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July 31, 2009, Volume 9 Number 16

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

Is July almost over already?! I don't think I'm ready for August, but it's going to be here in just one day so I'll just have to make the best of it. I was feeling a little nostalgic and decided to take a peek at events this time last year. Last year's August 1 newsletter was a perfect refresher for me since it contained write-ups on restaurants like Toh Lee Restaurant at the top of the Nikko Hotel, an intro to Seoul Jung Korean Cuisine in the Holiday Resort, Mama Gyros Authentic Greek Cuisine, Old Hagatna Grill's fabulous Blueberry Pancakes, Lone Star Steakhouse's New York Steak, and The Sheraton's President Nippon's Sakura Teppan Lunch. We also bade farewell (Auf Wiedersehen) to Manfred Pieper, former G.M.of the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa. His departure marked the end of an era for Guam's hotels.

Things are certainly different today, just a year later. One thing that we talked about that will be repeated in August will be the launching of the Dine & Ride IV promotion at the Marriott's Manhattan Steakhouse. Stay tuned for details! Anytime you feel the need to reminisce about our past, go ahead and check out our past newsletters - there are so many beautiful food photos that you will soon forget about your worries and will only think of eating some of the superb cuisine available on our tropical island paradise!

Let us be your guide to finding those hidden away places you've heard about yet never tried. We're here to satisfy your food cravings, be they exotic or mundane! Let's Eat!

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

"Dining with Sanctuary"
Dine at Participating Resaurants During August

Four different restaurants have stepped up to the plate with a unique fund-raising opportunity that will directly benefit Sanctuary Inc. during the month of August. The fund-raiser is called "Dining with Sanctuary" and features a special dish served at PROA, Old Hagatna Grill, Carmen's Cha Cha Cha, and Gyoza Ya-Tai. When a diner orders any of the featured dishes, $3 from that item is donated to Sanctuary. Sanctuary has been facing financial challenges since a reduction in government funding. It is a non-profit organization that has helped Guam's youth and families for nearly four decades, with services such as providing emergency shelter for runaways, drug and alcohol abuse treatment, and basic life skills training .

The featured dishes at each restaurant are:

PROA "The Big Feller Trio" Hibachi-style short ribs, spare ribs and chicken, with PROA's proprietary Marianas Glaze, with a choice of red or white rice.

Old Hagatna Grill is featuring Eggs Benedict for Breakfast, Meat Loaf for Lunch, and a four-course dinner menu ($20.09) with an 11 oz. pork chop entree, soup, salad, and dessert.

Carmen's Cha Cha Cha Mexican Restaurant is featuring Carnitas (braised pork) with Mexican rice, refried beans and a flour tortilla

Gyoza Ya-Tai (in Pacific Place, Tumon, between Outback and Capricciosa) is offering its "Sanctuary Gyoza", which is six pieces of House Gyoza and six pieces of Negimayo Gyoza (dressed in mayo & green onions).

For more information, call Sanctuary at 475-7103. Eat well for a good cause and help Sanctuary with every bite you take!

Thai Kitchen Moves to New Location
Tamuning (between Suntee's and Josie's Tavern)
Next to Spring Shiatsu Massage

Thai Kitchen, one of Guam's revered Thai establishments, has recently relocated from the Cen Tam Building to a new location across Marine Corps Drive. Owner Toy McGurk is happy with the move as it gives her more room in the kitchen and two entrances, one in the front (between Josie's Tavern and Spring Shiatsu) and one in the back. (Good luck finding this! Hint, turn right after you pass New Central America Beauty Salon). We stopped by the other night to check in on Toy and yes, the food is still as good as it was, however, it's a bit brighter since she has fluorescent lighting which in my view reduces the level of intimacy afforded at the previous location.

As each dish is made to order, you should be prepared for a long wait if you happen to arrive after a large table has placed its order ahead of yours. Fortunately, Toy's food is worth the wait. One of our dishes, the Spicy Noodles ($8), which is a delicious stir-fried blend of eggs, rice noodles, freshly picked Thai sweet basil, hot chili peppers and, in our case, a lot of vegetables like broccoli, red bell peppers, cabbage, and bean sprouts.

Our next dish was the hands down favorite, Garlic Shrimp ($9). If you love garlic, you will not be disappointed! It must be one of Thai Kitchen's signature dishes. The shrimp are large, clean, moist, and buried deep in garlic chips!

