November 30, 2007, Volume 7 Number 47
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
This past Wednesday I drove down to Umatac to attend the funeral services of a spirited old friend, Jose Maguadog Quinata. Joe was quite a story-teller and he would enthrall us with war-time stories of his youth and about his years of military service, as well as his retired life after the service. We met him and his lovely wife Dolores (Loling) while doing a review of Loling's Hamburger Stand back in May 2002. It was always a pleasure to subsequently drive down to Umatac to spend a little time with Joe and Loling, who were a joy to watch and to interact with while having a soft drink or a piece of home-made pie. After this latest drive down to Umatac I headed out of the village down to Merizo where I stopped for a few minutes to gaze out across the azure lagoon to Cocos Island in the distance. There is one adventure I'd like to relive, and that would be a return visit to Cocos Island. I have a long history with Cocos, ever since we built a sizeable restaurant there in 1982. Now that's a bit of history you probably didn't know!
My, what a beautiful island we live on, and what a special form of therapy it is to get away from the pressures and deadlines of "big city" living in Tumon's hotel row and the business districts of Tamuning and Hagatna. Once you drive past Agat heading south you can't help but feel the loosening grip of "civilization" and all of its formalities and obligations. This southern part of Guam is where you can be inspired and uplifted by the majestic towering mountains, the verdant valleys, and scenic bays. There's something that's both calming and alluring in the deep undulating ocean swells you see while driving on the winding road through the hills of Umatac. Roll down your window so you can hear the wind and feel the breeze of nature's non-conditioned air - an air that's much easier to breathe. It's like being in another time and in another land! Yet, you never have to leave Guam to appreciate it. This is the reason so many visitors jump on airplanes to fly to our island paradise...it abounds in natural beauty.
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
These are a few of the major events occurring this weekend:
9th Annual Dance Fest 2007
Pleasure Island, Tumon
Friday, Nov 30
Guam Jingle Bell 5K Fun Run & Walk
Guam Hotel Okura, Tumon
Saturday, Dec 1
Guam Girl Scouts Christmas Tree Sale
Girl Scout Center, Tamuning
Saturday, Dec 1, 9am-5pm
Sunday, Dec 2, 9am-3pm
28th Japan Autumn Festival
Ypao Beach, Tumon
Saturday, Dec. 1, 2-10:15pm
Guam Marriott Resort & Spa Tree Lighting Ceremony & Ribbon Cutting of the Giant Ginger Bread House
Saturday, Dec 1, 5:30-7pm
(Benefiting Rainbows for All Children and featuring the Cantate Choir)
18th Annual Seaside Concert by Guam Symphony Society
Seaside Lawn, Hilton Guam Resort & Spa
Sunday, Dec 2, 3pm
Chef Peter's Backyard Kitchen
It's been more than 12 years since I last saw my former AK Commercial colleague, Charles "Charlie" Guerra, but he has recently returned to Guam to live after residing in San Antonio, Texas, where he was the Asst. Parks Maintenance Superintendent. Charlie and his wife Sonia (who will be arriving in January) have been avid readers of our GuamDiner newsletter and frequently would reply complaining how the food photos and reviews would make them homesick for Guam. When we finally reunited, he asked which restaurant had the best Chamorro food, and since it was Saturday and nearly lunch time, I took him to Sam Choy's where we could feast on Chef Peter's Backyard Kitchen Menu. Boy, was Charlie about to become a "happy camper"!
We started out with the Kelaguen Uhang Yan Titiyas (shrimp kelaguen, $9.95). This is made using succulent tiger shrimp marinated in fresh lemon juice, salt, boonie peppers, onions and served with home-made corn tortillas.
Then, we had the Tinala Katni (local style dried beef, $12.95), which is made using beef brisket cured with Chef Peter's secret spice rub and then dried and sliced and served with corn tortillas or steamed rice if you prefer. I asked for finadene dinanche and vinegar finadene. Charlie loved the dinanche - it was not fiery hot but had the best taste you can get from this eggplant, coconut, and boonie pepper blend.
Then we had the Kadon Katni (clear beef soup with vegetables, $10.95), which had nice chunks of USDA Choice beef cooked in a flavorful broth with potatoes and baby bok choy, along with steamed rice. You add soy finedene to this and you've got a winner!
Our final dish was Chef Peter's Tinaktak Manok (spicy chicken in coconut milk, $10.95), made with tender ground chicken cooked with string beans, boonie pepper, cherry tomatoes, and coconut milk, all served on top of steamed rice. This is a favorite dish of many people as it is absolutely delicious! Charlie had to 'balutan' this since we had ordered more than enough to eat for lunch. But now he knows where to get quality Chamorro cuisine!
