October 23, 2009, Volume 9 Number 22
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
We've been noting some of the opening and closing activities of the island's restaurants, and are happy to report that Chili's Too had a successful launch at the Micronesia Mall . Also, this week saw the opening of Hot Chicken Restaurant at the intersection of Farenholt and Camp Watkins (across from Oka Payless), while last week we were at the soft opening of Wild Thai Cuisine in the former Andaman Thai location adjacent to Cost U Less.
There's been amazing progress in the construction of the T.G.I. Friday's second location in Hagatna, at the site formerly occupied by Toppy Furniture. Friday's will certainly change the dynamics of Skinner Plaza and Chamorro Village, both of which are within a stone's throw. I have also heard, but not yet confirmed, that Cafe Havana in Tumon may be closing down after a protracted and noble effort to make it work. We well know the risks involved in the restaurant business, and that there are no guarantees. The same applies to nearly every industry, yet it's restaurants that seem to get the limelight. Perhaps it's due to the enormous personal sacrifices and time investment required. It would make an interesting study to compile a list of all the restaurants that have graced our island in the past 50 years or so. The human stories involved in these would make compelling reading.
What makes a restaurant successful? There are many reasons, however, I believe that a successful restaurant must have a product or service that resonates with the customer. Examples are Shirley's, Jamaican Grill, Joinus, Capricciosa, and PROA. Sure there are others, but these seem to draw people to their tables despite the economic challenges. Mama Gyros in Anigua closed its doors because there were not enough customers who enjoyed their authentic Greek food. Even big name brand restaurants can't always succeed here. Some examples are Carl's, Jr., Quizno's, Dairy Queen, Popeye's, Noble Roman's, Dunkin' Donuts, and Sam Choy's. Each of these had their own reasons for failing. As I said, there are no guarantees. The most popular restaurants today may not be around tomorrow. Consider Marty's, Seahorse, and Chuck's Steak House. Even giants fall. Now there's some food for thought!
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
Kiyo Sato's $5 Lunch Specials
Tumon (across from Westin & Next to Circle K)
I had not been to Kiyo Sato since February 2003, when I did a review of this teeny izakaya, perched on the bottom corner of a complex of assorted businesses. I liked this place and its affable owner, Kiyonori Oyama, who is an old Guam hand, having been the tempura chef for the legendary Kurumaya at the Dai Ichi. He later worked at the Inaka Sushi Bar in the Tropicana Hotel and then Kiyo Sushi in the former Sun Route Hotel (now the Ohana Ocean View). My return to Kiyo Sato was like the fable of the prodigal son, and Chef Oyama welcomed my tardy return with a big forgiving grin.
When you approach this restaurant at lunch time, you will see dishes displayed outside on a stand in front of the entrance. The prices for all of these is an unbelievable $5! These are complete Donburi (rice bowl) lunch sets of Chicken Karaage, Tempura Don, Katsu Don (pork), Gyu Don (beef), and Oyako Don (chicken).
I sat at the counter and ordered the Katsu Don and Grilled Salmon ($8), which I ordered more as a gesture to raise my tab to compensate for this embarrassingly low lunch price. There are quite a few menu items available, though it seems that all the customers (a mix of locals and tourists) opted for the specials.
Oyama-san has an amazing system for preparing his dishes and he deftly works on each cooking process whether slicing, battering, frying, or broiling. It's entertaining to watch him cook! The lunch set includes a pickled slaw, stewed tuna, kabocha squash, miso, and the main entree rice bowl. It wasn't the best Katsu Don I've had, but it was quite good for the price.
The Salmon was crispy outside with some moistness retained inside. There are $10 dinner specials, too. I asked the server about the low price for the lunch specials and suggested they raise it. I was told they'd tried to bring it up to $7.99, but the working customers in the surrounding area didn't support that increase, so they went back down. Well, it's certainly a bargain! Imagine four people eating lunch for just $20! Lunch is served from 11:30am-1:30pm, and dinner runs from 5-11:30pm.
Wild Thai Cuisine
Monticello Plaza (next to Cost-U-Less)
Wild Thai Cuisine has opened for business in the former Andaman Thai location next to OP Bakery in the Monticello Plaza. It is owned by the same folks who have Wild Bill's in Saipan and Wild Bill's Bar in Tamuning. They are having their "soft opening" period for the next few weeks.
