November 9, 2007, Volume 7 Number 45
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
I hope you've had a better week than me! Alas, I have been a bit below the weather and afflicted by what must be one of those nasty flu bugs wreaking havoc amongst our island residents. The best cure is supposed to be "rest" and plenty of fluids, but you know when you have a busy schedule and things to do, it's hard to rest. It's a good thing that my restaurant visits occurred well before my illness....I've not had a regular appetite in a while and am anxious for s return to my usual energetic self. I apologize for the brevity of this newsletter!
Ken the "Guam Food Guy"
Sichuan Kitchen has recently re-focused their menu to better highlight their core strength, which is Sichuan cuisine. They will specialize in those food items that bear the authenticity of the region, so when you go there now, you won't find the Cantonese menu items any more, and will only on occasion find non-Sichuan items on the daily specials written on the chalk menu board. They have also ceased their food delivery service. It only makes sense to "put your best food forward" by doing what you do best, and in Sichuan Kitchen's case, their Hot Pot is their most unique product.
Along with the Hot Pot, the a la carte items you should definitely try are the Sichuan Cold Noodles ($4), which are a favorite to the Sichuanese. I had these during lunch recently. They are absolutely delicious and not as spicy nor hot as one would think. Served in a small bowl, the flour noodles have a dollop of the Sichuan pepper spice blend along with slivers of green onion that you stir together.
The spicier item to try would be the Spicy Sichuan Noodles ($5), which are served as a hot ramen-like blend with a red broth - it's red for a reason! This will be a very popular dish for locals who like "pika" food.
One of our favorite appetizers is a plate of cut long green beans with Sichuan pepper oil sauce ($5). This is an extraordinary dish and each bite of the crisp green bean carries an extra load of rich peppery flavor. These pepper flavors are addictive and tend to leave you craving for more!
I had the Sichuan Chicken which is stir-fried chicken with bell peppers, onions, carrots, and garlic ($6, lunch menu price). Again, the Sichuan pepper flavors permeate, and are seasoned without sugars. Other dishes available on the lunch menu are Ma Po Tofu ($5), Braised Tofu with Chili Bean Sauce ($5), Kung Pao Chicken ($6), Fish Cooked with Dou Ban Sauce ($6), and a spicy Braised Beef with Vegetable ($6).
The Hot Pots can now be ordered as a set menu item, with the Seafood Hot Pot priced at $25, which includes the seafood broth (spicy or mild), shrimp, squid, fish, fish balls, cabbage, mushroom, tofu, and vermicelli). The other Hot Pot options(Lamb, Chicken and Vegetarian), have ingredients that are complementary. These menu items can be viewed online.
Benkay Japanese Restaurant
Hotel Nikko Guam
Benkay is one of those revered Japanese restaurants usually visited on special occasions. Like most of the other Japanese restaurants located in hotels, dinner menu prices are relatively high, and this effectively restrict many locals from frequenting Benkay for dinner.
They make lunch time attractively affordable so that you can pick an entree or bento course that will not set you back too much. It was during a company luncheon in Benkay's private function room that I had a chance to revisit this legendary eatery. The menu is fairly extensive, offering guests a decent range of options, including a weekday lunch special priced at $13. Unfortunately, on this visit the food was not up to the quality standards I expect from this restaurant.
Though I normally opt for a Bento lunch, I ordered the Katsu-don ($13) from the Rice Bowl a la carte menu. It came with miso soup, stewed eggplant, and oshinko (pickled vegetables). The portion and presentation looked promising, and though the first few bites of the braised pork cutlet were satisfactory, I was disappointed as I delved deeper into the rice beneath, finding it drier than what I'm used to having. There was not enough broth to flavor and moisturize the dish, which is an integral part of this dish and what makes the Katsu-don I've had in other places tastier.
The Benkay Bento is under Deep Fried Dishes and is priced at $16. It has tempura, sashimi, and a few appetizing delicacies including fish cake, baked eel wrapped around vegetable, and salmon. I didn't have the entire dish but did sample the eel, which I found okay. I just wasn't getting the magic.
