July 18, 2008, Volume 8 Number 21
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
I keep thinking it's deja vu, that we've "been here and done that" when it comes to Guam's ever-changing restaurant scene. Well, it's an amazing and oft times perplexing notion that people will still put their money at risk and plunge i head first into the uncertain abyss of culinary enterprise, which in most cases is more a matter of ego than business acumen.
Even good and great ideas have their limits for fruition when planted firmly in reality's caustic soil. I'm talking specifically about the recent closing of the dynastic King & I Thai Cuisine Restaurant in Tumon's Blue Lagoon Plaza. It may take years for this sad episode to be unravelled, however, there are a few who would have joined me in predicting the inevitable outcome of this magnificent, if a bit ostentatious, restaurant creation that seemed to have been doomed from its inception. The financial challenges simply overwhelmed the owners and no amount of marketing or advertising could counter the mounting debt from spiralling out of control. Basic economics mandate that one should minimize all overhead expenses unless there a very deep pockets in play and a reasonable pay off is down the road. Rent can kill and it certainly did in the case of the King & I.
This particular location is worrisome, as we've seen the demise of the Caspian Grill, Mekong Viet-Thai Restaurant, and the closing of Wagaya 88, which is actually relocating to the 2nd floor satellite branch across from the SandCastle. I don't believe any restaurant will be able to survive in the cavernous space left behind by King & I, which still contains all the custom furniture, fixtures, equipment, and elaborate menus of King & I.
That space would be a better used as a museum where buses can stop on San Vitores so that students and tourists can visit the premises, since there really isn't even enough parking to accommodate the existing restaurant tenants, though there's more available parking now than there's been in a while! The best advice is often overlooked or not taken, and follows what marketeers have been advocating for years "K.I.S.S., or Keep It Simple Stupid"! Take heed ye foodie entrepreneurs!!
That said, there is still much to be positive about as we head into the celebration of Liberation Day and the attendant festivities. Especially the traditional parade on Marine Corps Drive. Eat well and be well!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
GFG Hosts K57 "Tourism & You" Food Guy Show
Saturday March 15
Listen up this Saturday morning for the Guam Food Guy's segment of K57's "Tourism & You" Show, from 10am-Noon. This week's first hour guests will be the Westin Resort Guam's Andreas Lorenz, Director of Kitchens in charge of F & B who will be accompanied by Margaret Wong Mauro, Public Relations Manager. They will be talking about the Westin's rejuvenation and its newly launched experience innovation, The Mix @ Cha Cha Cha, along with other exciting happenings at this fabulously energized property.
Our second hour guests will be Mary Torre, President of the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association and BinaJo Garcia, GHRA Project Manager, who will be talking about the Taste Guam Food & Beverage Festival to be held on August 2 in the Micronesia Mall's Expo Hall. They will also share information on the Culinary Training Program in Manila as well as other GHRA events and happenings.
These interviews will offer unique and interesting insights into the people behind the scenes at the island's restaurants. This will be an opportunity for you to hear compelling stories about their professions and their passions, which are often synonymous in this industry for people of their caliber. Your phone calls are welcome at 477-5757 or *57 on your cell phone.
Eat n Joy Rotary Sushi
Holiday Resort Guam
Eat n Joy Rotary Sushi opened two weeks ago and has surprised customers by the high quality dining experience that features some well-prepared sushi roll creations. Eat n Joy's owners have spared no expense in assuring that guests are accommodated far better than any other rotary sushi operating on island. There are two-way mechanized tracks that can be modified to increase or decrease its carrying distance using baffles to deliver the sushi. It's ingenious...very much like in Japan..in fact, it's identical. They have individual hot water dispensers for tea around the sushi counter as well.
Eat n Joy has more plate prices than anyone else, with 2 and 4 piee plates starting at $3 for Kappa Maki (cucumber) to $16 for the Maguro Toro (prime tuna belly), with other plates in varying price ranges for everything from a crunchy salmon tempura roll to fresh water eel and sea urchin along with the usual suspects of shrimp, hamachi and the like.
"Favorite Funked Up" Sushi rolls are $6.50, and include the Spider Roll, Cherry Blossom Roll and Dragon Roll to name just a few. Diners can also order Deep Fried Dishes like Tempura and Grilled Dishes such as Hamachi Kam Shioyaki for $12 Sashimi plates are also available.
Southern Style Restaurant
Agat Point Commercial Center
Great news for local food lovers! We're finally getting more local dining options, with one really neat all-you-can-eat Chamorro buffet spot down in the Agat Point Commercial Center across from the Inn at the Bay. It's called Southern Style Restaurant located in what used to be the Movie House Grill. I was tipped off (and abducted) by my friend Joe "Joe B" Barcinas who lead our small group of merry men down the scenic road to Agat on a Friday, which happened to be the Seafood Buffet day.
