), as well as cold appetizers like Smoked Salmon with Capers, Poke, Macaroni Salad, Potato Salad, Mixed Greens, Egg Drop Soup, and Miso Soup.
The entree choices are the "Jia" Beef Donburi (thin-sliced beef atop steamed rice) or Mango Shrimp. When it comes to great sauces, credit must be given to Executive Chef Kishimoto whose talent with sauces is legendary. I had the Mango Shrimp and was reminded of honey walnut shrimp, only this had a delightful mango freshness. Regular Iced Tea ($2) is refillable, however you can also purchase Chai Iced Tea, Thai Iced Tea, Vietnamese Iced Coffee, all $2.50/glass and Sago Gulaman ($2.75). The music playing in the background puts you in a soundtrack...this is one place you'll have to experience to understand. It's certainly a destination, and once dinner service is available, this place will be a favorite getaway for many, especially wine-lovers. Check it out. You'll be pleasantly surprised!
Andaman Western & Thai Cuisine
Monticello Plaza (near Cost-U-Less)
Andaman Western & Thai Cuisine held its soft opening amid little public fanfare this past Saturday, however, the applause taking place on our palates was deafening. One easy way to describe the eating experience you'll encounter at Andaman is that it's Thai food with class. Tastefully decorated with collectibles, a particularly amazing example of Thai art work lies just under the glass top of each table, a colorful picture created by tapping ink onto a single piece of rawhide. Another difference is that Andaman serves such classic Western dishes as Fettuccine and Oven-Baked Main Lobster.
We've mentioned Andaman before, since its chef/owner is Jhamnong Kraitong, formerly with the Westin Resort Guam. Jhamnong is joined by his family in this new restaurant venture, and though I usually hold off on writing about new restaurants, the food is so good here you've got to try it. Be sure, though, to give them a little slack on the service, since it is in soft-opening mode...the staff and servers are quite pleasant and are trying hard. The restrooms are immaculate.
Now for the food. We ordered the Som Tum Talay Salad ($7.75), which has shredded green papaya that's been pounded and topped with roasted peanut and palm sugar dressing, served with Lemongrass Thai shrimp, calamari that seemed to cut like butter, and marinated mussels, too.
We also had the Por Pia "Spring Roll" ($7), which has delicious crispy-fried homemade spring rolls combined with Mushroom, pork, shrimp and bean thread noodles, along with Andaman's three flavors sauce. This unusual and proprietary sauce is sweet & sour & spicy, and good enough to want to eat by itself with a spoon!
Next we had the Pad Thai ($8.50), which appeared to resemble other Pad Thais except it had a small bowl of ground red chili pepper placed on top you could add to season the Pad Thai to meet your taste. There were also little nuggets of golden-yellow daigo (pickled daikon radish), which imparted a different taste. The soup was extraordinary, though. We had a small order of Tom Yum Goong (shrimp, $6.50/small, $12.50/large), and this had an enticing presentation of fresh lemongrass, shallots, coriander, kaffir lime, galangal, mushroom and fresh lemon juice. People should really like the soups here - they have a purity and methodology to them...they are made for you to experience each ingredient's taste...Chef Jhamnong's training and culinary vision has defined Thai Fine Dining.
Andaman's Green Curry with Pork ($8) came next. This has coconut milk, eggplant, bamboo shoots, pumpkin, and fresh basil. An unusual and rare ingredient in the curry was button eggplant, which looked like brand new plump peas! The composition of spices and consistency of the ingredients captured the essence of the curry. It was evident that a professional Thai chef was working in the kitchen.
Other dishes we tried on a second visit was the Fireball Stir-fried Vegetables ($7.50), flambe style with flavors of fresh chili, garlic and soy bean sauted with mixed vegetables - this is an obvious vegetarian dish of which there aren't many on the menu, but you can request dishes be made for you. We also had one of my personal favorites, the Pad Kra Praow, which is stir-fried Thai Style with fresh chili, garlic, fresh hot basil leaf and served with steamed rice and a crispy fried egg. We had this with sliced pork ($8), which is the same price for beef and chicken, while shrimp will cost $12.50.
Our final item was a divine Baked Pumpkin Custard ($4.75), with coconut sweet rice and ice cream! It's presentation was marvelous...just like eating in a fancy hotel in Thailand. Other desserts include a tiramisu and the Thai Aim Tim Bo Raan. Andaman's is open Tuesday - Sunday, and closed on Monday. Lunch hours are 11am to 2:30 pm. Dinner is served 5:30 - 9:30 p.m. This place is already great, and will only improve with age. Call them at 649-9889.
Issin Japanese Restaurant
Westin Resort Guam
From now until December 27, you can enjoy a 20% discount from the regular menu prices at Issin Japanese Restaurant, one of Guam's most venerable and preferred establishments, where the sushi and sashimi are impeccable. However, aside from the discount offer, you can get real value with the daily lunch specials that start at $12. Lunch is served from 11:30am-2pm daily.
This past Thursday I did have one of the lunch specials, the Issin Bento ($17.50) which had Saba (pickled mackerel), Tempura, Sashimi, and Green Salad topped with Issin's refreshingly pleasing light Japanese vinaigrette. The quality of all of the items in the bento box justified the price.
One of my lunch companions had a Tempura Udon Lunch Special ($13.50), which he thoroughly enjoyed. He added a red pepper blend to kick it up a notch! For $15 you can get Chicken & Shrimp, Fish & Shrimp, or a Tempura set, with each lunch served with Green Salad, Rice, Miso Soup & Pickles.
Issin's rarefied dining ambiance is blessed with an impressive panoramic ocean view, which is another factor that justifies higher pricing. Teppan Yaki dinner specials start at $32.
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