The last item I sampled was the Nigiri Sushi-Zen ($22); we had ordered several for the table. This came with the stewed eggplant, miso soup, chawanmushi (egg custard), assorted sushi rolls including California and spicy tuna, and a slice of cantaloupe. The spicy tuna was the best, in fact, everyone thought it was better than most spicy tuna rolls. They used a lot of donne. For me, though, the California would have been better with less rice.
To be fair, I've reviewed Benkay's All You Can Eat Sushi (Every Monday & Thursday) in the past so I know that Benkay has really good quality sushi. For $38, you can eat all the sushi you want for 90 minutes! Not a bad deal if you like sushi.
Caliente Mexican Taqueria
Hagatna (behind Alpha Insurer's and Bank of Hawaii)
We had to return to Caliente to try the Margarita we'd missed during our first visit. We ordered a traditional lime margarita and one that Anna (server/bartendress) suggested, which was a Peach Mango Margarita. It was a smart recommendation, and I had to re-confirm my findings twice again. Yes, this was definitely worthy, and probably one of the most satisfying I've had. She blended it perfectly and rimmed it with the right amount of salt.
To accompany this, I ordered two soft shell tacos ($2.75/each), one pork and the other steak, and a Tostada de Ceviche ($4.50), which is a hard flat tortilla topped with mahi marinated in lime sauce and mixed in spices, then topped with avocado slices. Talk about taste! You can add as much salsa as you want, and pick the ones you like, from the salsa counter. Now this is affordable dining! The other thing I want to mention is that you may find marinated and pickled vegetables in a container in the salsa counter. These are super hot - we had some sliced carrots that'll make your ears turn red! Keep your eyes on Caliente.
Sam Choy's Friday Seafood Night
"Magnificent!" That's the one word I'd use to describe Seafood Night at Sam Choy's. It's not just about the wide variety of selections available at this All-You-Can-Eat extravaganza ($29.95 price includes bottomless Heineken or wine, which was a truly palatable Beringer Reserve Chardonnay that paired perfectly with my meal); it's more about the quality of what's served. There's no way to sample everything, but I think I covered most everything available!
I had the Kajiki Poke, Fresh Ahi Sashimi, Fish Kelaguen, Chilled Snow Crabs with Cocktail Sauce, Crab, Broccoli & Pasta Salad, and a superb Seafood Chowder to start. I also had the Seafood Lau Lau with Shoyu Butter Sauce wrapped in parchment paper since they were out of Ti leaves - still quite good though. I also had a savory Maine Lobster Bouillabaisse, the Stone Crab Claws in Japanese Curry Sauce, and Deep Fried Lapu Lapu with Spicy Coconut Sauce.
Of course, the thing that Sam Choy's is known for is their King Crab Legs, and yes, I got some of these, too. They use the Red Alaska King Crab Legs, which are the best quality. Be sure you get yourself the crab crackers and the plastic shell cutter to make opening these crustaceans easier. The sweet meat comes out in big, juicy chunks...this is the kind of eating you'd have to enjoy while you still can! It's wonderfully indulgent!
While I was sating myself on seafood Zee had a vegetarian course. She had a salad, then was brought a flatbread with pesto and tomato, baked and sliced like a pizza. It was marvelous...something I didn't even know they did. She also had a spicy pasta dish that she enjoyed as well.
For me, I had to go back for seconds on the King Crab Legs, but also managed to pick up some Crispy Crab Cakes that are freshly made at the live cooking station, which come with a to-die-for wasabi aioli. I also had a large filet of Baked Salmon en Croute, which I topped with a dreamy shitake white cream sauce. I certainly was getting my fill of this fabulous fare.
We had to save room for a little dessert so we did the Chocolate Fountain and dipped some strawberries, pineapple, bread pudding, and brownies in the cascading molten chocolate. Such is decadence!
We were spoiled by Maria, who was ever attentive to our needs. She recommended a Cappuccino to go with dessert...it was perfectly made. So, if you have a hankering for seafood, I wholeheartedly recommend Sam Choy's on Friday nights from 6-9pm. Take note that some of the preparations and sauces may change from week to week, but you can rest assured that whatever is served will be very good. The complete updated menu is posted on the Sam Choy's Diner Page on GuamDiner.com.
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