January 16, 2009, Volume 9 Number 2
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Last week I had the opportunity to visit Saipan for a few days. Although I always enjoy myself immensely, I never have enough time to do all the things I'd like to do, so I end up having to return again with the hopes that I'll be able to catch up on my ever-growing backlog of "things yet to be done"!
Saipan's natural beauty is its primary asset and nothing will ever diminish the idyllic splendor of its turquoise lagoon and verdant mountains and hills. However, all is not well in Saipan since it faces some hard economic issues. There will be a great deal of discussion about Saipan's tourism outlook in view of the recent Homeland Security determinations which dimmed the prospects for a Visa Waiver Program for Chinese and Russian tourists, who have been a tremendous source of revenue for Saipan's fragile economy. The new Federal immigration laws take effect in June, and will require visas for visitors from Russia and China which are not required under existing CNMI immigration laws. What will ultimately take place no one really knows, but to say that many are concerned is a huge understatement.
One of the highlights of my visit was the opportunity to reconnect with two great men whom I have known and admired for many years. Mustafa Issa is the new General Manager of the scenic Palms Resort Saipan (both of the above photos were taken from the hotel and feature the grounds and facilities which are first-rate), formerly the Nikko Hotel. Mustafa's no stranger to Saipan since he was previously General Manager of the Hyatt Resort Saipan. Many on Guam remember him as Mr. Hospitality while he was General Manager at the Hyatt Regency Guam. The other great man is Jon Anderson, who has been a family friend for decades, and who introduced the Guam Food Guy to the airwaves on his K57 Morning Show in October 2000. Enjoying the company, wisdom, and friendship of these two men is a gift for which I am deeply grateful.
Mustafa has brought on David Jones as the hotel's executive chef. David is well-respected in Saipan and worked with Mustafa at the Hyatt Regency Saipan where I first met Jones when he was Executive Chef. This is a brilliant and promising collaboration that bodes well for the future of the Palms Resort, which is already showing improvements from this infusion of experienced leadership and managerial acumen. I'm certainly optimistic! Go visit the Palms Resort Saipan and see the change for yourself! [Photo: Jon Anderson and Mustafa Issa]
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
GFG Hosts K57 "Tourism & You" Food Guy Show
Saturday January 17
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 from the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa. Their charming and knowledgeable Marketing Communications Manager, Crystal Sablan will join renowned Executive Chef Christophe Durliat in introducing the Islander Terrace's brand-new buffet which features "Tuna Twenty Ways". (More details on this below!)
Our second hour guests will be David Lee-Sang, General Manager of Old Hagatna Grill, and Sandy Santiago, OHG's Executive Chef - this is one of the first opportunities listeners will have to hear from this fresh OHG team - I think you'll enjoy learning more about them and what's new at the restaurant regulars affectionately refer to as "Old Hag"!
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.
Islander Terrace Features "Big Eye Tuna" Lunch Special
Hilton Guam Resort & Spa
You've never had tuna in as many ways as Hilton's Executive Chef Christophe Durliat will be preparing it during the "Big Eye Tuna" special lunch buffet promotion at Islander Terrace starting next Monday. For $20 for adults and $10 for children (plus 10% service charge), you can feast on a variety of tuna preparations such as Smoked Tuna Loin, Lemon Grass Seared Ahi Tuna with Asian Salsa, Tuna Carpaccio, Tuna Poke, Tuna Tartar, BBQ Tuna Skewers with Garlic Aioli, and more. Of course, the Islander Terraces complete buffet of soups, salad, breads, other meats, and desserts will be available to you as well. This is certainly an event worth noting and certainly exploring. We are looking to see more culinary creativity from our good friend Chef Christophe in the future! Call 646-DINE for reservations!
Minami Japanese Lunch Buffet
Palms Resort Saipan
The word is out! Palms Resort Saipan has introduced an extraordinary Japanese Lunch Buffet at its Minami Japanese Restaurant. For $20, you can eat all the fresh-made sushi, sashimi, sukiyaki, udon, ramen, tempura, steamed fish, curry, salad, grilled fish, fruits, pastries, doriyaki, fresh-cooked crepes, and more!
I had just arrived from the airport and checked into my room at the Palms Resort, which is a sprawling, beautiful property with palm trees lining a white sand beach that stretches up and down the coast. Making my way to the restaurant, I was joined by my host, Mustafa Issa, Palms Resort GM, along with Executive Chef David Jones. It seemed that their sole mission was to have me try everything set out at their buffet. The variety and range of food that I experienced was more than impressive; it was awesome! I kept on noting the freshness of the taste of everything I ate.
I was pleased to see my old friend Chef Akimoto at the live cooking station stirring up sukiyaki. I surprised myself by finishing up a bowl of this delicious traditional Japanese dish after I'd eaten about a ton of sushi.
The views of the water park, gardens, and grounds just outside the restaurant's windows are mesmerizing, overwhelming you with the scenic tropical beauty of this well-landscaped property. The restaurant's reputation is growing and more local residents are coming out to try out this special lunch buffet. This is one thing that Saipan does so well - marry great tasting food to amazing scenic views! Lunch is served from 11am-2pm, with a 20% local discount available. The property's San Roque Club and Buddy Card's are welcome, too.
Kaenju Teppanyaki Dinner
Palms Resort Saipan
The Palms Resort Saipan is also home to one of island's premiere teppanyaki restaurants, Kaenju, located on the beachside ground level of the hotel. This venerable establishment is known for its fresh Maine lobster and Angus beef.
The restaurant overlooks the ocean and affords a remarkable view of the sunset on the water. Jon Anderson and I were guests of Mustafa Issa, Palms Resort GM, at a teppan dinner one evening last week. After placing our orders, we were served a savory Salmon Carpaccio appetizer.
