May 5 , 2009, Volume 9 Number 10
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
The fallout continues as another one of Guam's great and special restaurants is shutting its doors! Andaman Restaurant will be ceasing operations at the close of business on Saturday, May 9. It was a grand run by Chef/Owner Jhamnong Kraitong, who had opened Andaman in the Monticello Plaza near Cost-U-Less in late November of 2006. He called me on Thursday morning to let me know that he had to make this very painful and difficult decision. It is another casualty of this tough economy the island's been struggling with and it seems to be especially hard for the small independent operators who have had a reputation for quality dining and exception cuisine (e.g., Le Tasi Bistro, Firefly Bistro).
I have literally eaten my way through Chef Jham's menu. I will sorely miss his Thai Noodle Soup, Deep Fried Grouper, Snapper and Sea Bream with Thai Curry Sauce or 3 Flavor Chili sauce, his Pad Kra Praow, the Saow Rong Hai (Thai BBQ eggplant salad with ground pork & shrimp), and his scrumptious Caesar Salad! As of this writing we don't know if Chef Jham has any immediate plans to re-open in a better location, but he did indicate that it could be a possibility at some time in the future. We'll see! We want to wish Chef Jhamnong, his wife Reviwan, and their family all the best with their next venture.
As we've said in all of our years of publishing the GuamDiner newsletters, when one door closes another opens up, and so it continues with restaurants opening. I was pleased to be able to have a pre-grand opening preview of some of the fabulous dishes being prepared and served at GYOZA-YATAI Guam located next to Outback and Capricciosa in Pacific Place. I also tried a relatively new Japanese restaurant in Dededo called Arashi True Japanese Cuisine. Read about these and more in this week's newsletter. Happy Mother's Day to all you great moms in our lives!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
PHARE 2009 Culinary Competition Winners Announced
PHARE 2009 held two separate culinary competitions, each featuring a different main or key ingredient provided by local distributors. The Professional Chef's Competition was held on Friday, April 17, at the Hyatt Regency Guam, and featured Portobello mushrooms as the main theme ingredient in a competition called Chow Bello! There were some amazing creations using the Portobello, some of which surprised and astonished the judges as well as the people who were able to taste the dishes. Can you believe that an ice cream and a cheese cake were made using Portobello mushrooms? The Portobello Mushroom Competition was sponsored by Quality Distributors.
Winners of the Professional Chef's Competition:
1st Place Team PIC Chow Bello Seafood Dynamite
2nd Place GCC's Team Kid Robotic Portobello Vanilla Ice Cream
3rd Place GCC's Team H Crew Malibu Effused Portobello Cheesecake
People's Choice Team PIC
The Student Culinary Competition was held on Saturday, April 18, with the theme ingredient being Tyson chicken sponsored by Triple J Five Star Wholesale. The name of the competition was "Mama's Manok".
Winners of the Student Culinary Competition:
1st Place Team Simon Sanchez High School Ya Man'nok Deboned Stuffed Whole Chicken with Wild Rice
2nd Place Team Just Saying
3rd Place Team John F. Kennedy High School
People's Choice Team Simon Sanchez High School
Congratulations to the winners and to all the participating teams in this year's competition.
GUAM PROSTART TEAM MAKES TOP 5 IN NATIONAL COMPETITION
Huge congratulations to GW students Ria Aquinde, Christine Cruz, Rendel Carolino and Brandon Sapp for their outstanding showing at the National ProStart Invitational in San Diego. The team placed fourth out of 38 teams and this year marks the first time Team Guam has made the top five. Accompanied by Mentor Chef Andreas Lorenz from the Westin Resort Guam and instructor Frank Evangelista, the team attracted attention from popular Food Network star, Guy Fieri, who was filming the competition which will be made into an hour-long program titled "Top of the Class".
The team created an ambitious 3-course menu: Smoked Rock Lobster Tail with Mango Salsa and Coconut Dressing to start, Open Red Snapper Lasagna with Bell Pepper and Eggplant Ragout and Chorizo Cream for an entree and the dessert was Banana Spring Rolls with Rum and Raisin Mousse.
Congratulations to all!