Mary's Vietnamese Restaurant
Rt. 16, Harmon (across Iglesia ni Christo)
Whenever I'm asked for my recommendation for a good Vietnamese restaurant, my first suggestion is Mary's Vietnamese in Harmon. This cash-only eatery does a lot of business, with much of it take-out. They have the best Fresh Lumpia ($6), served with owner Mary To's hoisin peanut sauce, laced with crushed boonie peppers and shredded carrots. Mary's fresh lumpia taste like no other, and when all of the fresh ingredients including the shrimp, chunks of chicken, rice noodles, lettuce, and spicy chives combine in your mouth, you're guaranteed to get a "Wow!" experience.
Another top seller are Mary's Fried Pork Chops ($7.50), which are amongst the island's best and I have this on good authority from my Vietnamese food consultant, Vivian B. You get two large golden-brown chops that have been marinated in a special sauce then fried to juicy perfection. These are served on a mound of steamed rice and come with a pile of lettuce layered with sliced local cucumbers. Her finadene is made with a sizable dollop of crushed pepper which makes it a pika finedene sauce you'll savor for while after. That's the one thing Mary's will do for you...leave a lingering taste in your mouth that'll have you coming back for more!
Tumon Bay Lobster Bar & Grill
2nd Floor, La Isla Plaza
If you like steak and seafood, you probably won't be disappointed with the large selection of entrees at Tumon Bay Lobster & Grill! This unique destination offers one of the island's best dining experiences since it offers both outdoor seating in an open air garden on a deck overlooking San Vitores Road as well as indoor seating if you prefer the comfort of air-conditioning.
Of course, the steaks are Certified Angus Beef and the seafood (lobster tails, Maine lobster, and Alaska King Crab legs) is of a high quality as well. The nightly entertainment is one big draw and the night I was there I was mesmerized by the sultry, soulful singing of Natalia Faculo, who performs solo with an acoustic guitar. She is an incredible talent whose singing enhances the ambiance.
We began with two starters, Beef Kelaguen ($7.95) and Coconut Shrimp ($7.95). These are both quite good (other kelaguens to try are the shrimp, fish, and chicken). The Coconut Shrimp come with a tangy sweet chili sauce.
In case you didn't know, Tumon Bay Lobster & Grill is one of the few remaining places that serves Seafood Chowder in a bread bowl ($6.95), which is a meal in itself!
For dinner, I had the Tenderloin Steak and Lobster Tail Combo ($39.95), served on an over-size platter along with steamed veggies and a baked potato. Your meal also comes with a trip to the salad bar. We had a bottle of the Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet. The steak was a perfectly prepared medium rare and the lobster tail was grilled to a tender sweetness though you can have it steamed if you prefer. Tumon Bay Lobster & Grill is also becoming known for its personable service staff. Kudos to Genevieve, Annie, and Alena for a job well done! Also, compliments to the chef, Jun Estavillo!
San Vitores Rd. (across from GVB and Ypao Beach Park)
I didn't know what to expect when I dropped by PROA Restaurant for lunch. I have eaten my way through most of the menu so I try out their specials, which have always been superlative. When I heard they were serving Fried Parrot fish ($16.95), I was committed! I also ordered the soup ($3.95), which was a Parmesan Cream of Mushroom. I asked for some bread and was delighted to get some fresh baked basil-laced focaccia. The soup was magical...nothing overpowering, just a delight to savor.
The Parrot fish made a breathtaking entrance. The golden-fried finish gave way to steaming white chunks of meat that I splashed with lemon finadene (excellent times two) and took my time enjoying what was the best-tasting parrot fish I've had for lunch since the closing of Y Kusina. This entree also came with a side salad, which had a noteworthy dressing that seemed like a curry vinaigrette.
PROA fills up quickly for lunch so you should either make a reservation or come early (before noon) to assure a seat. This small and still relatively new eatery has been open just over a year, but it has made a deep impression on Guam's culinary landscape and has become a favorite destination for locals and visitors alike.
The service is also on point here, and guests are watched and tended to constantly - it's a place where you just won't be ignored! The view of Ipao Beach and parts of Tumon Bay allow for wistful relaxation and a serious "pause" in the fast-paced frenzy of activity going on up and down Tumon's main artery that fronts PROA. Waxing poetic, I'd describe PROA as both the journey and the destination. It's just the kind of place you'd never forget.
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