March 28, 2008, Volume 8 Number 12
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
I've said it many times before, Guam is one of the busiest places on the planet...or maybe it just seems that way since we manage to jam-pack so many events into our days and weeks! This past week has held some very significant culinary events which we'll be covering in this week's newsletter. The first was last Saturday's ProStart 2008Culinary Competition and the second was the 7th Annual Celebrity Chef's Cup held on Wednesday at the SandCastle.
I was involved in both as a judge so I had a first hand look at the impressive creations made by some incredibly talented chefs and chefs-to-be. There are more events on the immediate horizon, such as the Auction & Wine Tasting Fundraiser for the Benefit of the Guam Girl Scouts that will be held next Friday(April 4) at the Hyatt Regency Guam. This is one of the most elaborate events of its type and features sumptuous culinary samplings from around the world. Tickets are still available at the Girl Scout Center(646-5652). The following week brings us the PHARE(Pacific Hotel and Restaurant Exhibition) which also a culinary competition as well as a bartending competition. I can't even list all of the things happening in between....trust me, there's plenty to do! I still scratch my head in amazement when people tell me there's little to do on Guam!
Finally, if you are able to get tickets to the Jake Shimabukuro concert this Friday night at the Marriott, this is one show you don't want to miss! I saw Jake for the first time during the Chef's Cup and he is a delight to see and hear. He is accurately described as an entertainment phenomenon and has been called the "Jimi Hendrix of Ukulele". After you watch his incredible musical performance - a veritable tour de force - you will gain a new respect for the ukulele. Shimabukuro is a world class performer, and most deservedly rates as a super-star! Bravo!!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
In Today's Issue:
- GCC ProStart 2008 Culinary Competitition Winners
- 7th Annual UOGEF/MCA Chef's Cup Winner
- Around the Island - Jamaican Grill Lunch, Le Tasi Bistro Chicken, King & I Thai Buffet
- This Week's Review - The Taj - A Taste of India in Palau
GCC ProStart 2008 Culinary Competition Winners
Last Saturday the center court of the Agana Shopping Center was abuzz with sounds of chopping, slicing, dicing, and sauteing as teams from four local high schools competed for the opportunity to represent Guam in the 7th Annual National ProStart Invitational in San Diego April 24-26. Although I consider all the young people dressed up in chefs uniforms to be "winners" for just showing up and seriously participating, one team had to be voted to be the best. That team was from JFK, whose members are Delmer Gubatan (Captain), Kenneth Liffang, Belva Mabel, and Marny Zaldivar.
This is the third time that JFK has won the first place position under the guidance of Mentor Chef Christophe Durliat, Executive Chef of the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa. The JFK team instructor was Susan Seay, who is an Associate Professor with GCC. The winning dishes that wowed the judges started with an appetizer, called Kennedy's Catch, which had mouth-watering salmon and scallops steamed in banana leaves, and partnered with a coconut lemon grass sauce and tomato concasse.
JFK's Juicy Tenderloin Teriyaki was the entree and was succulent pepper crusted beef tenderloin glazed with teriyaki. The steak came with an island-style sweet potato salad, fresh asparagus, caramelized pearl onions and a creamy wasabi butter sauce.
The dessert was called Islander's Sweet Surprise, which had local fresh fruits (mango, star fruit, local banana, and Chico) along with strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. It featured a chocolate coated wonton that contained the fruit. What a show! We want to wish this team good luck in their bid to win the National ProStart Competition next month.
7th Annual UOGEF/MCA Chef's Cup Winner
The University of Guam Endowment Foundation and Micronesian Chefs' Association held what many considered to be the best Chef's Cup competition they've held since starting this noble culinary tradition seven years ago. This year's theme was "East Meets West", and the five-course meal was comprised of extraordinary creations by leading chefs from the island's hotels and restaurants
For the first time ever, there were two voting categories. One was the People's Choice Award, where all the attendees had the opportunity to pick their favorite course, and the second was the Chef's Cup Award, for which a panel of five judges comprised of chefs and food service executives selected the winner.
The competition was quite close, though it was no surprise that both the People's Choice and the Chef's Cup were awarded to Executive Chef Chris Aguilar of the Outrigger Guam Resort for his entree, Mishima Ranch Style Kobe Beef. It was a fabulous seared Wagyu beef sliced atop a crispy shitake rice cake, and served with baby bok choy, Tokusei glaze, and micro greens salad with white truffle oil. This is the second Chef's Cup win by Aguilar and that puts him good company with other two-time winners Ronnie Calvo Perez, chef/owner of Firefly Bistro, and Christophe Durliat the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa's executive chef. These entertaining events are successful fund-raisers for the Endowment Fund and for scholarships to support the culinary arts program attendees at the Guam Community College.
Around the Island - Jamaican Grill Lunch, Le Tasi Bistro Chicken, King & I Thai Buffet
I spend a lot of time talking about food at restaurants and unfortunately not enough time telling folks about food for kids! This is an area I hope to pay more attention to since many parents are looking for good places to take their families that won't cost too much but offer quality dining. The place I'm featuring today is Jamaican Grill, and it's their Kid's Burger ($4.99) that's the meal deal! Served in a boat-shaped plate, it has home fries and a slice of watermelon. The burger is good-sized with cheese. It is also a really tasty burger. As far a burgers go, Jamaican Grill has one of the tastiest by virtue of the fact that they use jerk seasoning to flavor their meat! Kids also get crayons for filling in designs on the back of their menu.