Preparing our food was Teppan Chef Eduardo Taniegra. We watched as he deftly sliced and grilled local eggplant, red bell peppers, and Chinese broccoli. In addition to the usual teppan dipping sauces, we were introduced to a creamy garlic dipping sauce that seemed to go well with everything.
Our set course had grilled scallops, tuna and shrimp, however, Mustafa and I had the tenderloin steak while Jon opted for the grilled chicken.
I really enjoyed Eduardo's garlic fried rice, which was something he took pride in methodically creating. Although we were the only party dining in our section of the teppan room, we managed to fill the room with a spirit of congeniality as only veteran raconteurs could!
Our dinner ended with a lavish dessert trio of sweet decadence in the form of a strawberry tart, chocolate pie, and ice cream on pie crust, all drizzled with chocolate syrup. It was a special evening that left us all feeling pretty satisfied. I am looking forward to my next Teppan dinner at Kaenju!
Aglaia Island Dining & Bar
Beach Road (near Tony Roma's)
Aglaia has been on my radar screen ever since it was brought to my attention sometime last year by Jon Anderson, but I never had the opportunity to get there until this most recent trip. As luck and timing would have it, I was able to join Jon on Friday night for dinner at this unusually named (it is as difficult to pronounce as it is to spell) eatery, which reference the Greek Goddess Aglaia. Loosely interpreted, it means having "a pleasing or charming appearance" in the sense of a fertile field or garden.
This is an eclectic place with a funky, off-beat menu that goes well with the tan-colored plant-filled interior with crepe-draped booths that give the illusion you are in one of the Arabian Night fantasies. The menu boasts some 42 items with such fusion creations as Taco Rice, Seafood Bread Gratin, Cold Spaghetti with Octopus Grated Radish and Kimchee. There is a long wooden bar that you can cozy up to while ordering from an astonishing selection of cocktails based on pretty much any alcohol available under the sun that can be poured into a glass!
We decided on a few light dishes to share, starting out with #7 Fried Chicken with Grated Radish Ponzu Sauce ($7.25), # 8 Fresh Spring Rolls with Tuna Korean Sauce ($8.25), # 16 Spinach Caesar Salad ($7), and #17 Fried Chicken Gizzard Salad Japanese Dressing ($8). Our server was very busy that night with many tables (some with large parties) that had her and Aglaia General Manager Tatsuya Kimura briskly moving from table to the kitchen carrying dishes. It seemed that everything was made to order but not all orders from your table would arrive at the same time.
The Fried Chicken came first. I was amazed by the taste - it had been marinated and deep fried, and when you put the radish in the ponzu and dipped the chicken in it it was magical!
Next to arrive was the Spinach Caesar Salad which was exactly that, not spectacular but it was quite good. The Fresh Spring Rolls with Tuna came next and they were as described with fresh tuna inside each spring roll with a sweet peppery sesame sauce drizzled over. This was a very original dish.
Last up as the Fried Gizzard Salad which Jon let me have to myself. That was another original, with lots of lettuce, tomato, radish slices, cucumber, and fried gizzards cooled by the Japanese dressing. I ate as much as I could!
Aglaia is open for lunch as well as dinner. I'll have to return to experience more of this strange, beguiling menu of mystery fusion cuisine.
Hot Diggety Dog
The Plaza Arcade (between Dolce Frutti and Pearl Cafe)
It had been a while since my last visit and Hot Diggety Dog is a dog gone wild - talk about busy - the place was hopping!
From the Doggy Menu we ordered a Purebred Combo ($6 ). an all-beef dog with chili cheese fries and the German Shepherd ($7), a Polish dog covered with caramelized onions, regular fries and drink.
They really have got their dogs down, however there was some slight confusion on the order delivery when we were told ours was up and we put a little mustard on another customer's dog. Fortunately, she didn't mind the favor and gladly took her dog after adding a few more toppings.
I ate my German Shepherd with the Polish sausage, but still wanted to try out the all-beef dog myself so I ordered another Purebred and added sauerkraut, mustard, onions, catsup and a few jalapenos. I was in hot dog heaven!
It's really a smart move having this little stand at this location where you can sit down at a table on the Plaza's promenade and watch people stroll by. It's a street cafe experience that makes this destination special!
Gabriel's House of Pasta
It was a celebration of sorts as Gabriel's House of Pasta commemorated their 2nd year of business! Hooray!!
We were tipped off by friends Dan Tinsay and Marissa Del Rosario that Chef Joe was cooking up some Osso Bucco for his special event. We got there a little after 8pm, but just in time for this special which had been delayed for a variety of reasons plus the restaurant had been slammed earlier.
The Osso Bucco ($17) was simply dreamy having been braised to an exquisite fall-off-the-bone-melt-in-your-mouth tenderness that left you craving more. Chef Joe had deglazed the marsala creating a sauce you literally had to sop up with the garlic bread. He also made a special hash brown with sun-dried tomatoes to go with my dish while Dan and Marissa had their Osso Bucco resting on a pile of mashed potatoes.
Zee had the Pasta Diablo ($16) which was laden with a peppery-spiced sauce that really got you moving. The Andouille sausage really infused a flavor that put this dish over the top.
We stayed late drinking some red wine and I had a slice of their famous cheesecake with strawberry sauce.it was divine! Then our group posed for a memory shot that will be posted somewhere to honor the occasion. Life is good! [Photo: L-R Dan Tinsay, Marissa Del Rosario, GHOP Chef/Owner Joe Borja, GHOP Owner/Manager Erica Taijeron , Zee Lynn, GFG.]
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