I stopped by one night and talked to owner Somjai about her menu, which is replete with enticingly vivid food photos and contains a few appetizers and entrees you don't often see here, such as Tod Mun Plar (fish cake mixed with curry paste) or Koong Sarong (shrimp wrapped with bacon and wonton dough, then fried). An unusual entree is Stir Fried Clams (made with oyster sauce and Thai spices) and looks like something worth trying.
The dining room retains the same look and feel of Andaman, however Somjai has posted some marvelous Thai photo art that depict the people and beautiful scenery of Thailand.
I ordered the above-mentioned Koong Sarong appetizer ($10), Pad Thai with Chicken ($8), and Green Curry with Pork ($8), along with an Asahi, though I yearned for a Singha. They didn't have Thai Coffee or Tea when I was there last week, though it may be available now. The Koong Sarong comes with a homemade sweet chili dipping sauce. For a deep fried dish, this was pretty good...after all,bacon-wrapped shrimp is a popular combo, though I prefer it teppan style. Still, with the crisp wrapper and sweet chili sauce, this was not bad at all.
The Pad Thai was substantial and fresh-tasting. Unfortunately, the menu doesn't have a combination option available other than a Seafood Combination Pad Thai. I wanted a combo of chicken and shrimp and the friendly and engaging server (still new at restaurant serving) didn't know that I could have it my way. I found this out from Somjai during our conversation albeit for an additional charge.
The Green Curry with Pork was really good, filled with fresh chilies, eggplant, long beans, bamboo shoots, eggplant and lots of tender sliced pork. I ordered medium heat for both dishes and frankly, it could have been a little bit hotter. There are condiments on the table that can add more spice to the dish if you like.
I really think they'll do alright, since they have restaurant and bar experience as well as a confident attitude forged by business acumen. Somjai wants to be sure the food is properly prepared and that customers are satisfied. They are open for lunch from 11am- 2:30pm and dinner is served from 6-9:30pm, Monday - Saturday.
Horse & Cow Pub & Grill
If you've not yet been to Horse & Cow, you need to go there and see this place yourself. It's a very large bar with lots of entertainment options including several large screen TVs playing sports channels, pool tables, electronic games and on certain nights live bands and dancing. The long bar is well-stocked with beers and spirits and attended by at least two bartenders. They also have food...good food, at very reasonable prices, especially when featured as daily specials.
Though I've had sandwiches, tacos, and wings here, I'd not yet had the steak, so I ordered the Ranch Hand Steak, which is a 16 oz. Certified Angus Beef T-Bone for $23.50. This comes with a salad and rice or fries. Zee ordered the Lemon Pepper Wings (12 pcs/$8.75), which have passed our taste test the last few times we've tried them.
The salad had fresh mushrooms, crisp romaine, diced red tomatoes, and more cheddar cheese than I like (cheese fanatics will love this!).
The steak was tender, well-marbled, and cooked medium-rare. It was seasoned with salt and pepper and didn't need steak sauce, though they did put a side of finadene on the plate. I must have liked this steak since I only left the bone!
We each had one of their winning Bloody Mary's, which probably stimulated my appetite. The other steak I think I'll try next time is the Trail Boss, a belly-bruising 24 oz. T-Bone for $30.50. I can't wait to take its picture to see if it'll match those huge steaks served by Uncle Bob's.
Try Horse & Cow for drinks and food...I'm sure you'll find something you'll really like here.
We went to Ruby Tuesday the other night for the express purpose of eating their Fresh Garden Bar, which I consider unrivalled in the number of fresh ingredients and dressings. I was intent on having the Turkey Minis Combo ($12.99) as well so that I could indulge in that glorious salad bar and get some tasty mini-burgers as well.
We happened to run into our long-time friend, Moe Cotton, who suggested we try the Fresh Guacamole Dip ($10.99), made with avocados, fresh pico de gallo, and a pretty decent salsa. It's served with as many crisp tortilla chips as you can eat! This turned out to be a really spot-on recommendation, as we found the pico de gallo and guacamole dip better than any we've had in a while. The salsa reminded Zee of Marty's salsa...a benchmark she carries to measure great salsas (we're talking locally).
We were so full from the salads, minis, and chips (I confess we had a second refill on chips) that we had no room for one of Ruby Tuesday's decadent desserts - like the Double Chocolate Cake, Strawberries & Ice Cream, or the Chocolate Tallcake (which I've yet to experience) with slices of chocolate cake layered with creamy chocolate mousse, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and luscious chocolate and caramel sauces for $7.99. Now that's a dream dessert!
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