June 22, 2007, Volume 7 Number 25
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
I'm sometimes asked what I really enjoy about being a food reviewer. The answer is really very simples. I like being able to introduce people to a new dining experience. When people meet me and tell me they've tried a certain dish I recommended at such and such restaurant, and that it was as good as I said it was - that's a big payoff for me.
This past week I was able to revisit two little and relatively unknown Japanese eateries that I'd recently written about in the newsletter and talked about on K57's Big Show with Travis Coffman. The first is Ebisu, which I reviewed on May 18. Fumi-san, Ebisu's chef/owner, is now nicknamed "The Master". I don't know how he does it, but his hand-made original sushi creations are addictively delicious! Ebisu has been getting many repeat customers and word about their sensational sushi and other menu items is spreading each day. I've got people telling me they've been there six or seven times after I introduced them to it, and they even tell their friends and sometimes bring them!
The second Japanese restaurant is Men-kui Noodle House, located in the Tumon Trade Center, which I wrote about in last week's Diner Bytes. I talked to co-owner Sumiko Kudo the other night when we went there to have some ramen. She smiled broadly and said that people have been coming in, some with the newsletter in hand. After enjoying their noodles, many have told her how much they enjoyed the food.
Both restaurants offer distinctly unique and equally-cherished Japanese culinary offerings, sushi and ramen. Sitting at either restaurant's counters immediately puts you in the "zone" of being in Japan. At Ebisu you watch Fumi-san work his magic behind the sushi bar, whereas at Men-kui, you can watch NHK News while slurping your bowl of fresh-made, incredibly good ramen. These small family-run hideaways rely on word-of-mouth advertising to get people in the doors.
It pleases me to be a part of this "word of mouth" promotion, and if sharing these experiences with you gets you in their doors, I've served my purpose.
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
Ultimate Grilling Competition II Winners
Last Saturday's 2nd Ultimate Grilling Competition at Adelup was a resounding success and definitely fun for the whole family. I had the task of being a Referee for the Judges of two categories, which were chicken and pork. There were 19 chicken entrees and 20 pork.There were as many entrees for the beef and the Budweiser Challenge categories. All I can say is I'm glad I was NOT a judge, because there were so many really good submissions. At the end of the day, however, there had to be winners in each category, and from what I witnessed, it seemed that there's no disputing the power of "Tamuning wood"--(tangan tangan, that is), as the Mayor of Tamuning, Frank Blas, led his team to victory by placing well in two categories and taking the overall lead to again win the coveted Grand Championship Belt.
There were some newcomers to the event this year who competed against some of the seasoned grillers from the first competition two years ago. There was a lot of heart and soul poured into the marinades, rubs, and placed in the smokers and on the open-fire grills. The free sampling of these tasty fixings was something you'd have to have been there to believe. Below are the winners of the competitions:
First Place: 1/2 a Haole Grill
Second Place: Good Eats Part 2
Third Place: Brutus Grill Plan
First Place: Mayor of Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon
Second Place: Team Chando
Third Place: Team Badsport
First Place: Pacair Ltd.
Second Place: Mayor of Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon
Third Place: Team Badsport
Budweiser's People's Choice Award:
Mayor of Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon
Budweiser's BBQ Recipe Challenge:
Brutus Grill Plan
Congratulations to all the participants for making this event successful and for helping in this worthy fundraising activity coordinated by the Pacific Island Grillers for Education to benefit Special Education.
Jamaican Grill's Serious Eating Competition
One of the highlights of the Ultimate Grilling Competition was Jamaican Grill's Serious Eating Competition, which was, judging by the frenzied screams and exhortations of the audience, intense fun! I don't believe I've ever attended a food contest quite like this one, which had 4 teams of two members - one a feeder and the other an eater. It was the job of the feeder to put as much food as possible into the mouth of the blind-folded, plastic shrouded eater as they could in two minutes, which was later extended to an additional two minutes. The "serious food" was a family platter from Jamaican Grill, which contained Jerk Chicken, Ribs, Red Rice, and Peppers - enough for a family!
amaican Grill co-owner Frank Kinney laid out the rules and kicked off the contest, with the crowd going nearly apoplectic in the final seconds as they shouted for their favorite duo to cram the last bits of chicken and rice into their mouths in a frantic attempt to lighten the weight of the platter. When Kinney did the final weigh ins, it was the two man team of Dennis Manzon and Christopher Bawar that took the first place title. The prize they won was a Free Jamaican Grill Family Platter each month for a year. Ya mon, that really was a serious eating competition - pass the Alka-Seltzer please!!
Blue Lagoon Plaza
Now for a "cooler" kind of grill! It was near the end of May that I had a very specific urge to eat a gyro at the Caspian Grill. However, once I arrived and perused the menu, I also thought it would be a step in the healthy direction to order the Greek Salad ($6.99), which I did. The salad arrived and beckoned me with its appealing elements, which included dolma (grape leaves stuffed with basmati rice and vegetables), feta cheese, pepperoncini, black olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, green bell peppers and onions on a bed of lettuce and served with a house dressing. Had I ordered pita bread, this would have been an adequate and satisfying lunch.
I have to learn to curtail my compulsions, since I knew it would be a challenge to eat that huge Gyro Sandwich ($6.99) that was placed in front of me. I really shouldn't complain, but this sandwich is a lot bigger than one person should attempt to eat if they've already had a large salad. I wasn't intimidated, and after the first bite of this delicious creation that combines slow-roasted, tender beef and lamb that's been specially seasoned, I knew that I'd eat most, if not all of it. The gyros are dressed with tzatziki which is a savory cooling sauce of yoghurt, cucumbers, garlic and lemon. It's an ideal companion for the gyro.
