June 27, 2008, Volume 8 Number 19
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
It's great to be back! Yes, I've been gone a while longer than I'd expected and am happy to finally return to active duty as your peripatetic explorer of food adventures!
My recent travel to the States included visiting Houston to attend my brother Carl's 50th birthday roast, which turned out to be outrageous fun with many guests eating local treats and later singing their hearts out with Carl's karaoke system. My daughter Avril came down from Washington state with her companion Cathlin and they were able to join us on a visit to see my mom Toni in the nursing home. (Toni's making amazing progress in her convalescence!). [Photo: Don Breeding, former CEO, Continental Micronesia; Carl Stewart, the Birthday Guy; Judy Breeding]
One of the amazing technological achievements we managed while at Carl's home in Atascocita (Humble, Tx) was to SKYPE my brother Lee and his wife Barbara while they were in their hotel suite in Abu Dhabi. A group of us stood around the computer screen and gawked into the webcam while excitedly reveling in this new (to us) real-time telecommunications discovery. That was totally awesome! [Photo: Lee Stewart - take note of GFG in the lower left corner taking the picture!]
Another leg of our journey was taking a drive to Indianola, Mississippi to see Zee's mom, Marilyn. We just missed the legendary blues performer B.B. King's annual concert which he does each year in his home town!
On the return drive through Louisiana we had to sample some Cajun cuisine so we stopped at Steamboat Bill's in Lake Charles (see write-up below). It was a fantastic journey which allowed for valuable family bonding time. Of course, the more I reflect on it I can now understand how I developed such a love for food...it runs in our family! Every "bonding" experience seems to center around eating! I'm sure many of you can relate to this kind of bonding. Food is, after all, my raison d'etre, n'est pas?
Ken, The "Guam Food Guy"
Happenings on the Guam Restaurant Scene
So much is happening on Guam that one has to stop and catch one's breath! Just think, in the past two weeks we've seen the opening of Shogun Teppanyaki & Roll in Tumon across from PIC where O'Kim's Teppanyaki used to be.
Also, the Westin made a marvelous conversion in their lobby by creating The Mix@cha cha cha, which introduces a trendy, sophisticated lounge for light dining and enjoying beverages. (See details below!)
The month of July will see the opening of two new restaurants in the Holiday Resort Guam. One is Seoul Jung Korean Cuisine which is an upscale, fine dining Korean restaurant, the likes of which Guam has not yet seen, and the other is Eat n Joy Rotary Sushi, which has a sizeable sushi counter. Both restaurants are on the upper mezzanine level adjoining the Matua Lounge.
Another restaurant slated to open near the middle of July is the much-anticipated Cafe Havana, located in the former TJ's at the Hyatt Regency Guam. This will be an exciting addition to Guam's restaurant repertoire since it'll bring Carribbean and Cuban fusion cuisine and exotic cocktails to our tables. This one will certainly be worth the wait from what I've heard and seen from the inside, it's going to be a refreshing surprise.
I don't know the exact time table for the opening of Ishi Oti, a "Eurasian" restaurant located in the Tumon Bay Golf Driving Range, but it could be late July or early August.
The Chili's opening will be sometime in November or December, and there's a possibility that we'll see California Pizza Kitchen re-emerge in its former Holiday Resort location before the year's over. Now, isn't that a lot!?
On the Lake
1004 North Lake Shore Dr.
Lake Charles, LA
If you are ever in the Houston area and have time to make a quick drive to Louisiana without going all the way to Baton Rouge or New Orleans, might I recommend stopping by Steamboat Bill's on the Lake? It's easy to spot from I-10 after you've crossed the bridge coming into Lake Charles. This is certainly a popular spot for tourists and locals and it's easy to see why Steamboat Bill's was voted #1 for Crawfish & Seafood in Southwest Louisiana.
We placed our order and found a table in one of the dining rooms. Steamboat Bill's is colorfully decorated with all things seafood and other interesting memorabilia - it's definitely "dressed in character"! I had to start out with a Cup of Gumbo ($3.99) and this alone was worth the 12 hour flight from Narita! Talk about tasting all the ingredients that makes a Gumbo gumbo - Andouille sausage, chicken, and rice in a flavor-laden broth that brings up the appetite just enough is served to jump start you for the feast to come.