Rock & Roll Cafe
Pacific Islands Club Guam
I recently found myself hungry after attending the TEC Wine Tasting at PIC's Jiivana Spa (a lovely place, by the way). I walked up from the beach through the Waterpark and went to the Rock & Roll Cafe to eat. I ordered the PIC Burger ($10.95) and a Pepperoni Pizza ($14.50). The pizza was primarily for take-out.
The PIC Burger is a half pound of Certified Black Angus and comes on a toasted sesame seed bun. I had some Provolone cheese with mine and decided to forego the bacon, which I've had in the past. I noticed that there are a lot of additional toppings that can be ordered for this burger, so many that I think the Rock & Roll Cafe may have the most add-ons on island. Additional toppings are $1.50 and include crispy bacon, caramelized onions, jalapenos, avocado, provolone or American cheese, fried egg, teriyaki Sauce, grilled pineapple, kimchee, and sauerkraut!
The individually hand-made pizza has a homemade crust that's not sweet like some doughs. It has a hard bread taste and really contributes a quality to this pizza that must be tasted. There's plenty of pepperoni on this pizza, too, and they've got the cheese and marinara perfectly balanced. Other specialty pizzas here are the Oriental Chicken, Chicken Pesto, and Hawaiian. The Rock & Roll Cafe closes at midnight.
Arashi True Japanese Cuisine
(near Winchell's and American Grocery)
I'd heard about Arashi True Japanese Cuisine when the owners, PJ Kim and Tomoaki "Tomo" Shibata, came to my store a few months back. They have a quaint little Japanese eatery in an unlikely place between 1688 Laundry and the Discount Goody Store. However, it seems to work in spite of recent security nuisances (they were recently "tagged" by local graffiti artists). They are open for lunch from 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner from 5:30-9:30pm. Their menu includes sushi rolls, bento boxes, rice bowls, noodle dishes, curries, seafood dishes, and appetizers. The place has a unique energy and an hip and cool attitude.
I went for lunch recently and started with the Cold Soft Tofu ($2.95) which has fresh Japanese tofu topped with ginger, sesame and bonito flakes. I also ordered the Spicy Tuna Sushi Roll ($4.95), which is a very reasonable price for some pretty tasty and spicy tuna. They have their own recipes for spicy sauces, as well as a rather bold family of sushi rolls, one of which is called the "Viagara Roll" made with shrimp tempura, thinly sliced eel and lemon tobiko.
I was curious about their version of Katsudon labeled on the menu as Pork Cutlet Bowl ($9.95). This was actually much better than I'd anticipated, and better than what I used to like over at Sakura's Kitchen. They use a generous amount of pork, cooked it perfectly, had the right amount of dashi broth and egg. I liked how they added sliced green onions and red ginger as flavor garnishes. I used some tonkatsu sauce spiced up with a dash of hot mustard they brought out in a little gravy server. That really kicked up the flavor a notch!
My final dish was another Japanese favorite of mine, the Okonomiyaki ($5.95), which is the Osaka-style savory pancake topped with mayo, okonomi sauce, and bonito. This was also pretty decent. Arashi does have a lot of traditional Japanese favorites like Crab Cream Croquettes, Chicken Karaage, Fried Squid Legs, and Beef Sukiyaki, to name a few. We'll just have to come back here for more, or make a trip to their newest locations in Yigo where they've taken over Heiden Chicken and are serving a $12.95 all-you-can-eat Japanese food buffet!
2nd Floor Pacific Place (between Capricciosa & Outback)
When I first learned that Gyoza-Yatai was coming to Guam, I was wondering if we really needed another Chinese restaurant, especially one from Japan. I do like gyoza (as does nearly everyone else on Guam!). Well, I was certainly surprised and delighted to finally discover for myself the full extent of Gyoza-Yatai's impressive menu selections.
