March 7, 2008, Volume 8 Number 9
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
They call her the "cat"! Yes, this feline moniker was made for my mom, Toni, who has just been released from the Kingwood Medical Center in Houston and transferred to the Park Manor Skilled Nursing Home. She has made what can only be described as a miraculous recovery from what everyone had felt was her final moments - the reason I left for an emergency trip on February 22. The fine doctors and nurses at this state-of-the-art medical facility took amazing care of mom, but it was her will to live that brought her back from the precipice.
It was also the prayers of many who prayed for her well-being that supported this will. These prayers were tested several times as her condition fluctuated. When I arrived, she was on a support system which rendered her speechless.Each day she gradually showed improvement and it wasn't until four days after my arrival that she could talk. Now she's fielding phone calls. She certainly exemplifies the "nine lives" of cat!" Having her family show up at her bedside to encourage and support her played a key role in her recovery as well. It's a blessing to have a family's love surrounding you, and that's true whether you are sick or well.
Speaking of blessings, I can't emphasize this enough! Guam is blessed with an amazing natural beauty. Just look at this picture of Tumon taken the other day from the Reef Hotel's Sango Restaurant. After flying nearly 13 hours from Houston to Narita, and then the 3-1/2 hours from Narita to Guam, you really appreciate our island's beauty. The plane was filled with mostly young Japanese tourists and they were so excited to be coming to Guam. They were coming here for fun in the sun and a break from the cold weather and crowded living conditions of Tokyo and other large cities.when some of them found out I was the Guam Food Guy, it was picture taking time. We all need to practice that original W.A.V.E. slogan - "Welcome All Visitors Enthusiastically!" The returns from developing this habit are incalculable. You can make a difference. You carry the most powerful weapon in the world. It's called a smile!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
Two More Down - El Asado and Esmeralda Closed
No wonder I've not seen any ads or promos in the past few months for El Asado and Esmeralda at the Alupang Beach Tower; they are both now essentially closed.El Asado is open only for tour groups while Esmeralda's may be converted into condos. I remember eating at both places over the past few years. This just demonstrates the ever-changing culinary landscape of Guam.
Tumon Grade Center, Ground Floor
If you can get a better bowl of ramen on Guam than what they serve at Menkui, please let me know! One of the selections we had was the Soy Ramen (no meat) for $7.00. Ideal for vegetarians, the freshness of these ramen noodles is the first thing that hits your palate, because they have a freshness you can taste! The MSG-free broth is light and served at the right temperature so you can eat without having to slurp your noodles. Rounding out the flavor and texture are bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and scallions.
For this visit I passed on my regular Special Negi Ramen which is loaded with shredded Japanese green onion and specially seasoned ground pork, and had the Chasyu-men ($9) instead. This is something you can definitely compare to other "Chashu" ramen dishes featuring slices of pork loin. I was told that Menkui uses a special recipe for the pork - it was heavenly in flavor, sliced thickly and noticeably tender. This superb pork is only matched by the awesome noodles with which they're served.
I've talked about the pedigree of Menkui's Gyoza ($4/five pieces), and it's no secret why people who've ordered these before make it a point to re-order them on their successive visits. You can make your own dipping sauce with hot chili oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and red chili paste.
Sango Japanese Restaurant
Guam Reef Hotel
If you are planning on having a business luncheon with a small group, you might consider the private room at the Sango Japanese Restaurant. This room has been remodeled from when I had previously visited. It now has the Japanese-style seating with the feet and legs under the table and you are supported by a comfortable "L-shaped" legless chair that rests on the floor. Word to the wise - be sure you do leg stretches before sitting! You will need some flexibility to sit down and to get up! These seats are curved to accommodate the contour of your back. The buzz word for this is ergonomics. The view is fantastic, looking all the way south along the white sandy beach to the Hilton.
