April 10 , 2008, Volume 8 Number 14
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Do you remember the literary phrase, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."? When you think about it, it seems to hold some truth. For me, it's really been this way all of the years of my life that I can recall. As I am an optimist at heart, I believe in viewing things in a positive light, even difficult challenges. For pessimists, it is easy to see how things are just terrible, and even getting worse. As the Guam Food Guy, I have deliberately elected to be a positive reviewer of food experiences, which explains why you won't find harsh or unfavorable comments in my restaurant reviews, though at times I do express my disappointment at something that doesn't please or satisfy me.
In my glowing commentaries about dining experiences I may omit certain details that can frustrate some diners. I apologize for these broad strokes and hope to hone my critical skills so that fairer assessments can be made. These may not sit well with some restaurants, however, improvements must be made in both the quality of service and the quality of food that's being provided. Indeed, there has been some progress reported by off-island visitors that the quality of restaurant dining on Guam has shown an improvement. This is a good sign, but there's still much work to be done. This task of helping to make improvements should be shared amongst all of us, so that each of you living here on Guam and dining in our restaurants should express your satisfaction or dissatisfaction directly to the managers of the places you frequent. Be constructive and specific in your criticism as that gives the restaurants a clear idea of what needs to be done. Hopefully, this will help them improve.
With this in mind, we are also committed to making improvements at GuamDiner.com. Do you realize that this is the 350th weekly newsletter since our official launch in June 2001? It has been an amazing achievement creating this piece of work each week despite typhoons, power outages, family emergencies and all the myriad events that impact all of our lives. We have reached the point where we need to change our publishing frequency so that we can spend more time refining the reviews and developing content for the newsletter. Therefore, we will start publishing a bi-weekly GuamDiner newsletter effective today. So mark you calendars - our next newsletter will be on April 25. Look at this in a positive light - I am!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
In Today's Issue:
- PHARE 2008 April 10, 11, & 12 - Don't Miss The Fun!
- Around the Island - Kalena's Canteen, Yellow Cab Pizza, PROA Restaurant
- This Week's Review - Barracuda Restaurant - Mediterranean Tastes in Palau
PHARE 2008 April 10, 11, & 12 - Don't Miss The Fun!
The island's premiere trade show, PHARE (Pacific Hotel & Restaurant Expo) and Travel Trade Show, started on Thursday and continues today through Saturday at the Hyatt Regency Guam in Tumon. Sponsored by the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association, this annual event introduces new products to the industry and promotes awareness on key issues affecting hospitality in general.
There are two food competitions held each year. The first is the professional Chef's Culinary Competition held on Friday from 11am-1:30pm. This year's theme ingredients "I was almost a Ham....BUTT!" and is sponsored by Quality Distributors and Fiji Water. The second is the Student Culinary Competition, "Do you Have a Beef to Grind!", is sponsored by Triple J Five Star Wholesale Foods and Fiji Water.This will be held on Saturday from 11am-1:30pm. On Friday night at 9pm there will be a Bartending Competition featuring Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila sponsored by ST Corporation. Be sure to also check out the innovative furniture creations by Kenneth Cobonpue as well as other vendor displays.
One of the best things I saw today was a booth showcasing local produce. It has a banner that reads, "Coming Soon...Guam Farmers CO-OP" and "Buy Fresh, Buy Local"! This is fantastic news and bodes well for the island's residents and for our visitors. To illustrate the beauty of what our farmers grow here is a basket filled with locally-grown "grape" tomatoes. These are an awesome sight!
Around the Island - Kalena's Canteen, Yellow Cab Pizza, PROA Restaurant
Chamorro Village Wednesday Night Market
If you've been to the Wednesday Night Market at Chamorro Village, you will find dozens of food vendors barbecuing and selling food plates. I walked through recently and found one vendor in particular who seemed to have everything I was looking for and more to satisfy my craving for bbq chicken and ribs. This vendor is Kalena's Canteen, and they specialize in Chamorro food. Their booth usually has a long line but it's worth the wait. They start out with cold items like kelaguen (chicken, beef, shrimp, fish, and octopus), eggplant, spinach, potato salad and pickled vegetables. The barbecue chicken, short ribs, and spare ribs are really popular, as is their Tina'lan Katne (dried beef). I had the pleasure of being able to get a taste of some of these in my plate and also had a little Bisteak, Tinaktak and Ka'don Pika.
Yellow Cab Pizza
We wanted to give Yellow Cab Pizza a try since they recently opened, so we ordered take-out. The NY Classic (Pepperoni, 14") sells for $17.49. I also ordered some Hot Wings (4 pcs) for $7.49. This is a brightly-lit, clean, and inviting establishment, with booths for dine-in eating. The pizza was not what I had expected and I should probably have ordered one with more ingredients, such as the Garden Special with fresh tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, onions, red & green bell peppers or the Manhattan Meat Lovers with ham, pepperoni, Italian sausage, ground beef, salami & bacon. The pizza was uneventful and fairly plain.
For my taste (and money), I much prefer Boston Pizza's pizza, whose dough has a better flavor and texture. The Hot Wings were "crispy and juicy", as promised in the menu. They dip them after frying into spicy wing sauce. They were actually pretty good. I have to go back and try the Ham & Cheese Calzone ($6.99) as well as the Spaghetti & Meatballs ($7.40). On the plus side, the service at Yellow Cab Pizza Co. is very good.
