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December 19 , 2008, Volume 8 Number 32

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

WOW! That's probably the best way to describe the year 2008! Perhaps the single most notable event was the historic election of Barack Obama to become the first African-American to serve as leader of the free world. That seems to be the best news (to at least a majority of people around the world) to come out of 2008 since everything else has to do with the global financial meltdown. And, with the welcome drop in oil prices, no one seems to even care about the price of a gallon of gas anymore.

People here on Guam, however, do seem to care about the price of a meal as evidenced by the seeming dearth of customers at many restaurants, both in and outside of Tumon. Whether or not it is a seasonal thing brought on by the holiday shopping and Christmas parties, or if it is something more serious affecting people's dining habits or their discretionary income, such as real or imaginary fears brought on by the financial crisis, time will tell. The good news is that we are seeing some creativity in restaurants as they adapt to the changing environment. I am encouraged by the newcomers joining the mix, in particular Merloj Prime Steakhouse and Lolah's International family restaurant, both located on Tamuning's Ypao Road, and covered in this Diner Bytes edition

As this is the final newsletter for 2008, we want to thank you again for your continuing readership, as well as wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! As is our tradition, we are including some Christmas pictures that represents the special joy of this season taken this year at the Hilton Guam where the lobby is oh so very festive!

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

On the Street - Dining Scene Happenings

  • It is confirmed that Chuck's Steakhouse, one of Guam's oldest and more popular steak houses, is closed.
  • PTC (Pacific Trading Company) has closed its doors at the Agana Shopping Center.

  • Sweet Relief Pastry Shop (part of PROA Restaurant in Tumon), now offers a limited breakfast menu on weekdays.

  • Gabriel's House of Pasta has also started serving a limited breakfast menu on weekdays.

  • Chatan-Ke, an Okinawan Dining Bar, has opened across from St. John's in the former Friends Korean restaurant location.

2nd Floor Tumon Plaza Arcade
Across from the DFS Galleria

I've said it before and I'll say it again: "Bella Italia! Of all the Italian Restaurants on Guam, Vitale's is the only one that preserves the authentic old country recipes!"

We stopped by this past weekend and were treated to a Spaghetti Pepperoncino and Garlic ($11.95) and the Spaghetti with Meatballs ($12.95). I also had a special favorite of mine, the Italian sausage that Joseph makes himself.

The best surprise of the night, though, was our first-ever meeting with Joe Vitale's son, Joe Jr., who has come from the States to join his father in running this popular Italian eatery. Just like his dad, Joe Jr. says he loves Guam and its beautiful people! Well, Joe, we love you and your father just as much so keep doing your fabulous work in the kitchen as you uphold your family's tradition here on our island!

Kusinan Guahan
Legacy Square Building (near Bank of Guam)
734-CHOW (2469)

Guam is blessed to have two extremely hard-working and talented people operating a restaurant that has as its underlying mission the promotion, perpetuation and preservation of the Chamorro culture. James and Carol Cruz are partners in marriage and in their quaint restaurant that offers family-style cooking with recipes passed down from three generations of the Cruz family in Asan.

The lunch buffet ($12/adults, $6/children aged 6-11) is served from 11am-2pm, Mon-Sat, that features a variety of five hot items plus kelaguen, soup, salad, and desserts. They serve a dinner buffet on Mon-Friday from 5-9pm, that's priced at $14 for adults, as well as a Special Sunday Brunch from 9am-1:30pm ($12). The restaurant is well-lit, comfortably air-conditioned, and decorated with jewelry and wood carvings from local artisans. I should mention that one of the craftsmen is Chef James.

Kusinan Guahan has been open for nearly 4 months and has experienced continuous growth through word of mouth advertising. Carol creates an impressive weekly newsletter that is sent out to a growing email listing. This is the only local restaurant I've seen that takes to heart educating customers about Chamorro traditions and the language. Everything is bilingual.

They offer a special take-out plate for $8.99 which features two scoops of red or white rice, two pieces of baked chicken, a shrimp patty, a small salad, a small soup, and finadene. You can also get take-out of 1, 2 or 3 choice menus, from $7.99- $9.99. Did you know that red rice is "Hineksa' Agaga" in Chamorro? It's labeled on the buffet line!!