For $10, you can treat yourself to a buffet of seafood prepared Southern Style. They had fried parrotfish, steamed parrotfish, and parrotfish in coconut milk. Also served was kadon pika, fried shrimp, kelaguen, pickled papaya, cucumber, eggplant, sauteed mussels, garlic fried rice, titiyas, soup, salad, and fresh fruits - truly a feast! The buffet includes iced tea. Dine-in price is the above mentioned $10 anyone 12 and over and for children 7-12 it's only $7, under 7 years is $5. And take-out is only $7!
Every day has a different menu, so on Monday's you get Chop Steak, Kadon Pika, Chicken/Shrimp Chop Suey, and the Chef's Special Chicken/Shrimp Fried Rice. Tuesday features Kadon Katne, Fried Chicken, and Short Ribs Estufao. Wednesday offers Ham Hock with Mongo Beans, Bif Steak, and Fried Ribs. On Thursday you can have Beef Tinaktak, Fried Chicken, and Chop Suey. I understand that they will be opening soon for dinner. This will be worth the drive down...people should seriously consider car-pooling for this great Chamorro fiesta at Southern Style Restaurant! I'll be back again! Gof Mannge!
Saturday Night's "The Ocean's Bounty"
Westin Resort Guam
In case you missed our write-up in the March 21 newsletter, Cafe Kalachucha has an outrageously awesome seafood buffet that people have been discovering in greater numbers, with all of them concurring that this is "The One"!
We stopped by this past Saturday night and the place was jammin'! There were big tables with people of all ethnicities doing what they love most - eating fresh seafood! We had Red Snapper, Grouper, and Parrotfish - all fried, which is one of those lifestyle choices..they are just sooooooo good, especially when dipped in finadene!
Of course, you can choose any of these fish, or shrimp, or baby lobster tails and other fish and have them steamed if you want or cooked in green curry. There are numerous options here!
I just wanted to reiterate and give any newcomers to our newsletter what can be had in the way of seafood at Cafe Kalachucha's Ocean Bounty Saturdays. I don't believe any other restaurant on island puts out a variety of seafood on a par with Cafe K, and if they do, they don't give you as much. These are comments I've heard from nearly everyone I encountered there. There are plenty of other items to eat besides seafood (the roast beef is excellent), and you can have meats and seafood items grilled Mongolian style if you like.
The price of this seafood fest is only $39.95 for adults ($20 for children) plus a 10% service charge. It includes free-flowing Heineken and wines. I strongly recommend that you call for reservations, especially if you have a large party of 6 or more. What a treat for everyone!
Blue Lagoon Plaza
There are times in my life when I truly feel blessed, and eating at Kai Restaurant is certainly one of those special times. In my busy schedule, I am unable to always eat at places I've heard about and wanted to try out, but for any number of reasons, failed to do so.
For those of you who have not tried out Kai Restaurant since it was taken over by Owner/Chef Hideto Yanase sometime last year, you need to get down there and treat yourself to a fantastic dinner. (They are dinner-only restaurant.) Yanase-san is the former Japanese Chef for the Nikko's Benkay Japanese Restaurant so he comes with serious culinary credentials.
A group of us guys decided to go to Kai and the orders were prepared in rapid succession, with every one sharing. A sashimi sampler was delivered first (and was the first to disappear!) Fresh is the word and nobly presented.
An appetizer item, Asparagus Bacon($6.00) was brought out...these delicious asparagus spears were cooked to a perfect crunch...and I love bacon, so I was doubly pleased with this order.
Next came a plate with Chikuwa Isobe-Age (fried fish cake, $6), which had grated ginger and radish on top with green onions...this was good though not one of my favorites. Then the Butakushi (pork skewer) plate came..Yanase-san prepared a special mustard and miso paste to accompany this savory dish that was garnished by grated cabbage and a dressing.
We also ordered a few dishes from the posted menu board on the wall behind the sushi counter that our group of six occupied. One of these was Pan Fried Kang Kong w/Bacon ($6), which was really good given how bacon imparts a lovely smoked flavor.
I ordered the Nira Tama (chinese chive omelet, $6), which was yet another level of delight. This is the fun of sharing...you don't have to (and simply can't) eat it all yourself!
Also from the menu board came one of my favorites, the Teriyaki Spareribs ($6). These were marvelous - tender, richly flavored, and substantial - you get your money's worth! I could have been greedy and ordered another. These were accompanied by that hot yellow mustard to enhance the taste. We then had the Soft Shelled Crab ($6), which was as good as I've had elsewhere.