Now, the next mission for me is to return to the Caspian Grill on a Saturday night, watch the belly dancer perform, order a Cornish Hen Kabob or a Lamb Kabob, and find out what smoking a hooka is all about. They have a selection of hookas on the counter at the Caspian Grill. Now that's what I call getting in the mood!
Sam Choy's Guam USA
Chef Peter Duenas has done it again! He's created another menu family, this time it's a family of savory, finger-licking BBQ favorites from his recently launched "Smoke House BBQ Festival Menu". Served from 11am-2pm daily, this menu offers something for everyone in the family. I can confirm that every bit of meat served is smoked in a bona fide "smoke house", using local woods such as ifit, aga (similar to ironwood), and tangan tangan. You will see big meaty ribs that have the tell tale pink color of cured ham that identifies true smoked meat. Among the dishes I sampled the other day with Chef Peter were the Hog Wings Appetizer ($9.95), which are tender smoked pork shanks dipped in a sweet honey bbq glaze as they grill. These are really lean and go great with bbq sauce.
To get the broadest sampling of food, we had Chef Pete's BBQ Plate ($19.95), which had BBQ Ribs, BBQ Turkey Tails, Smoked Sausage, and BBQ Beef Brisket. Each entree is served with your choice of rice or mashed potatoes, as well as your choice of two sides: cornbread, potato salad, coleslaw, Texas toast, BBQ beans, or corn on the cob. I recommend this plate since you really have a chance to taste the different flavors. The beef brisket is delicious, and made with tender, slow-cooked Angus beef brisket brushed with a sweet honey BBQ sauce.
The Smoke House BBQ Ribs on the plate are slow smoked St.Louis-style ribs that are grilled and brushed with a tangy passion fruit BBQ sauce. The BBQ Turkey Tails are just fun to eat (if you are into Turkey Tails). These are dipped in a boonie pepper BBQ sauce and grilled to order. You can order this as an entree, just look for Dinanche BBQ Turkey Tails ($11.95) on the menu. Chef Pete's made an awesome smoked sausage with a unique, fresh, chemical-free flavor you'll really appreciate. This is served as a Grilled Sausage Plate ($12.95) as an entree.
We also ordered the BBQ Chicken ($12.95), which is 1/2 smoked chicken grilled and brushed with a tangy passion fruit sauce and the BBQ Pulled Pork Entree ($12.95). The BBQ Pulled Pork is really a treat...just as juicy, tangy and barbecuey as you can get...the shredded pork is made just right! For sides we had the BBQ beans, coleslaw, cornbread that's been grilled after it's been baked - a really good tasting sweet corn bread, and Texas toast. I think we ate enough for a couple of days, with plenty to share. To add to the appeal, Sam Choy's is running a contest going on sponsored by Miller Lite to win a Jeep Wrangler! I think you're going to need a big durable vehicle to move around in once you've filled yourself with Chef Peter's awesome Smoke House BBQ meats!
New Kinney's Restaurant
Cliff Hotel (former lounge on Lobby Level)
It was culinary deja vu! Yes, a much-loved taste from the past has returned to Guam after a nearly 4 year absence. I'm talking about the New Kinney's Restaurant, which has opened with a spectacular million dollar view overlooking Hagatna and the communities stretching northward. As the New Kinney's has only been open a few weeks, you should give them some time to get all the kinks out so there may be a little delay in getting meals. Mine didn't take too long, I'd say about 14 minutes...and when the food was delivered, well time didn't matter anymore!
The menu has always been simple...Onion Rings (small $3.25, large $4.75), Chicken, Mahi-Mahi, Shrimp, and newly added Short Ribs (small $7, large $10), Chop Steak and an 8 oz. Steak are $11, and the Combination of any two of the Chicken, Mahi, Shrimp, or Short Ribs will set you back $12 for the small portion and $15 for the large. Each order comes with your choice of steamed white rice or French fries. You also get a choice of house salad with a their traditional spicy vinaigrette or coleslaw. I must have been too excited to notice I didn't get one of these - didn't matter, I was too full as it was!
The onion rings were exactly right. Same with the fried shrimp and fried chicken...the same light batter that I remembered for nearly a 30-year span of eating at Kinney's. There's a nice pika cocktail sauce that tastes like there's either horseradish or wasabi added to kick it up a notch. There's also tartar sauce available, along with white vinegar finadene, which goes perfectly with that chicken. A new item I tried later as a take-out sample was the short rib, which had been marinated and grilled, and comes with a tangy sauce.
There's a little photo gallery in the entrance way depicting the life and legacy of Joaquin Blas, Kinney's original founder, who opened Kinney's in Barrigada in 1947. I remember selling equipment to his son, the late Manny Blas. Those photos will take you down Memory Lane. The New Kinney's is owned and operated by relatives, Fred Blas, Jr. and his father, Fred Blas, Sr. (4th and 3rd generation family members respectively). It's an ambitious undertaking carrying forward a long-held tradition of consistent tastes.
From the happy looks on customer's faces, they are getting what they came for - that certain "Kinney's Fix". The New Kinney's is just what it's called - a "new Kinney's" - same familiar tastes in brand new digs! With today's dietary trends, I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see a salad bar with more vegetable options available...after all, that view needs to be enjoyed by all. Kinney's is open for lunch from 11am-2pm for dinner from 5-10pm, Mon-Sat, closed on Sundays and Holidays. Take-out orders are welcome!
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