April 10 , 2009, Volume 9 Number 8
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
It's hard to believe that we've nearly run through a third of the year 2009! April brings us several key annual events that are worth attending. The first is the PHARE exhibition at the Hyatt Regency April 16th-18th. This is the 16th year for the Pacific Hotel & Restaurant Expo, and you will be able to see new products and services for the hospitality industry, sample food and beverages from a variety of local vendors, attend informative seminars, and watch culinary and bartending competitions. The second key event is the Auction and Wine Tasting to Benefit the Guam Girl Scouts, which will be held at the Hyatt Regency Guam on Friday, April 24. Advance ticket sales are available at a number of places. Contact the Girl Scout Center for more information at 646-5652.
One of the great pleasures I've recently had was dining at Peter Duenas' newly-opened Meskla Chamoru Fusion Bistro. Although I will be writing a review on this long-awaited and much anticipated restaurant in our next newsletter, I feel compelled to give Chef Peter and his team a "shout out" for achieving and realizing a vision to provide the island's residents and guests with an exciting dining experience that celebrates Guam's cuisine with unique recreations of traditional local favorites. Chef Peter Duenas demonstrates his culinary artistry with a palette of menu items that is nothing short of sensational. Speaking of sensational, wait until you try the Anchovy Finadene! If that doesn't "ring your bell" you may have to realign your taste buds! Go to Meskla!
Finally, I have had the pleasure of meeting a gifted visiting Executive Chef from the Hotel Royal Penang, Malaysia. His name is Chef Raj Thiruselvam, and he is performing culinary magic at the Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort's La Cascata from April 6th-30th. Try out Chef Raj's "Asian Culinary Quest" at either the lunch or dinner buffets, or during the private dining events with Chef Raj every Thursday, with a four-course dinner paired with Robert Mondavi's Private Selection wines. Chef Raj shares spiced and flavorful creations from Malaysia, India, China, and Thailand - it's a treat you'll want to experience again and again!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
True Island BBQ, Las Vegas
9550 S. Eastern Avenue
Las Vegas, NV 89123
My family and I had been craving some real island fiesta food since reluctantly heading back to the mainland from Guam a decade ago. From California to Texas to Las Vegas, none was to be found, none until, that is, a fellow officer here at the Bank of Las Vegas tipped me off to True Island Barbecue. What a pleasant discovery that was. Owned and operated by brothers Darrell and Jordan Manibusan, True Island serves up great Guam dishes in a cheerful atmosphere that literally cries out "Hafa Adai" to forlorn (and hungry) reverse ex-pats like us.
Ruth and Casey and his girlfriend Kelsey and I made a dutiful pilgrimage to the restaurant one Saturday. Introducing ourselves as former Guam residents in search of food, we were given a full run-down of the dishes and the preparation. Our choices were many. I ordered the Blackened Mahi-Mahi ($10.99) (the other choice for that entree an equally appealing teriyaki), Ruth and Kelsey went for the combination fiesta plates with BBQ Chicken and Mongolian Beef Kabob ($8.95), while Casey settled on the Fiesta BBQ Beef Plate ($8.75). All orders come with island-perfect red rice and a small salad with a special house dressing.
We started the festivities with Lumpia ($5.25) and Spicy Coconut Shrimp ($7.50) appetizer plates. Other appetizer choices include Sesame Chicken Wings ($6.95) and Gyoza Dumplings ($5.25). There are a variety of beef, chicken and seafood entrees to choose from, along with a selection of burgers and sandwiches, the most expensive dish posted being the Shrimp & Mahi Plate at $13.99.
When the plates arrived in all their glorious splendor, ten years melted away, as did the food in our mouths, if not our waistlines. Everything was made to perfection, with Texas-born Kelsey finally realizing what all the fuss was about. My mahi-mahi was spiced with a cajun-style rub, moist and not too hot with just the right tang to it. The BBQ chicken and beef entrees all had a classic island flavor, and the meats themselves were of the highest quality, all cooked over an open grill. Each item is prepared fresh from Jordan's own recipes. Portions are good and the prices right.
Ordering is at the counter, served at the table, and Darrell cheerfully patrols the dining area to ensure all is well with each party, while Jordan does his magic in the kitchen. Business was brisk that day, leading one to believe that good fiesta food will find a buyer even in a soft Las Vegas economy.
