Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
Hit Radio 100's 26th Anniversary Celebration
Cheeseburger Competition Yields Burgerliciousness
Congratulations to the good people at Hit Radio 100 on their 26th year - hard to believe it's been more than a quarter of a century - of broadcasting on the island's FM Airwaves. They're already older than their target demographic! I was invited by the folks at Marianas Variety to guest judge a Cheeseburger Competition on Sunday, May 23 in advance of the larger MV Guam Burgerfest to be held on May 30th (details in next item). I understand that the three winners of this past Sunday's competition: The Buzz Cafe, Team 671 Love Handles, and Julian Ballamante will enter the main competition as Wild Card competitors.
As I recall, there were about 7 contestants, and as you can tell from the photo collage, there was a lot meat stacked between grilled buns! It was a great day with beautiful weather and lots of sounds (my ears are still pounding ) from the live band performances. Perhaps next time they should consider having a competition for who can play the loudest as well!
MV Guam Burger Fest
Sunday May 30
Ypao Beach Park, Tumon
In what will hopefully be a continuing annual event, the Marianas Variety will be holding the MV Guam Burger Fest at Ypao Beach Bark. There will be a series of Burger Bouts, pitting the Classic Burger vs the Gourmet Burger.
Among the competitors are Jamaican Grill, Hooters, Meskla, The Mermaid Tavern, PROA Restaurant, House of Brutus, Horse & Cow, and Dobie's Joint. Also competing are The Buzz Cafe, Team 671 Love Handles, and Julian Ballamante, winners from the aforementioned Hit Radio 100 Cheeseburger competition.
There will be an exciting line-up of live performances, including Biggah and Bettah, The Weather Party, First Come First Serve, Fairy Tale Heroes, Nzeexruous, The Few Against Many, Freedom Fries, the Samuel Holden Experience, and Roy Chan. Unfortunately, I'll be in Saipan this day and won't be able to judge! I'll have to wait until next year. May the best burger win!
Hong Kong Fair 2010
May 14-June 30
Hotel Nikko Guam
A Chinese food festival awaits at the tip top of the Hotel Nikko Guam, home of Toh-lee Restaurant. The Hong Kong Fair 2010 runs through the end of June, but the first three days we were honored to have a visiting guest chef, Chef So Kei Pak, Chinese Head Chef of Toh Lee Chinese Restaurant at Hotel Nikko Hong Kong, oversee the preparation of an elaborate set course dinner which we had the pleasure of enjoying.
There were two different set menus offered and our group elected Set B ($68 +10% service charge), which featured the following: four kinds of appetizers; three kinds of dim sum; braised shark's fin with chicken, bamboo pith and mushrooms; sauted prawns stuffed with vegetables and Napoleon fish; sauted pork with lettuce wraps; fried rice with shredded conpoy (dried scallop) and egg whites; double-boiled egg whites with fresh milk in ginger juice, and Chinese petit fours.
We had a chance to meet with Chef So Kei Pak, who was gracious enough to let us take a photo of him. Unfortunately, he didn't speak much English so we couldn't get his take on how he liked Guam. I will make it a point to visit his restaurant in Hong Kong where I'm sure the food he prepares will be at its optimum taste and freshness. In the meantime, please visit Toh Lee for a la carte dinner entrees as well as an affordable lunch of savory Chinese delights, all served in a beautiful setting with its unparalleled sweeping overview of Tumon Bay.
Kalbi Tacos at Margarita's Burritos & BBQ
Near Acanta Mall
Well, I certainly have to give Margarita's Burritos & BBQ's owner, Wanjoo Kim, an "A" for effort in his unrelenting pursuit to promote his south of the border eatery via every means and method available! Fortunately, the email in my inbox announcing a new creation, the Kalbi Taco, grabbed my attention. The other thing he sent that grabbed my attention was his ad announcing Mojitos made with home-grown (in his own garden, mind you) organic mint. That's something I've been craving for a while and I'll have to satisfy that desire soon. I did manage to drop by for a late lunch yesterday (though I missed his $9.95 All You Can Eat Build Your Own Tacos Lunch Special by a few minutes) to appease my curiosity about this new "fusion"treat. After all, you are mixing Korean and Mexican, right, so that's certainly pushing an envelope in an interesting direction.