To get the most from the menu offerings we had the Captain's Platter ($19.99), which is describes as a "feast for the seafood lover", and includes Stuffed Shrimp, Catfish, Oysters, Stuffed Crab, Medium Shrimp, Fries, Cole Slaw and Louisiana rolls. We also ordered the Fried Crawfish Tails ($10.99), which are seasonal.
We set about to eating from this "feast" when we realized that we didn't have what another nearby table had been filled with - Boiled Crawfish! Talk about coveting thy neighbor. So we ordered a pound of these steaming red mini-crustaceans ($3.99) and got down to the nitty gritty of tearing these little bad boys apart and sucking the juices from the heads. Now this was some down-home Cajun eatin' and it was DEEELICIOUS!
The fresh catfish filets, stuffed shrimp, fried oysters, and stuffed crab were all good eating, and batter fried in 100% Peanut Oil. Alas, it proved far too much food for us to finish and even pack for the 2-1/2 hour drive back. But the memories linger - until next time. Go to Steamboat Bill's! You won't be disappointed!
Vittles & Vino Happy Hour
A Taste of Vietnam
prepared by Casey & Katie Truong
An amazing phenomena took place this past Thursday night at the SandCastle's Manhattan Bar. Two sisters proved that home cooking is the best cooking when it comes to Vietnamese cuisine, and Casey and Katie Truong received multiple kudos and high praise from a packed house of grateful diners.
The simple menu was grand in taste, with a marvelous 10 ingredient soup filled with quail eggs, meats, and veggies; fresh Vietnamese Spring Rolls with a peanut sauce; a savory Chicken Salad; Beef Salad; Crispy Fried Noodles; Vietnamese Pork Sandwich, Lemon grass Chicken Stew (this was awesome - like an adobo but with lemon grass), Fried Banana Lumpia which was to die for and Shu Creme pastry puffs.
I've had the pleasure and privilege of enjoying the Troung sisters cooking at private home parties and I can say that they really pulled off maintaining the quality of flavors and tastes when they cooked for the hundred or so guests who attended the Manhattan Bar's Happy Hour. As an added bonus, a portion of the proceeds will go to benefit the Jeff Hill Culinary Scholarship Fund.
Issin Japanese Restaurant
The Westin Resort Guam
One of the great pleasures of returning to Guam is to enjoy really good sushi, and when you go to Issin at the Westin, the only way it comes is good.
We had a birthday celebration lunch with a large group and part of the feast was a stunning sushi platter. Meticulously prepared by skilled sushi chefs, the platter contained Ebi (shrimp), Ama-ebi (sweet raw shrimp), Maguro (tuna), Ika (squid), Hokka (clam), Sake (salmon), Tako (octopus), Toro (fatty tuna belly), Tai (sea bream), and Buri (yellow tail).
Then we had some fully loaded California rolls as a second appetizer.
The lunch special most of us had was the Steak & Shrimp Teppanyaki ($19) or the Chicken & Shrimp Teppanyaki ($17). The view of Tumon Bay from Issin further elevates the dining experience here and you soon realize that the lunch special is quite a bargain considering the quality of the food and the ambiance. A la carte sushi items are 20% off during lunch.The meal ends with hot green tea and Azuki (red bean) ice cream.
Across From GVB near Ipao Beach
PROA has established itself as a serious go-to destination for lunch. The same could be said for dinner, but we did lunch twice, so that's why I'm fixated on it! I happened to have lunch just before going on my Texas trip. I really wanted one of their great local lunch specials but they had just run out prior to my arriving, so I had a PRA BBQ entree, the Big Feller Trio Platter ($12.95), which has the Hibachi-Style Short Ribs, Chicken, and Spareribs with their signature Marianas Glaze. Yes, these are as good as they sound and no, they never can give you enough but you do get what you pay for and that's value! With soup or salad, plus rice, it's adequate for most people. It's just that the taste is so compelling one can't help but CRAVE more!