The menu I had during my lunch visit included Golai Apan Kamuti (taro simmered in coconut milk), a yummie Chamorro Sausage (Churisos Chamoru), tasty Hinetnon Mannok (Baked Chicken), Kadun Pika, Kadun Shank (beef shank soup), Chicken Kelaguen, Corn Soup, and Latiya (one of the best I've had ) for dessert, along with Bunelos Dagu (yam doughnuts).

There's so much more about this restaurant such as their Party Platters and offering Bunelos Dagu for sale (cooked or dagu mix so you can fry your own!). I was impressed by the attentive staff and care taken to keep the restaurant clean.

I was definitely impressed by the taste of every dish I ate - the authentic tastes and flavors of home-cooked Chamoru cuisine. Kusinan Guahan's Christmas Eve Lunch Menu is posted on our Christmas specials. As with any buffet, I recommend getting there earlier during the service rather than later to get the best selection at its freshest. What else can I say except "Gof mange!"

Downtown Kieu's
2nd Floor Guam Lock & Key Bldg.

Downtown Kieu's is a restaurant and a karaoke lounge. The only thing I have to "sing" about is how good and reasonably-priced their steaks are. Though Downtown Kieu's has been open for more than 10 years, I can't explain why I've been reluctant to try it out. I can't blame it on the stairs! Anyway, it's been my loss not getting here sooner. There's both a bar and a dining room (with a view of the ocean).

This is not a formal or fancy place - it's kind of a come-as-you-are lounge where you can relax and have a beer, then have a steak for dinner, or come for lunch and have other items such as their Stir Fry Beef or Chicken w/mixed vegetables for $8 or Shrimp Stir Fry for $10, or, if you want ONLY vegetables, you pay $8.

The marinated steaks are all barbecued on a grill outside, and the menu states that they weigh between 12-14 oz., though I think they're a little bigger. The New York is $16, the Rib Eye is $15, the T-Bone that I had is $18, and the Porterhouse is $22. The entrees come with salad and rice.

I ordered my T-Bone medium rare and that's what I got - it was as good as all the guys at the other tables had told me. I was recognized by some of them as the "Food Guy" and evidently the cook was especially thrilled that I really liked his steak!

In addition to the steak, I had the Fried Chicken (3 pcs) for $8. I took a photo of someone else's Fried Pork Chop (2 pcs) for $8. You can also get a Fried Fish plate (2 pcs) for $8 or a Fried Whole Fish (medium for $12/large for $15).

Lunch and Dinner at Downtown Kieu's is served from 11:30am-8pm. After 8pm, only steaks are served, I guess until they close. Now we know where to go for a late-night steak - a steak you can practically get for a song!

Shioti Eurasian Restaurant
At the Tumon Golf Driving Range
Upper Tumon
649-MENU (6368)

I recently had lunch at this quiet, cozy little restaurant that is tastefully decorated. It's a place destined to be more popular as time goes on since one of the secrets here is that it is born from love - family love. Shioti means "little brother", and its creation and inception are a living testament honoring the memory of Mikkel, the beloved son of Cencio and Nori Vy. Nori has brought some of her home cooking to the table here and I am looking forward to trying some more of their cooking as soon as I am able.

What I did have during a recent lunch visit was a delightful Minestrone, an appetizer of Shioti's Beef Bites ($5.95) which are made with Certified Angus Beef. These bites are specially-seasoned and deep-fried making perfect chasers. For my main lunch dish I had the Shrimp & Sausage Linguine ($13.95), which is served spectacularly in a large bowl filled with mushrooms, onions, and crispy red bell peppers, bathed in a blend of cream and red marinara. The Italian sausage is mild, allowing you to enjoy the balanced flavors of the other ingredients.

One dish I found particularly endearing is Shioti's Pork Chop Ramen ($10.50), that's described on the menu as "soy noodle soup topped with mommy's breaded pork chop topped with green onions and bean sprouts".

Another fusion dish is Tom Yum Seafood Noodle Soup ($12.95) which is a tangy spicy noodle soup with clams and shrimp, mixed with straw mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro. Shioti's main lunch is served from 11am-2pm with a light lunch menu from 2-5:30pm. Dinner hours are from 5:30-9:30pm.

Yummy Tummy Restaurant
(across from Elite Bakery)
Chalan San Antonio

Yummy Tummy Restaurant serves oriental cuisine and specializes in fresh seafood preparation. They are a popular destination at lunch time and offer $5 lunch specials. Their hours are 11am-2:30pm for lunch and are open for dinner from 5pm- 9:30pm Mon-Sat. On Sunday they are open for dinner only from 5-9:30pm.