The Kalbi Taco Plate ($10.95) includes 2 tacos wrapped in foil, Mexican rice and homemade beans (black beans and pinto beans). I ordered a pink lemonade - a real winner - and enjoyed it while munching on fried flour tortilla strips with pika salsa.
The Kalbi tacos themselves are made with marinated and shredded short-ribs, that have a unique flavor as they are combined with culantro (this is the local cilantro), salsa, and lettuce leaf. The lettuce leaf is like eating kalbi in a Korean restaurant where you wrap the meat in lettuce with condiments. The savory flavors of kalbi were not as strong as I'd expected, but the flavor was there in its fusion format, with plenty of beef - no skimping here! I really liked the beans though the rice was a tad on the dry side likely owing to the late lunch time. I understand that Margarita's will be adding some new entrees to their menu and adjusting their prices to appeal to value-conscious consumers. I don't think you'll find a better taco special anywhere! If he can do more things like that, he'll always have customers!
Orleans Pacific Plaza
It's been some time since I visited Oriental Restaurant. My last review was in December 2000 and in re-reading it I was taken back to the days when we didn't insert photographs into our reviews and they were strictly text. The reviews were certainly longer and more detailed than today's reviews and I have to admit to relying on photos more to describe the dishes. Only those who've been here for more than 10 years would remember that Tony Roma's used to occupy this same location, which has a view of Horse N Cow just across Marine Corps Drive.
I returned for lunch one day last month to see how well they've been doing and was pleased to see that Oriental Restaurant is still owned by Ro Pyung Kwon and Mrs. Ro, and that they've been in business for over 35 years, offering good food at reasonable prices. I had an appetite and decided to order the Galbi Lunch Special ($12.50) and the Galbi Tang (Beef Rib Soup, $13). While there, I scanned the main dining room and remembered how impressed I was with the pleasant decor as well as the spaciousness of this room. There were a few tables with regular customers who the servers knew.
My panchan of three assorted kimchis, sprouts, dried anchovies and tofu was spread out before me along with a dish of gochujang (hot pepper paste) I requested for my soup. The Galbi was plentiful (for $12.50 you certainly get your money's worth) and delivered pre-cut on a sizzling platter, which makes it ready to eat!
I gradually added the chili paste to the soup broth plus some kimchi and other red sauce drippings from my panchan to intensify the flavor. I was able to change the color of the broth from clear to red, increasing the spiciness level of this by 20-fold.
All in all, it was another satisfying meal, reasonably priced, with attentive service. What more can one ask for? I'll have to return for dinner and do the self-cook bbq, which to me is more fun and interactive.
Ben N' Yans BBQ Place
Rt 16 Harmon
There's a reason why so many people give Ben N' Yans BBQ Place a hearty two thumbs up - the food is masarap! Though I'd been meaning to stop by Ben N' Yans a number of times over the past two years, I was finally able to make the time to explore this popular eatery this past week, and yes, it was as good as they said. First, I have to acknowledge my colleague and fellow foodie, Orleyne Tabucanon, for her short list of must-try favorites, which I was able to obtain from her prior to arriving with Zee.
Ben N'Yans BBQ Place has been open for more than seven years and just recently opened a location at the airport. Owned by Belinita "Bennet" Espino, Ben N' Yans is named after Bennet's two sons, Benson, the eldest, and Brian, the youngest. You can't miss the outdoor canopied BBQ grill in front of the restaurant! It is one of the best marketing strategies anyone in the restaurant business can use - the powerfully primal appeal of the aroma of grilled meat cannot be overstated! You can order BBA chicken and pork skewers to go for $1.50 and $2, or you can go inside and order from Ben N' Yans extensive menu of foods, probably the largest selection of Filipino food on island.