Other great lunch items at Jamaican Grill are the flavor-packed "Jerk"Chicken Kelaguen Salad ($10.99), the Grilled Local Catch ($10.50), and the Jerk Chicken & Ribs Combo ($10.50), which is the Grill's most popular plate. It has 1/4 "Jerk" Chicken, and 3-4 pieces of Boston Beach Ribs, along with red or Jamaican Rice (or both), and a house salad. I call it all "serious food", yah mon!
You know people like chicken when they show up every Wednesday for lunch at Le Tasi Bistro, which features Roast Chicken with Roasted Potatoes. There had to be about 25 to 30 orders of this lunch special while I was there this past week! For $11.95 you get your choice of soup or salad, the main entree (there are two other entrees you can choose each day), as well as a dessert of your choice. Check out the weekly lunch specials for Le Tasi Bistro at GuamDiner.com.
The King & I Thai Cusine's Lunch Buffet ($8.99) is probably Tumon's best value for the money. Located in the Blue Lagoon across from Stanlee's and the Acanta Mall, the King & I 's buffet has 14 hot items from which to choose, along with two soups. One of today's was a Salmon Sinigang. There is also a salad bar with the regular ingredients, along with Papaya Salad. There's even a dessert bar, too, which had chocolate chip cookies, fried bananas, and tapioca. What a deal!
The Taj - A Taste of India in Palau
The Taj has been called the best Indian restaurant in Micronesia, which is an impressive ranking when you consider that the entire geographic footprint of Micronesia spans as far across as the continental United States. The fact that the Taj is located in Palau and not some larger metropolitan island like Guam or Saipan even makes this claim even more of a curiosity. The reality of the Taj's masterful preparations of traditional Indian favorites is both sobering and edifying, and erases all doubts about the claims of Taj's culinary primacy. Just as Palau is a world class diving destination, Taj is an equally compelling authentic Indian restaurant destination, and a place I would gladly travel 3000 miles across the ocean to enjoy.
Located on the 2nd floor of the PDC Building in downtown Koror, the Taj literally recreates an epoch of Indian history where the aristocracy would hold lavish banquets and splendid events celebrating special occasions. The entire interior of The Taj has been designed to replicate the home of an Indian aristocrat. The opulent decor coupled with sitar-laced music is the backdrop for an unforgettable dining experience, where you, the guest, are treated as famous Indian royalty like the Sahibs and Memsahibs with attentive service and fabulously delicious food.
The Taj's extensive menu is mesmerizing and overwhelming, and almost seems like an encyclopedia of Indian cuisine. Beautifully captured photos of entrees literally jump off the menu pages as they appeal to and engage your senses. We started out with Delhi Samosa (chicken $5), Tomato Soup ($5), and Mulligatawny Soup ($6), which had green onions sliced on top of a very thick and spiced soup stock made with split peas and lentils. We were then brought some Cheese Naan Bread ($4), which I found to be especially good.
We watched Taj's General Manager, Robert Scaria, stop in front of a nearby table with a long sword on which he'd skewered some pieces of Tandoori Chicken, which he then flamed for a fiery effect! Awed guests were snapping photos of this exotic pyrotechnic performance. Our party of three adults and three children watched in amazement as a veritable parade of dishes began to arrive. (Frankly, I am quite literally at a loss to describe in words the details of this culinary inundation!) We had the Baingan Bharta ($9), a house specialty, which is eggplant grilled over charcoal then mashed and cooked with fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger, and spices. We also were served the Palak Paneer ($11), which is fresh home made cheese cooked in a creamy spinach sauce. This was a popular favorite with both the adults and the children in our party. We had the Kashmiri Pulao Rice, a long grained Basmati rice cooked with dried fruits, nuts and saffron ($8), as well as Shrimp Chettinadu ($16), which was an orange-colored curried gravy topped with coconut milk.
General Manager Robert then came to our table with our Tandoori Chicken on the long sword, which he flamed to the entertainment of our table. This savory chicken had been marinated in yogurt and mild spices before being roasted in the oven, and is priced at $12 for half, and $24 for the whole chicken.
Thinking that we were finished despite more naan bread and even a Batura ($4), a deep fried puffed bread, being set on the table, we were very surprised when the server brought out a huge platter, called the Tandoori Mix Grill ($28). This is a combination dish that has Tandoori Chicken, Malai Kabab (succulent portions of tender white chicken marinated with yogurt and ginger), Seekh Kabab (minced lamb marinated with a delicate blend of special spices), Boti Kabab (tender mutton pieces barbecued over charcoal), Tandoori Shrimp, and Fish Tikka (fresh fish pieces deboned and marinated in exotic Indian spices). As I said, it was a lot, and we ate as much as we could, opting at the end for leftover containers. On Guam we'd call this Premium Balutan!
There was another ceremony we needed to indulge in at the end of our meal, and that was Robert serving the traditional Indian tea, Masala ($3.50), which is poured from the pot held about two few feet above the cup. It's impressive, just as everything else was! Even the kids had a chance to get a kitchen tour and see the two Indian chefs cooking near the tandoor oven.
The Taj serves a range of refreshing beverages including the ever popular Lassi, chilled juices, soft drinks, wine, and cocktails. There is a large deck outside for outdoor dining. The Taj is open daily for lunch from 11am-2pm with a buffet served during the work week. The chafing dishes are exotically crafted with an old-world appeal. Dinner hours are from 5 -10pm. Take-out and deliveries are available and can be made by calling (680) 488-2227. You can call for reservations, too, or email Robert at email@example.com.
The next time you are in Palau, be sure to stop by The Taj for a exquisite and extraordinary Indian dining experience that will leave your mouth tingling with sensational flavors. It's the spice of life!
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