They say to save room for a dessert item from their Sweet Relief Pastry Shop...yes it's a relief, but not a lot of barbecue glazed dessert items there. So, on my next lunch visit I had an appetizing and creative onion soup to start and then I went the Pork Rib Chop ($13.95). Oh, did I perform surgery on this glorious piece of meat! I even told Chris Bejado that he needs to make me a special and give me two ribs since I seem to embarrass myself trying to carve out the last string of meat from the bones. This time, I did treat myself to a Lemon Tart ($6.95), which came beautifully garnished by fruit sauces. I had a Cuppuccino, too, which was made just right with a Lavazza espresso I appreciate.
PROA's going to be around for a long time if I have anything to say about it! I bet you'd say the same thing, right?
The Mix@cha cha cha
The Westin Resort Guam
Still spanking new, this is an elaborate sensory experience you don't want to miss. The Westin has unveiled its latest innovation in the form of a conversion of the former Cha Cha Cha lobby lounge coffee house into a sophisticated cocktail lounge serving a cleverly-conceived spectrum of appealing tapas-style appetizers.
Starbucks coffee beverages are still served along with Pastry Chef Eddie Martinez's heavenly dessert creations. Andreas Lorenz, Director of Kitchens in charge of F& B, seems to have made a pilgrimage to food heaven since he took a personal involvement in the formulation of this provocative menu - even the Signature Cocktails are served with intriguing appetizers. The Dry Martini ($9) is a classic preparation, made neat with gin, martini bianco and a twist of lemon. Along with the requisite green olives, it comes with dried tomato, anchovy, and marinated olives on a skewer.
The Mojito ($9) is fabulous, made with dark rum, lime, mint, brown sugar, and soda water. They spent serious time perfecting this refreshing libation. It comes with a memorably original lime marinated ahi in a coconut foam with a little chili oil. A third signature cocktail is the Bloody Mary ($9), and this is made the traditional way but served with a mini-Caesar salad with bacon. The other thing that's new and extremely tasty are the Sweet Potato Chips that are served fresh and free...these are addictive...you won't able to stop with just the first dish!
The Mix's menu has food items served for lunch and others that are prepared for the happy hour and evening time. You can order anything from the bar menu, which has individual portion snacks for $5 or you can do as we did and order the Snack Platter sampler for $25. This includes Deep Fried Feta with Marinated Olives in Peppers, Prawns on Lemon Grass Skewers that offers a wonderful infusion of flavor, Thai Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce, Spiced Lamb and Goat Cheese mini-Spring Rolls, Beef Empanada with Spicy Tomato Sauce, and Tortilla Chips with Guacamole and Tomato Dip.
Some of the sandwiches (all $6.00) you can order are a Ham Focaccia and Grilled Chicken Tortilla Roll with Caesar Dressing. A variety of Panini are also available. How about a Liver pate, smoked ham, and French brie panini ($7)? Or go with Parma ham, feta cheese and grilled bell pepper ($7.50), or the roast chicken, sauteed mushrooms, spinach and swiss cheese ($7.50). The Trio of Mini Pizzas ($9) caught my interest - green onion and blue cheese, parma ham and mozzarella, and grilled chicken with garlic confit and feta cheese. The mezze has world class distinction with Fried Falafel, Hummus and Baba Ganoush served with pita bread.
The last thing we sampled was the Deep Fried Spicy Chicken Wings ($8), which had a scrumptious, undiluted blue cheese dip that was perfectly mated to the Asian Chili spiced wings which were fried to a crisp and served with a thick, palate-cooling celery stick! WOW! These were good, and we have only scratched the surface of the offerings. Doesn't the Tempura Sushi Roll grab you? For $7 it has a prawn and soft shell crab with a chili mayonnaise, wasabi and soy sauce.
The Mix@cha cha cha provides a great tasting menu experience for business types, or anyone really, craving light snacks with a well-made cocktail and ambient music that doesn't detract but adds to the "mix"! Comfortable seating is available throughout the room and at the bar which is sleekly designed to create a stylish setting with a soothing effect on guests.
Bravo, Chef Andreas and bravo Westin for taking the initiative to raise the culinary bar on light tapas dining in an elegant, refined atmosphere conducive to achieving lifestyle nirvana with superb beverage and dessert creations.
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