The quaint dining room at Ben N' Yans has a small number of wooden tables that give diners a little space between tables. You can easily see what everyone around you is served and even talk to them about their food which for me is a great thing. The front counter has packaged desserts and gift items available for purchase as well as colorful posters of popular food dishes like Mix Seafood Sizzling, Bicol Express, Sweet & Sour Lapu-Lapu, Sinigang Na Hipon, T-Bone Steak Sizzling and Ben N' Yan Fried Rice.
I recall someone telling me that this 24-hour restaurant is known for its "sizzling" dishes and when looking at the menu, the first section is devoted to Sizzling Plate Specials that include Sizzling Chicken, Sizzling Beef Liver, Sizzling Pork Chop, Sizzling Pusit (squid) and Sizzling Tokwa (tofu in a spicy chili sauce), all priced at $8.
Our first item was the house favorite Sizzling Bangus (grilled belly milk fish) topped with onion, tomato and pepper served on a sizzling platter ($10). Our server, Eduardo, took time to explain some of the dishes and was genuinely interested in making sure we had everything we needed. The rice is served by the scoop in a small fry pan that maxes out at four scoops. We settled for half, which turned out to be enough for us. All dishes, except the sizzling platters, are placed on circular woven mat stands, enhancing the overall presentation and experience. The Bangus was a magnificent blend of grilled onion, tomato, garlic, and pepper with the tastiest part of the milkfish, enhanced by the drizzle of local lemon.
Our next selection was the popular soup, Sinigang na Baboy - pork simmered in ginger, tomato, eggplant, long beans and white radish in tamarind ($10). This ingredient laden soup had large chunks of tender pork and radish in a piquant broth made sour by tamarind. It's a classic Filipino soup that is a universal favorite.
Next came the Crispy Pata - Deep Fried Pork Knuckle served with choice of Mang Tomas Sauce or Finadene ($10 and up). We had our Mang Tomas sauce and finadene along with the bagoong (shrimp paste) that I love with Kare Kare. The Crispy Pata was perfectly prepared, and had big chunks of tasty pork and crispy fried skin. I'd like to say this was a low cholesterol dish but I'd be lying.
One of my personal favorite Filipino dishes was delivered next. Ben N' Yan's Kare Kare Oxtail (another house favorite) of beef tripe with oxtail plus bok choy, eggplant and long beans, sauted with onions and garlic in peanut butter sauce ($12) is another of those "low calorie, low fat, low cholesterol" dishes(absolutely a distortion of truth). The oxtail pieces were plentiful and easily gave up their tender meat jackets. Not everyone cares for the oft-described as "stinky" bagoong, but it is an essential ingredient when enjoying Kare Kare. The combination of Kare Kare's thick creamy, peanut butter sauce with eggplant, long beans, tripe and bagoong is an irresistible pleasure. This is definitely food for the soul!
We ordered a lot of food - a small feast by anyone's account and we were convinced we were full and had no room for any more food, especially dessert. However, when Eduardo told us that all their desserts were made here, we decided to split a slice of Cassava cake ($2.50). This came out hot and delicious! It had a natural goodness that compelled us to eat more. It was starchy with a gummy tapioca texture that was not at all unappetizing. I didn't realize that cassava was nutritionally comparable to potatoes, yet with twice the fiber content and a greater level of potassium! It's gotta be one of those borderline "healthy" desserts! Other desserts made at Ben N' Yans include Leche Flan, Halo Halo special, Sapin Sapin, Bico, and Maja Pandan.
We were very pleased with our Ben N'Yans BBQ Place dining experience, and I look forward to returning in the near future to work my way through their seemingly endless menu selections. I'm pretty sure that their food will turn out to be consistently masarap!