December 4, 2009, Volume 9 Number 25
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Who could have guessed that a picture of a pancake would lead to making a friend for life? That's what happened this past weekend when Zee & I hosted Chelsea Ewing and her three-year-old toddler, Omy, on a dining tour of Guam based on wishful cravings she had expressed in a series of emails that started with her searching for American food experiences on our island.
Chelsea is a Canadian living in Hirakata, Japan, just outside of Osaka, and had been planning a trip to Guam. She Googled "pancake" and "Guam" and came across a photo of Jan Z's famous giant pancakes in one our newsletter write-ups. She contacted our website and I began to correspond with her, finding out in the process that she didn't drive and that she was mostly vegetarian (allowing a little fish). Once we met Chelsea, we really embraced our mission to share our island's natural beauty, generous hospitality and superb culinary diversity.
She has since returned to Japan and has written us to thank us for our taking the time to spend with her and her little boy. It was equally our pleasure to be with these two special people with whom we've formed a close bond.
As you can see from the photo, Chelsea was able to fulfill her giant Western-style pancake fantasy! You would have loved to see her genuine reactions to the food and to Guam's scenery, especially the colorfully painted homes, as well as her fascination with how friendly everyone she met was. Her one regret is that she hadn't come to Guam sooner, as she was now aware of so much more of what Guam had to offer tourists from Japan.
We want to take a moment to express our condolences to the Lai family on the passing of their mother, "Mama Shirley", local food pioneer and founder of Shirley's Coffee Shops, which are local landmarks here on Guam and in Saipan. Her legacy of hard work, good service, and high quality continues in the generations that follow in her footsteps.
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
#101 Cruz Building
Martyr Street(behind Pojo's)
Chopstix, a Japanese Restaurant, has recently re-opened in Hagatna after moving from their previous Upper Tumon location in the East-West Center. Mike & Kaori Sablan are very happy in their smaller, more intimate restaurant, that's more like a small cafe. They have found a niche by being the only Japanese restaurant in Hagatna. They offer lunch specials on Monday through Friday from 11am-2:30pm and have a take-out menu that features such fare as Chicken Cutlet, Chicken Teriyaki, and Chicken Karaage (Japanese Fried Chicken) for $8. Other take-out items priced at $9 are Pork Cutlet, Pork Ginger, Pork Cutlet Egg Bowl (Katsu Don), and Pork Steak.
For me, take-out wasn't an option and I wanted to enjoy the full experience of dining in the confines of this little eatery with a view looking out towards the Bank of Guam headquarters a block away. I had been craving hamburger steak all morning and didn't realize that they'd had something on their menu that would fill that craving. I ordered the Mix Grill ($15), which has Hamburger Steak, Chicken Teriyaki, Spicy Sausage, as well as Green Salad and Miso Soup. This is also available as a take-out item for $11, with the salad and soup costing extra.
True to Japanese tradition, Chopstix takes special pride in its food presentation. Just looking at the various elements carefully positioned on the lacquer tray made an appreciable impression, showing respect to the diner and the food. The hamburger steak was flavorful with a savory gravy and the teriyaki sauce on the chicken thigh wasn't over-powering like some, while the sausage had a fresh, tasty spiciness. (Mike has these links brought in specially for Chopstix.) The plate also had a light macaroni salad, green salad with Japanese dressing, steamed rice, miso soup, and oshinko (Japanese pickles).
Chopstix is open Monday-Saturday for dinner from 6-9:30pm. A lot of area residents are glad to once again have a Japanese restaurant in Hagatna, and Chopstix is a good one to have!