Sango offers several Lunch Set menus. I selected the Tonkatsu (pork cutlet) lunch set ($16). This is served with an appetizer, rice, miso soup, pickles, according to the menu, fruit. Though there was no fruit served, I did get two salads, and on this day, that was a blessing since I was in a salad mood and the lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, bell pepper, and purple cabbage were fresh and crisp, drizzled with a Japanese vinaigrette. The crispy panko-ed pork cutlet comes pre-sliced and was a sizable portion. They put a little pile of hot mustard on the plate, which I used along with the tonkatsu sauce that's in a small bowl on the tray. The pickles were marinated thin slices of cucumber and radish. The miso soup was typical. The only drawback was that some of the dressing from the salad had leeched over and soaked the bottom of my cutlet, sogging it a bit.
Others in my group had the Sango Bento Box, with sashimi, tempura, grilled fish of the day, braised dish, and served with appetizer, rice, miso soup, pickles, and fruit ( $20). I can't really comment much on this as I didn't taste these, but the consensus seemed to enjoy these bento boxes. Again, there wasn't any fruit served, perhaps it is served seasonally.
Humble City Cafe
200 Main Street
Humble, Texas 77348
If you ever get to Houston and have time to go to a little town called Humble (pronounced 'umble', with a silent 'h'), you're in for a real treat if you can make it to the Humble City Cafe. I've been to Houston a number of times visiting family over the past 8 years, however, this was my first time! For some reason, my brother Carl (who lives there and works for Continental) thought I'd been there already. The Humble City Cafe is famous for its down-home cooking, and believe me, after eating at many fast food and ever-present chain restaurants that serve food that's more formula than substance, I really looked forward to this change of pace.
Though the cafe was founded in 1995, it is housed in a building that is more of an historic landmark than just a restaurant. The cafe is in the Pangburn Building, built in 1914, and previously housed a pharmacy, a post office, bus stop, grocery store, the original "City Cafe", and more, including what looked like the remnants of a auto shop garage. The banquet hall upstairs still retains its original wooden floors. The Pangburn Building's owner is Tom Ott, and his philosophy is to serve the "freshest home cookin' and provide the friendliest service."
Once seated, your server takes your beverage order and brings you a cast iron skillet with fresh baked cornbread and some butter. It's been pre-sliced into pie-shaped wedges for easy retrieval. I had the Humble City Cafe Root Beer, $1.49 and they also have other bottled sodas including Cream Soda and Black Cherry.
Carl's favorite is the Chicken Fried Steak ("only half" for $10.99, while "the whole thing" is $12.99). He got the half, which comes with a choice of two sides. He spoke highly of the Grilled Zucchini and also got the Mashed Potatoes with a thick, creamy country gravy. This also came with Texas Toast.
I ordered the Pork Chops ($11.99), two center cut pork chops that are lightly seasoned and char grilled. For an additional $3.99, you can have them smothered with grilled onions and mushrooms and fundido cheese. This "smothered" addition can be applied to any dish and the menu recommends it! I looked down the list of sides and opted for the green beans and macaroni & cheese. Some of the other freshly-made sides were onion rings, stewed apples, sauteed squash, black eyed peas, fried okra, turnip greens, sauted cabbage, and glazed carrots.
When the chops were delivered I uttered a low "wow"...they were magnificent! The green beans got the first bite...and they were indeed "freshly-prepared" as the menu stated. The same was for the macaroni & cheese, which was definitely a down-home recipe. I sliced the chops and put a piece in my mouth. This was awesome! The meat was slightly seasoned just enough not to overwhelm, and it was so juicy and tender that I had to offer a piece to Carl, whose eyes lit up when he had a bite. Just as good as can be. I then added the grilled onions, mushrooms and cheese...this is actually a melted Monterey Jack Cheese. Smothered is right...this is so thick you have to separate the meat occasionally just to have it by itself. It's one heck of a dish!
Other dishes we'll have to try on future visits are the Humble Po Boy, the Reuben, the Mushroom Swiss Burger, and specials including Chicken & Dumplings, Beef Brisket Plate, Pot Roast, Meat Loaf, Fried Catfish, and Chicken Enchiladas. Yessir, down home cookin' here is so good you'll wanna take a nap when you walk out the door"!
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