Last to come was the Tofu Soup ($7), which has a lightly flavored broth filled with tofu chunks, bean sprouts, seasoned minced chicken, cabbage, broccoli, and comes topped with fried garlic. The thin mong bean noodles absorb the liquid of the soup fairly quickly so eat it as soon as you get it!

Some folks may not like the new location, but if you like Thai Kitchen's food enough, this problem will not remain an obstacle for long!

La Mirenda Set Menu Lunch - Where "Less is More"
Hyatt Regency Guam

It may have just been a fluke that we had an opportunity to dine at La Mirenda during this past week, since it was an experience we appreciated more for the quality than the quantity - it proved the simple axiom that "less is more". With the island's obsessive love affair with buffets it's hard to go to lunch and avoid over-indulging while dining at one of the major hotel outlets.

Fortunately for us, La Mirenda has opted to forego the lunch buffet service in deference to two outstanding buffets already offered within the hotel at Niji and Al Dente and offer diners a choice of a la carte menu selections or the set menu option, which we decided to have.

For $20 (plus 10% sc), you get the following: a delicious freshly-prepared Caesar salad with grilled shrimp, garlic bruschetta, and crispy bacon to start, followed by a savory roasted tomato and capsicum soup with fried corn tortilla strips, sour cream and cilantro - this is an outstanding soup filled with the rich flavor of tomatoes.

Then, you have a choice of two main entrees, a pan-seared Tasmanian salmon fillet atop a creamy orzo pasta, with baby spinach salad tossed in a balsamic dressing, or a good-sized grilled Sirloin steak teriyaki style served with steamed rice and bok choy. You can't go wrong with either of these two entrees. The salmon just melts in your mouth and pairs well with the orzo pasta. The steak is succulent, tender, and only lightly flavored by the teriyaki sauce which never overwhelms the natural flavor of this really good steak.

This meal ends (or nearly ends) with one of Hyatt's signature desserts - the chocolate mud cake! This is elegantly and lavishly presented with a white chocolate ribbon leading from the devilish cake to a dreamy pile of fresh made whipped cream nestling against two sweet strawberry halves. It's a dream, edifying in its simplicity. The end can be a cup of just-brewed premium coffee or hot tea.

We enjoyed this meal more than the many buffets we've eaten during lunch at La Mirenda. We didn't need to keep getting up to graze for more food. We just sat, conversed, enjoyed the view, basked in good attentive service, and savored our meal! Thank you, Team Hyatt, for bringing us the basics!

Pattaya Thai

If there's one thing that Pattaya Thai's owner Pim Sonepoo is adamant about, it's about serving "authentic Thai food"! Pim is no novice to the restaurant business, she owned and operated Pim's Place back in the 90s. Compared to the old Pim's Place, things at Pattaya are more constrained, with no alcohol served. This means that all the effort and love has to go into the food. We had the Papaya Salad ($9.50) which actually is a lot more food than you'd normally find with just a papaya salad. The lettuce head wedge, sliced cucumbers, green beans and pile of grated papaya topped with fresh peanuts makes an impressive sight, however, just be aware that it is a large portion, plus, if you order medium spicy, it's still got a kick!

The Combo Green Curry ($13.50) had shrimp and chicken pieces along with a richly-spiced curry blended with coconut milk that's filled with eggplant, bamboo shoots, galangal, kaffir leaves, green beans, red bell peppers, and Thai basil. This is one of those comfort dishes that I must have ever so often.

Of course, there's one dish that you must always try at Pattaya, and that's her Combination Pad Thai ($9.50), which we ordered at medium heat and it came out a little spicier which was just fine. It's fun to blend all the elements together after squeezing fresh lemon on the pile of noodles, eggs, chicken and shrimp, bean spouts, green onion, and peanuts. It's really true what they say. "You can never have too much Thai food"!

Port of Mocha Coffee House
Acanta Mall

When you are passionate about coffee, it's easy to convince others that you know a thing or two about roasting, grinding, and brewing your beans. At Port of Mocha Coffee House in Tumon's Acanta Mall, owner Sanjay "Jay" Dewan takes great pride in realizing his dream of having a coffee house where he can share his passion for a cup of great java among other special beverages and food items.

When I had Jay on my GFG radio show in July, he brought some blended beverages to the station and I had my taste of the Java Chip (a fabulous drink filled with little chocolate chips and fresh whipped cream topping covered with chocolate shavings and chocolate syrup), and then after the show, we went down to lunch at Port of Mocha.

