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December 21, 2007, Volume 7 Number 50

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

Isn't it amazing that over an entire month of activity and preparation are involved in just a single day's celebration? It's no wonder why Christmas is (for the Western world at least) the greatest holiday of all! It's the longest!

For Guam, the sure fire official kick off for the holiday season every year is the launch of the Hilton's Holiday Express Train, which takes place each year around Thanksgiving and runs past New Year's! Every year we feature a picture of this delightful winter wonderland creation that fills the hotel's lobby. It's island dreamy, a fantasy world of floating balloons, valleys, bridges, snow-capped mountains, and pine forests, all serving as the background stage for the main event, the procession of colorful trains. One could spend an hour or longer just watching the interchanging motion of the trains on the tracks, noting the over 50 ads and business logos displayed on virtually every facet of this magical train land. Aside from inspiring everyone of the guests and visitors who see this mesmerizing display of the holiday spirit, it is also supporting a great cause, with proceeds from the advertising sponsors going to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Of course, when it comes to Christmas, most of our time, energy, money, and love goes to making Christmas a very special time for our kids. Wasn't it that way for your parents? Do you remember sitting on Santa's lap and telling him what you wanted for Christmas? Have you been naughty or nice? Of course we've been good (well, at least most of the time!) It's the same here on Guam as it is anywhere else where Santa is part of the holiday culture. For youngsters like Mailani Matsuno shown sitting on Santa's lap, it's becoming part of a timeless ritual for the true believers. Yes, there is a Santa Claus, and yes, if you are a good little girl or boy, you will get special presents for Christmas. And so the story goes. It's a wonderful tale, one that we continue to perpetuate and probably can't imagine living without. We wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas during this holiday season, with special thoughts and prayers to our troops who are away from their families upholding the security of the world.

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy" & the GuamDiner Staff

Welcome, Ruby Tuesday!

Congratulations to the entire Ruby Tuesday team on the successful opening of your beautiful new restaurant at the Guam Premier Outlets in Tamuning on December 18. I had the opportunity to attend the VIP Grand Opening on the preceding Monday night and was quite impressed by the quality of the operation. They have literally and figuratively "raised the bar" (not only is there is an awesome beverage "bar", but there is also a superb salad bar.) New taste sensations like the Jumbo Lump Crab Cake, Thai Phoon Shrimp, Fresh Avocado Quesadilla, and dreamy new burgers, which are described as, "hand-crafted to be the best anywhere." Take the Triple Prime Burger ($11.79) made with USDA Prime beef with tenderloin, rib eye and sirloin ground, blended and grilled with garlic mayo. I don't think we've seen many of these babies on our tables until now! Ruby Tuesday is open for dinner at present and will open for lunch sometime after Christmas. Call for take-out or reservations at 647-4829.

Hanagi Japanese Restaurant
P.I.C. Guam

If you've never been to Hokkaido, you'll be happy to know that Hokkaido has come to Guam for you, at least in the world of cuisine, which is what you'll find at Hanagi, where some of the menu ingredients are sourced from Hokkaido. Although Hanagi has a lunch buffet in tandem with its adjoining sister restaurant, Welcaruba, I was able to sample some items on the extensive a la carte dinner menu, which has a range of set teppanyaki menus, sushi and sashimi set menus, as well as individual entrees. Hanagi's Chef Ikeda surprised me by bringing out a Spicy Hamachi (yellowtail) that came with tempura vegetables and light, sesame butter sauce that complemented the pepper-spiced crusted fish filets. This was delicious, unlike any preparation I've had and I still don't know all the spices they used to season this fish.


he next entree I had was another sample of Chef Ikeda's creativity. He prepared a Spicy Salmon, which had a large salmon filet pan-fried and placed on a bed of sauteed vegetables, with a preponderance of enoki mushrooms blended with cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots and onions. There was a thick, sauce on top the salmon that was more flavorful than spicy. This dish was served on a sizzling platter. The vegetables were really something else...I just couldn't stop eating them - they were very fresh. I'll have to come back to Hanagi and do their teppanyaki and try some of the sushi. You can get an intro to some of these during the Japanese Breakfast Buffet (7:30-9:30am) and during the Japanese and Asian Lunch Buffet (11:30am-2pm). Dinner is served from 6-9:30pm.