Denny's Wednesday Special - Tinola ($7.65)
Tamuning - 646-1475
Micronesia Mall - 637-1802
It was a wet, rainy day and I needed some kind of kadu to make things right! It was about 11:30am and I was driving through the Marine Corps Drive flood waters in Tamuning when I remembered Denny's specials and how they are always gone whenever I've arrived past 1:30 or 2pm. So I turned in and went inside and was delighted to see Tinola as the Wednesday Special, ordered it and asked for finadene when the meal arrived. The bowl was large and filled with stewed green papaya, chicken pieces, ginger, green peppers, and black peppercorns. Two large scoops of white rice where on the accompanying plate. I set to eating, using my soup spoon to drizzle broth on chicken I'd removed and put on some rice with finadene. It was exactly what I needed, and oh, so good! For the price of $7.65, you can't go wrong.
While I was there I overheard the waitresses say that they had just run out of the Tinola special, and it was just before noon. Of the 40 or so customers who were there in the restaurant, most had ordered the special. Maybe they should make more?! Tuesday and Thursdays special is another popular favorite, Oxtail Soup ($8) and Friday's special is Pork Sinigang ($7.50). Salamat po, Denny's!
Guam Plaza Hotel
Tumon Beach(Sails BBQ)
I had gone to Nana's to see Chef Kishimoto about some knives and decided to have lunch. I was going to order one of my all-time favorites, his signature Hamburger Steak ($12.50), however I was told that it would take 20 minutes to prepare and since I was pressed for time I ordered Singapore Chicken with Mee Goring ($12.95) from the Weekly Lunch Special menu. All of these come with all-you-can-eat salad bar and a choice of soup, miso or clam chowder. The chowder was excellent, full of clams in a savory cream soup. I also enjoyed the cool, fresh greens of my salad, with cucumber, black olives, tomatoes, corn, and croutons.
The Singapore Chicken was two skewers of grilled chicken pieces separated by onion wedges and red bell pepper. There was a slightly sweet sauce layered over these kebabs. Removing the chicken and vegetables from the skewers, I ate them with the rice which helped accentuate the flavor. These were actually pretty good and I thought that the portion was generous. Mee Goring is Singapore Fried Noodles and has onions, red and green bell peppers, and cabbage. This was an unexpected treat.
My goal is to arrive at Nana's when I have more time (or even call in advance) for the Hamburger Steak, which is really worth having! Another specialty from their a la carte lunch menu that takes 20 minutes to prepare is the Broiled Black Cod "Yaki Zakana" ($13.95). Maybe we'll give that a try, too, one day at Nana's Cafe!
Joinus Keyaki Japanese Restaurant
Tumon Sands Plaza
It had been some time since I'd been to Joinus for Teppanyaki, and it was this past October that I'd stopped by to update my review. The Teppanyaki Lunch Specials ($15) are immensely popular among locals, and all of the teppan counters fill up pretty quickly. There are four combination choices: A. Beef Top Sirloin, Spring Chicken, Salmon; B. Beef Top Sirloin, Salmon, Shrimp with Bacon ; C. Spring Chicken, Salmon, Shrimp with Bacon; and, D. Salmon, Scallops, Shrimp. All are served with fresh garden Vegetables, Salad, Rice & Miso Soup.
I was happy to once again be served by long-time teppan chef, Eddie Cruz, who made it a point this time to demonstrate some new tricks he'd come up with to entertain guests. One of these was the onion volcano, which had several rings of onion forming a cone, from which smoke poured out before a brandy-induced fire.
The other cute trick was the Choo Choo train, which had the "volcano" onion being followed by a tofu slab with a carrot slice on top. It did kind of look like a train!
Of course, the real exciting moment at Joinus is when the teppan chefs throw a little brandy on the grill and light it to cause a giant flare-up. You can hear the exclamations of diners as they "oooh & aahhh" at the billowing flames! The quality of the food is what keeps loyal guests returning, many of them several times a week. I like teppanyaki since it's good accompanied by a performance, with fireworks to boot!
Roadside, Agana Bay
If you are driving south from Tamuning to Hagatna during the week, you will more than likely see the large white mobile canteen that's parked in one of the beach parks along the Marine Corps Drive. You'll see the banner that says "Kalena's Chamorro Food" and that's exactly what you can get at this roadside take-out diner.