Jay's really put a lot of effort and energy into his venture, offering one of the largest selections of beverages on island. Along with blended beverages, you can get the typical espresso based drinks with a Caffe Mocha coming in three sizes (Tall $3.95, Grande $4.25, Venti $4.75), and ten Signature Mochas, including such elaborate names as Chewey Gooey Caramel, Sweet Tooth Butterscotch, and White Chocolate Heaven. Another delicious offering are the blended non-coffee cremes like Belgian Chocolate, Honeydew, Cookies 'n Cream , Dragonfly Green Tea, and Cake Batter. There are all kinds of Chai' - in fact one of the signs outside exclaims "Chai Me"! There are Fruit Tea Smoothies, Italian Sodas, and even Kidz cremes with such flavors as cotton candy and bubble gum which is a nice touch.

Aside from this onslaught of beverages, there are cookies, muffins, bagels, turnovers, croissants, Danish, cakes, and tiramisu.

We were there for lunch and ordered two different kinds of sandwiches. Zee had the Pastrami Panini on Rye with Salad ($7.95) and I had a Ham Wrap Panini with Salad. I've never had a wrap that was grilled in a Panini machine and it was great. The pastrami was very good, too. The portions are adequate; the salad elements are fresh with crunchy croutons, with a tasty Italian dressing.

One thing that I have to do is come for breakfast when they have goodies like the Brat Wrap (smoked bratwurst sausage, fluffy eggs, chopped red onions, sweet roasted red peppers, American cheddar, wrapped in a tortilla - $6.95), or the Caribbean Spice Wrap (mango habanero sausage, fluffy eggs, cilantro, chopped red onions, sweet roasted red peppers, American cheddar, wrapped in a tortilla and served with salsa - $6.95).

During the evenings there's even entertainment, kind of like a happy hour if you will. You have to give Port of Mocha Coffee House credit for making a great effort to give customers value for their money. I am sure that as word of these wonderful values and offerings spreads, there will certainly be more business. Good luck to Jay and his team of baristas and Panini engineers!

Bamboo Vietnamese Cuisine
Ypao Road (near Ramada Suites)

We'd like to welcome a new Vietnamese restaurant to Guam. Bamboo Vietnamese Cuisine opened a few months ago in the old location occupied by King & I Thai and Phuket Thai. Owned by Dinh Huynh, this restaurant sets out an ambitious agenda with aggressive hours of operation Mon-Sat from 10am-11pm, and Sun from 4pm-10pm. Of course, take-out orders are welcome and encouraged. Although I'd stopped by last month to get the name of the restaurant listed on, I was given the "go" signal by Vivian Bui (my Vietnamese food advisor) who said the restaurant had some pretty good dishes.

We went for dinner this week and ordered Beef Noodle Soup (Pho $9), Fresh Lumpia (3 rolls/$7), Fried Rice with mixed vegetables, shrimp and chicken ($7.50), and Beef Lemon Grass ($10.50). This is a quaint little restaurant with two sections - the entrance room had a TV set on and the back room had one on as well - providing entertainment to a young child. I sometimes have issues with TVs on in restaurants, however, in this case, it did serve the purpose of keeping the child's attention. I should add that when one of the guests switched the channel from news to Reggae music, it made the meal more enjoyable

The Beef Noodle Soup came with a side of basil leaves, lemon wedges, sliced red and green chili peppers, bean sprouts and chopped romaine lettuce. Noodles and beef slices were in the broth, to which we added these other elements and then some hoisin sauce and sweet chili sauce. It came out pretty decent though I still prefer Pho Vietnamese for their version with more meat variety oxtail, pressed beef, and tripe.

The Fresh Lumpia looked good and was certainly fresh. It was also pretty good(better than a lot of others, but not on par with Mary's, who still retains my personal best title.

The Beef Lemon Grass came with a side of salad and steamed rice. This was to me the best dish we had. The flavors of the lemon grass, onions and garlic were perfected in this dish and I ate it all with relish! Speaking of relish, Dinh said that his lunch specials are served with a side of pickled vegetables. He then offered us some - it looked like cabbage kimchi, but tasted spicier and more vinegary and was quite good. We noticed that another table received a Vietnamese Shrimp Salad ($10.50), and later heard that it was also quite good.

Our last dish was the Fried Rice with Mixed Vegetables, Shrimp and Chicken. This came after we'd finished most of our other food items, so we weren't able to eat all of it. My first impression was that it was above average.

We'll have to come back and try some other dishes on their rather extensive menu (over 54 entrees). The Lunch Specials are $5, and they usually are smaller versions of the larger portioned menu offerings. I'm looking forward to Sinigang, Beef Kelaguen, and Beef Salad.

Bon Appetit!

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