Open from lunch to late night, Gyoza-Yatai is part of a chain of restaurants owned by Kazuko Higashiyama, who is here overseeing the opening of the Guam location. She has as her General Manager a local hospitality veteran, Frank Toves (formerly GM of Sam Choy's). She has brought a superb chef, Kazu Onedera, with her to run the kitchen. Gyoza-Yatai is still operating in the soft opening stages, and at the time of this writing, they still weren't serving any alcoholic beverages yet. They will be having their Grand Opening on May 22 I believe. The interior design and layout is smart, contemporary, and inviting. The view of Tumon from the windows is awesome, and so is the food, which is characterized as "Chinese-Metro Cuisine". The food is original.
Gyoza-Yatai takes enormous pride in all of their carefully crafted and designed dishes...every entree has been tried and tested. The gyoza are all hand-made fresh daily, including the wrappers. There are more than several styles available and they are much larger than any others served locally. I had the Daily Ultimate Gyoza Combo ($15.50), which has a total of 12 gyoza, three each of four types, all served on a sizzling hot platter. The day's combo had the traditional Chinese gyoza made in a Japanese-style with ground pork and onions, a Shrimp Gyoza, Negi Mayo Gyoza, and Cheese & Herb Gyoza. The Negi Mayo reminded me of Okonomiyaki since it has bonito on top with the mayo drizzle and loads of green onion. The Cheese & Herb conjured up memories of pizza. These were all great tasting and I even used a little vinegar and chili pepper to spice things up a bit.
Next I was brought out the Bang Bang Ji Salad ($13.95), which is a "heaping chicken julienne on garden greens" with a soothing mildly spicy sesame dressing. This was quite flavorful and like all of the dishes offered here, enough to share with others.
A large bowl of Tantan Noodle Soup ($12.95) was placed before me. It is another Szechuan favorite, with ground pork, peanut and sesame paste, and fresh vegetables in a spicy broth. Again, this one (like everything else), comes with bowls to share.
Then, I was brought out one of their house specialties, the Black Sweet & Sour Pork ($13.95), which looks like a traditional Chinese sweet & sour. This is made with no MSG and instead of pineapple they use oranges. The red, yellow and green bell peppers are crisp and crunchy. The pork is tender with an excellent flavor.
As I was savoring pieces of pork and onion, I was brought a large stone bowl filled with rice topped by scrambled egg, green onions, and minced char siu pork. The bowl was very hot and rested on a wooden holder that emanated the aroma of smoldering wood (like sandalwood). A server mixed the ingredients and served me a small bowl, making sure to press the remaining ingredients against the sides of the bowl to make them crisp and crunchy. This reminds me of Korean Bibimbap.
The next dish I had didn't appear to be on the menu though it used the shrimp from one of the entrees (Aurora Prawns, $16.95) as the main protein. This treatment was on a bed of greens so it was essentially an Aurora Prawn Salad. The thick sauce is mild and a little spicy and the prawns are huge and juicy. There are slices of asparagus throughout. Excellent!
The seemingly endless procession of food continued with the next dish being a sizzling Beef Stir Fry ($14.95), featuring tender strips of beef steak sauteed in black bean sauce with cabbage and onions. This should be a hit locally!
Just when I thought it was over, I was brought out another large stone pot filled with bubbling ingredients. This was their popular Ma Po Tofu ($9.95). Again, I could smell the aromatic wood burn from the hot clay pot on the wood platter. Inside was a mound of shredded cheese (mozzarella and cheddar) that was on top of a large block of grilled firm tofu. Surrounding the tofu was a pond of thick and spicy Szechuan gravy filled with ground pork. This was fantastic - the cheese melted with the spicy broth brought forth flavors of a spicy, richly flavored lasagna or ravioli. The tofu chunk itself was humongous. Certainly enough for four or more people to share!
The end finally came with the arrival of two popular desserts, the classic Chinese almond jelly, Annin Tofu ($4.95) and Mango Pudding ($4.95). Both of these were very soothing and didn't over-stuff me. They were made with gelatin, rice flour and rich cream. The Annin Tofu had Amaretto flavoring while the Mango pudding featured pureed real mango. Both desserts were silky smooth and melted softly and flavorfully on the palate.
As you can see from my food adventure at Gyoza-Yatai, this place should be hugely popular among the locals. There are so many more dishes to try out (they even have a version of Szechuan Hot Pot). I'm looking forward to going back again and again!
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