As a gesture of gratitude for our patronage, Chef Yanase prepared one of his house specialties, Shuto ($6), which is a delicacy made by pickling the entrails of skipjack tuna (katsuo) in a brine for about 6 months. This is paired with marscapone cheese, which seems like an unlikely combination, but it's actually very rich in taste...it blends exquisitely!
Kai's a place where I will not wait too long to return...it's truly one of our island's culinary gems!
Cafe Havana - Sneak Peek
Hyatt Regency Guam (formerly TJ's)
One of the most anticipated openings in a while has just taken place softly at the Hyatt's former TJ's Entertainment Center, and despite all the "hoopla, hype, and smoke-blowing", Cafe Havana, which is a franchise of a novel concept created in Manila, has a convincing culinary integrity and prowness, which is really saying something especially during a preliminary soft opening when a new restaurant typically works out the bugs by actively seeking constructive comments from guests.
Cafe Havana's Cuban cuisine is derived from the African and Carribbean cultures culled from surrounding island countries, where spices are blended and meats are slowly simmered into a tender ecstasy, creating sumptuously memorable meals. The restaurant really does exude an attitude from a bygone lifestyle...kind of a cultural transplant from the past. If you could imagine what old Havana was like back in the pre-Castro era days, you may get a glimpse of what this place is trying to accomplish - something nostalgic, sensual, and spiced. If you are a Hemingway devotee, you'd probably come here and feel right at home since Cafe Havana is attempting to read like a page from one of his novels.
To set the tone, start out with a classic Mojito...but wait, they have two Mojitos, one prepared the traditional way by crushing mint leaves in lime juice and powdered sugar with a muddler before adding ice, white rum and club soda, and the other adding coconut juice. I liked this new variation (we had both). Truly one of the most original and refreshing libations ever created...one could drink a series of these!
Let's move on to the food. The menus are simple but have appetizers and entrees that are inherently complex in the use of ingredients. The prices are upper echelon, so be aware. The Tapas we tried were the Sizzling Chili Shrimp ($12,) and the Coctail De Gambas con Wasabi ($14). The chili shrimp was something of a misnomer, since there was nothing "shrimpish" about the size of these Great King prawns which they saute in a delightfully piquant red chili and fresh garlic. The shrimp cocktail has a small pile of wasabi that you can load up in a wonderfully zesty and fresh cocktail salsa that had the vibrancy of a gazpacho. The wasabi's meant to replace the customary dash of horseradish, though I think wasabi's got more of a "judo" kick than the tamer horseradish, so be forewarned...you could easily overpower your sauce if you use too much wasabi..it's not the same dilution as adding to shoyu. Executive Chef Candler Wilkinson has made life easier for most of us by shelling the meaty part of these big prawns so you don't have to wrestle with removing the shells with your hands...this shows class and good breeding, and keeps the napkins cleaner!
Next we shared a sopa (soup), which was the Abuelitas Potaje de Langosta ($12), or a traditional Cuban grandmother's fresh lobster soup. Just as with the two tapas we had, the soup's presentation is quite dramatic. All of these dishes are served with a flourish - big plates, huge bowls, and ascending prawn spires! The soup was deeply rich and made with avoset cream and supremely blended vegetables and broth, with plenty of lobster bits on top and throughout. We suggested that some type of bread be served with this soup to help sop up the delicious broth.
For main entrees we had one of two the paellas offered, opting for the Cuban Style ($18) instead of the Seafood Paella ($24). This substantial dish, which is enough for two to share, is loaded with chorizo, tender pork, chicken, and black rice, along with peppers. Tasty!
My entree was the Bistec de Vaguero ($29), which is a large bone-in ribeye that climbs off the plate into mid-air. It's marinated with fresh lime and garlic, and comes with a pile of Cuban black beans and rice so thick you could construct some edifice with it. Not that it's bad, it's just so much starch. It's of a consistency that you have to get used to. The steak was prepared perfectly to my stated temperature. Service was on point with personable wait staff and servers.
We managed to save room for two incredible desserts. One was Candler's Chocolate Mojito Cake, which really goes a long way to explaining this man's character and personality - affably laid back, solid, and a culinary talent who came up with this recipe once he realized they didn't have a chocolate dessert. Again, desserts should be shared, and you shouldn't have more than one like we did. The Leche Frita ($11) which means "fried milk" is out of this world! It's a lightly fried Cuban custard rolled in cookie crumbs and served with one of the chef's gelato creations from Dolce Frutti.
To sum it all up, kudos go to Managing Partner Richard Rennie and to General Manager, David Lee Sang for opening up what should certainly become a Tumon hot spot, what they'd call a "restaurant by day and a salsa place by night". With Chef Candler heading up the culinary team, they'll have the food down right. Now where's that other Mojito?
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