Tumon, Next to Ypao Beach Park across from GVB
The lunch specials at PROA always impress me. I had a delicious sandwich a few week's back that continues to haunt me! It was their Herb Crusted Ahi with Spicy Remoulade Sandwich, served on a Kaiser roll ($11.95). The fish was perfectly cooked, even juicy rather than simply moist.The spicy remoulade sauce was a noted enhancement that complemented the fish, which was a respectably-sized portion that exceeded the bun. You certainly get your money's worth at PROA. PROA's reputation is continually increasing, and the more people I meet that have been to PROA, have made it one of their top choices.
Barracuda Restaurant - Mediterranean Tastes in Palau
My recent journey to Palau was filled with amazing discoveries. One of these great discoveries is a quaint, open air eatery called the Barracuda Restaurant, located in Koror in the same compound that is home to Fish 'n Fins, a world renowned dive shop as well as the base for Ocean Hunter I and II, Palau's "best safari boats". I had the great pleasure of sharing a lunch with Tova Harel Bornovski, Barracuda's owner (she and her husband, Novat also own Fish 'n Fins and the Ocean Hunter liveaboards). They have lived in Palau since 1993 where they have raised their four children, the two youngest were born in Palau.
Sitting down in Tova's restaurant was a personal dream come true for me since I had been yearning to try her food since I first met her in December of 2005 when she came to Guam to do a book signing of her impressive cookbook, "A Taste of Rainbow's End". Her book is a collection of recipes from a number of people in Palau and is available on Guam at Bestseller Bookstores. An intro to the book relates that "some people collect stories, others buy souvenirs in far away lands, but only a few talented individuals gather recipes and dishes wherever they go and share them with their loved ones." When you visit and dine at the Barracuda Restaurant, you should consider yourself to be a "loved one" since the foods served here are an eclectic collection of fabulous Mediterranean recipes using fresh local ingredients.
Tova was born in Northern Israel so she brought with her a heritage of Mediterranean spices and flavors. Her travels around the world have supplemented and expanded her culinary awareness and aptitude. She is a consummate cook whose food seems to have a life of its own. Sitting across the table from Tova, I was mesmerized by the view of the bay and marina that serve as an idyllic back drop for Barracuda. Gazing out over the pristine azure waters I nearly forgot that I was here to eat. In fact, it was only after I'd had one of Palau's best cappuccinos that I was able to order the day's special, which was a Spicy Tunisian Fish Steak served with Salad ($9). Tova also shared with us some of her famous home-made breads, which included an Olive Oregano Bread ($6) that was made with parmesan and sesame seeds. You'd have to taste this bread to really appreciate the texture and flavor of this hand-made artisan bread. It's a delight! The fish in the special was wahoo, and it was perfectly prepared and topped with a green chili with cilantro and olive oil that had a pesto-like consistency. This had a salad with a savory vinaigrette and large scoop of rice.
Tova's lunch was an improvised salad with grilled wahoo. It had olives, capers, tomato, cucumber, carrots and mushrooms, all doused in a vinaigrette. Her salad was not on the menu, but others, such as the Nicoise Salad ($9.50), Greek Salad ($6) and Grilled Vegetable Salad ($7.50), are available. Along with her salads is the Mediterranean Sampler ($11.50), which has Hummus, Tahini, Turkish dip, Pumpkin, Eggplant, Tzaziki & Falafel. You can have any one of the sampler items alone for $3. The menu has burgers as well including an Aussie Burger ($7.95), which has a beef patty, fried egg, bacon, beets, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, onion, and cheese. You can also get a Grilled Fish Burger for $5.50 or the Vegetarian Burger for $6.50.
Among some of the Mediterranean items you can order are Fresh Fish Carpaccio ($6), Trio Crostini ($6.50), Spankopita ($4.50), and Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves for $4.50). The menu boasts some 83 appetizers and entrees, including lamb, beef, chicken and fresh seafood. Tova had another basket of bread delivered that had two kinds of bread, Taro Bread and Kangkun Bread. It's amazing to try these breads since they are made using local ingredients. Tova uses herbs grown in her own garden to flavor them.
Tova's head chef is Caesar, and he is assisted by Churu, who is from Nepal and is training as a cook at Barracuda. In fact, this gentle man has the most charming persona. He taught me how to say thank you in Nepalese, "tani baht"!
Barracuda is also a bar so you can sit down, relax over a few beers or a glass of premium wine, and order at your own leisure. Barracuda's customers come from all over the world, with many coming to dive on the liveaboards (where the cuisine is also excellent). While I was relaxing at Barracuda after doing a Rock Island tour, a large group of French tourists were enjoying a meal. Of course, they were feeling "the love" too as Tova went over and conversed with them in perfect French. Speaking five languages can be most useful when you are in this business. Tova's culinary mastery as demonstrated at the Barracuda Restaurant can be appreciated in any language. For information about Fish 'n Fins and the Barracuda Restaurant, go to www.fishnfins.com. The phone number is 680-488-2637. Be inspired by the Mediterranean tastes you can find in Palau, at the Barracuda Restaurant!
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