I first encountered Kalena's when I did a Chamorro Village Wednesday Night Market article over a year ago. Of all the eateries set up for that night, I highlighted Kalena's since their food was awesome. Today, I re-experienced that same "awesome" when I stopped and ordered a 3-Choice meal of Tinaktak, Kadon Pika, and Tina'lan Katne (dried beef) for $7. I had originally stopped to see if they had any kadu (soup), which they did in the form of Beef Long Rice ($1.50), which I also ordered. The soup had clear rice noodles, bits of beef, tomato, and loads of flavor!
Each meal comes with choice of salad - eggplant, spinach, vegetable or potato. I had the spinach in coconut milk (Golai Hagon Suni), and you get either red rice or pancit (if available).
Since I decided to take my meal home I decided to buy a second 3-Choice meal, this time getting BBQ Short ribs, BBQ Chicken, and I was about to get the BBQ Spareribs when I was convinced to try the Pot Roast, which was tender and tasty. I tried the Chicken Kelaguen, which was as genuine as everything else I ate.
I also was able to speak with Kalena's employee, Michelle Taliman, who I know from her previous job at Salon Paradis. She is doing very well after the terrible attack in October where she was robbed, strangled, and left for dead by an uncaring antagonist. She says that since that time, the family at Kalena's has received tremendous community support, and that no one ever works alone.
This food is such an instant fiesta of favorite local dishes that I will keep them in mind for ordering party trays when we have a special outing.
Chelsea's Dining Adventures
As mentioned in our newsletter intro, Zee & I hosted Chelsea Ewing, a tourist from Japan who had come to Guam on holiday with her three-year-old son, Omy. We described her craving for the Jan Z's pancake that she'd discovered on the GuamDiner.com website - that was one fantasy fulfilled.
Another craving she had was for Fish & Chips, which we were able to get at Jeff's Pirate's Cove (Fresh Deep Fried Local Catch $18, featuring wahoo). We toured the seaside museum and she learned about Sgt. Yokoi, the Japanese WWII straggler. The highlight was getting a photograph together with Jeff's owner, Jeff Pleadwell, who she said was in many Japanese travel guides. The photo of her and Omy with Jeff has the JPC Japanese advertisement behind them.
We then took her and Omy to Two Lover's Leap (another of her Guam "bucket list" items). As we were returning her to the Santa Fe Hotel, she asked about Mexican food and wanted a vegetarian burrito. Zee & I both thought about the giant burrito at Caliente and she was delighted by the huge Veggie Burrito ($8.50), with Black Beans, Rice, Cheese, Guacamole, Pico de Gallo, Lettuce & Salsa. Omy had a small quesadilla our server had brought to him and he was also eating some of the beans and rice from my Steak Fajita Special ($17), which was enough for two!
On our round-the-island tour we stopped in Malojloj where we spent a short time with McKraut's owner, Lutz Uhmeyer, who informed that he was preparing to build his beer garden restaurant.
Our final meal was enjoyed at Vitale's in Tumon, where she was overwhelmed by the menu choices of real Italian dishes (not the Japanese-influenced Italian that is all she can get in Japan). She settled on the Ravioli. You had to be there to believe it, but she was so moved by her first bite of Vitale's Ravioli that she started tearing up! It was food bliss if I ever saw it!
Owner Joe Vitale and his son, Joe Jr., both met Chelsea and Omy and were very pleased that she had such a deliciously moving experience. When Joe found out she was leaving back to Japan the next morning, he asked if she wanted the other dish she had been thinking about, the Manicotti. He offered to pack it for her so she could have it in Japan. Who could refuse such a generous offer! Chelsea later wrote back that she had this marvelous Manicotti from Guam while riding the train home from the airport in Osaka. This was such an enriching personal experience for all of us. Chelsea, if you are reading this, you will always have friends and places to eat on Guam!
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