We went for dinner to get fish, however their selection was a bit limited do to our recent near-miss with that tropical storm. They did have a large parrot fish that we had steamed with ginger and green onions ($35). We ordered Chinese Broccoli for $6.99, which was as fresh and garlicky as expected.

There were other specials on the menu but they recommended the Fried Crab with Pepper & Garlic ($38) which proved to be meaty and delightfully seasoned.

Both the parrot fish and crab dishes are enough to feed two or more people, and are usually ordered as a shared dish. We've been hearing good things about Yummy Tummy from people and we could certainly see why.

Merloj Prime Steakhouse
Ramada Inn (formerly Imperial Suites)
Ypao Rd

Merloj Prime Steakhouse has recently opened for limited lunch service with dinner slated to be available soon and though I normally wouldn't cover a restaurant at this stage there are exceptions.

Merloj (pronounced like the wine with a silent "J") is destined to be another popular steakhouse, a value-priced fine dining restaurant, where you get pampered service in a relaxed, stylish environment.

The lunch special menu offers a number of options priced at $10 (+10% service charge). The Peppercorn Steak is a grilled ribeye doused in a spiced black peppercorn sauce. This was excellent.

I also tried the Seafood Pasta with a White Wine Sauce. It had fettuccine and a mix of seafood in a cream sauce. Not bad! I had wanted to try Merloj's Roasted Chicken (actually a Cornish Hen) but they were out at the time. Other lunch special items include the Basa Filet with Lemon Butter and Beef Steak Teriyaki.

All entrees are served with rice, steamed vegetables and a choice of either soup or salad. Iced tea is included with the meal. Crisp hot rolls are also served.

Merloj will be serving a wide selection of quality wines, so it will probably become a popular wine bar as well as restaurant once they open for dinner. It is operated by long-time restaurant manager Mert Uy and Edward David. We wish them every success!

Lolah's Restaurant
Day's Inn Hotel
Ypao Road

It was deja vu! If you saw the movie Ratatouille, then you may recall how the food critic, Anton Ego, had an epiphany when he tasted Remy's ratatouille as it transported took him back to his childhood! Well, I can't say I went THAT far back, but I was nearly brought to tears when I tasted Lolah's Fried Tilapia made in the tradition of excellence inspired by Chef Nilo Vega, formerly of Mulligan Cafe.

The wonderful thing about this special little eatery is that has recaptured the culinary essence of Mulligan's. Nilo's wife Rose actually runs this place with Nilo offering consulting and training. Lolah's, which means grandmother, is open for breakfast from 7-11am, lunch from 11am-2pm and dinner from 6-9:30pm, 7 days a week.

Lolah's lunch is unique in that nearly everything served (hot entrees) is priced at $9.95 and includes iced tea, soup and salad bar. There are poultry items like Teriyaki chicken, Fried Chicken, and Chicken Lemongrass); beef items include Chamorro Chop Steak, Homemade Hamburger Steak, and Beef Steak w/onions; Pork dishes like the ever popular Ginger Pork, Pork Cutlet, and the Grilled Pork Chop which I also had that day; and finally seafood like Mahi Mahi, Breaded Basa Filet, Breaded Shrimp and Salt & Pepper Shrimp and the Deep Fried Tilapia.

The salad bar is a meal unto itself, with their famous poke and chicken kelaguen which was incredibly good since they'd marinated it before barbecuing it on the grill prior to chopping it fine. There are kimchis and other salad ingredients, as well as a soup of the day which happened to be Pumpkin & Carrot this day, a superb, consomme-like but heartier soup created by cook James Taylor.

The Fried Tilapia makes a stunning presentation with the golden brown fish covered in a salsa with cilantro on top. It comes with calamansi garnish, rice, and finadene and is definitely for eating kamayan-style with your fingers.

The Pork Chops were awesome! They used to be fried at Mulligan's but here they are grilled on a charbroiler, and come out with a better flavor and juicier, just like grilled steaks!

I didn't have a chance to try the burger but one of the other guests had one that I photographed. He loved it. One of the specialties of the house that they want me to have again is the Crispy Pata ($12), that I will surely come back and have, if not at lunch time, then certainly one night

Lolah's should be a keeper with its value-priced high quality menu selection for lunch. We'll have to come and try out breakfast as well as dinner. I really can't wait to try the entire menu! Congrats to the Vegas on their return to sharing their special culinary vision and talent with the island.

Bon appetit!

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