Our only regret was that we couldn't eat everything on the menu, including the Pancake ala Mode Dessert (whipped cream, ice cream and chocolate sauce, $6.95), which rumor has it is large enough to feed the whole family, or the Monkey Brownie, complete with ice cream, chopped nuts and a cherry ($6.75). Maybe next time, and there will be a next time very soon. When Ruth called our son Austin at the University of Texas in San Antonio to tell him where we had eaten, his plaintive reply was "and you didn't invite me?" You can take the boys out of the island, but you can't take the island out of the boys.
All in all, a great meal in a bright, friendly customer-oriented atmosphere, highly recommended for anyone seeking out some tasty island food with an authentic Guam fiesta signature. For us, it was a vision of wonderful Sunday afternoons we spent at the Harmon Cliffline with Ron and Mary Eclavea's family, or an evening out at Jamaican Grill.
The dining room seats 40. Hours are from 11am to 9pm, Mondays through Fridays, 11am to 8pm Saturdays, and closed Sundays (darn!). All major credit cards are accepted.
And yes, they have SPAM ($2.50-$3 on the side only).
Asian "Culinary Quest" with Chef Raj from Malaysia
through April 30th
Sheraton Laguna Guam Resort - La Cascata
When you go to La Cascata from now until the 30th of April, you will be delighted by the amazing South East Asian Gourmet creations of a visiting guest chef from Malaysia's Hotel Royal Penang, Chef Raj Thiruselvam. I tried out the lunch buffet ($19.50 +10% s.c.) earlier this week and was completely won over by some truly magnificent flavors and tastes that you just can't find on Guam. I was also introduced to Chef Raj, who is as delightful as his food. Always smiling and easy to approach, this man takes his art seriously by serving tantalizing creations that will have you returning for second and third servings! The menus change daily so you may want to go several times to try out a wider variety of Chef Raj's preparations.
Among the hot buffet items was Chicken Makhani (a baked chicken like tandoori but tastier), Crab Masala, Lamb Vindaloo, Turkey Saagwala, Fish Curry, and Roast Beef sliced in a gravy.
The first thing I tried was a "build your own soup", which had the most awesome starter broth with noodles, to which you can add lettuce, basil, hot chili sauce, chicken, shrimp, green onions, boonie peppers, and bok choy leaves. I could have made this soup my meal!
The buffet features a Mongolian BBQ section where you can select your ingredients for the cooks to stir fry. The one must-have creation is the Chili Crepe, which Chef Raj prepares himself while you watch, putting in spiced ground beef or lamb and adding onions and cheese into the middle of a crepe that gets topped by a mild chili sauce. It looks like a burrito when finished but it is so good!
While the lunch and dinner buffets offer all you can eat dining, there is one night of the week when Chef Raj really showcases his talent and that is on every Thursday, in what is called "Private Dining with Chef Raj". You have to make reservations for this set course dinner menu as there is limited seating available at La Cascata's Lagoon Terrace. This is outdoor dining at its finest, with stars and moonlit skies above and the tropical ambiance of the resort's lagoon around you. The dinner is $50.00 + 10% and features a pairing with Robert Mondavi's Private Selection wines, notably the Pinot Grigio and the Pinot Noir.
The superb menu starts off with a refreshingly piquant appetizer Prawn Mango Salad(fresh boiled prawns served with mango, onion, coriander, and peppers and doused with a Thai sauce).
The second creation was an intensely flavored Shark's Fin Soup with Soft Beancurd. This was quite spicy yet delicious and filled with shark fin meat.
The main course has two options - the Wonders Spice of Taj Chicken or the Braised Beef with Black Pepper. I ordered the chicken and was very surprised to receive one of the tastiest Cornish game hens I've ever eaten. It was roasted whole and accompanied by Raita, Butter Rice, and Masala Potato Cutlet. I don't know his secret, but Chef Raj was able to keep this game hen moist, which is not an easy thing since this delicate bird tends to dry out.
The other option, the braised beef, was equally delightful(I was able to get a piece from one of the members of our dining party). It was a melt-in-your mouth ribeye smothered in a black pepper sauce. It came with Chunky Vegetables and Briyani Rice.
I don't know how we managed to eat dessert since these portions were so large, yet we did. It was Gulam Jamun served with ice cream and fruit cocktail. Gulam Jamun is a sweet Indian dessert that's made with milk puffs soaked in honey and rose syrup. These are also called Indian Milk Fritters.
You should try this special dinner on one of the Thursday nights in April . Be sure to make your reservations. It's not every day that we are treated to the amazing flavors of the cuisine of Southeast Asia by an experienced and passionate chef who aims to please!
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