Welcaruba Asian Dining
P.I.C. Guam

While I was sampling two entrees from Hanagi, I was also able to enjoy two delightful creations from Welcaruba Asian Dining prepared by Welcaruba Chef Yokoyama. Welcaruba offers the tastes of Asia, and the Chef has adapted some of the native cuisines to make special versions. The first was Ma Po Tofu Welcaruba Style ($15). I don't think I've had a more fiery Ma Po was spicy, with plenty of chili oil. The tofu was delicious, yet it was the meat that really made this dish stand out. There were different cuts and pieces of meat instead of the typical ground pork. This gave it more texture and seemed more like a stew.

The second entree I had was the Fried Rice in Stone Pot Welcaruba Style ($15). This is their version of the popular Korean dish, bibimbap, which is rice, egg, vegetables and meat (in this case it was shrimp and pork) stirred, blended, and cooked against the hot inner walls of the stone pot which creates a delicious crispy and crunchy crust. I added some chili paste for flavoring as it cooked. What was really different was the use of mozzarella cheese, which I was shown how to use it by putting a little bit in a cleared area of the pot before mixing a small portion of the cooked rice with it. The taste was a new sensation, and I ate as much as I could, which was a lot considering I had four entrees! There are Malaysian, Vietnamese, and other Chinese dishes on Welcaruba's extensive a la carte menu. The Asian & Japanese Lunch Buffet allows you to sample a variety of their dishes.

Le Tasi Bistro
New Marina Hotel

We had lunch on Thursday at Le Tasi Bistro, which is the standard day for one of their signature lunch specials, the Hungarian Beef Goulash with noodles. The special is $11.95, and includes either soup or salad, entree, and dessert. The soup today was a Spanish white gazpacho made with ground almonds, and if you haven't had that, it was quite appealing, with a unique and almost aromatic nuttiness. The beef was tender and the gravy was thick and rich with paprika.

The entree Zee selected for lunch was the Rotelli Pasta with Vodka Sauce and vegetables, I had a taste of this and liked the zestiness of the marinara sauce Chef Bertrand created. With the salad and bread basket, this was a lot of food.

We still had to save room for dessert, and she had a piece of pumpkin pie while I ordered a brand new item Bertrand baked - a poppy cake! Let's hope he makes this more than once! We can't say too many good things about Le Tasi Bistro. They will be open on Christmas Eve serving a traditional French Noel meal!


Aji Ichi Japanese Restaurant
Blue Lagoon Plaza

Aji Ichi is one of those venerable Japanese restaurants, having evolved from a simple ramen house to a highly successful and popular casual dining eatery, serving sushi, sashimi, bento boxes, and more. There are three locations (GPO, Upper Tumon across from Nissan, and Blue Lagoon). We went to the Blue Lagoon location and ordered Edamame ($3), and Kimchee ($3) as appetizers, followed by a Yakisoba (w/o meat, $7.25) for Zee and I had the Dinner Special Bento ($15.25), which actually is a perfect way to eat your way through a lot of Aji Ichi's menu, since it includes tempura, fried tofu, California Roll, sashimi, poki, beef, saba, and sunomono. We also ordered an additional sushi creation, the Aka-oni Roll ($4.75), which has tuna, cucumber, tempura crunch, and red hot pepper.

We sat at the counter and ate, enjoying the buzz of so many diners around us. This place stays busy! The new menu has some really nice color photos of the various menu items, and makes ordering quite simple with clear explanations of each entree.

There were some notable things about the bento I had. The tempura was good and even had a piece of broccoli, which was a treat we both enjoyed. The fried tofu and poki had lots of green onion and both had their own distinct flavor profiles. All in all, the bento is a very reasonably priced entree giving you a range of food items you could buy individually. I think, however, the beef may have used some kind of tenderizer.

The Aka-oni was alright, especially considering the price. Although I have my own personal favorites for the best sushi, I do appreciate the variety of sushi styles and types available. It's easy to see how Aji Ichi had kept a solid base of customers for many years. There are many who swear by their lunch specials, especially Monday's Pork Ginger & Fried Rice ($7.95). Other lunch specials (all $7.95) are Bento Box on Tuesday, Chicken Cutlet on Wednesday, Tempura on Thursday, and Beef Teriyaki and Fried Rice on Friday. Aji Ichi will surely be around for another 25 years!

Ita dake masu!

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