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August 13 , 2010, Volume 10 Number 15

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

Today's newsletter features a chance rendezvous with two restaurants I reviewed when writing for the PDN's "Tabletalk" dining section back in the early "Guam Food Guy" days. One is Mary's Vietnamese Restaurant (Dec 7, 2000 PDN ) and the other is Sakura's Kitchen (January 18, 2001 PDN). It's hard to believe I've been at it for so long and it's also testament to the fact that good restaurants can stand the test of time so long as they stick to the basics of what made them successful in the first place. Both restaurants get top ranking for three of my favorite things with Mary's Fresh Lumpia and Sinigang with Shrimp Soup on the list and Sakura's Kitchen's Katsu-don (Pork Cutlet & Egg Bowl). I have had these dishes repeatedly over the years and have tried other restaurants' versions which I measure against the high bar set by Mary's and Sakura's. As of this writing, both Mary's and Sakura's retain their respective primacies.

Another eatery, Corridos Restaurant, shocked me with news of its reopening which is more like a reincarnation. I talked to owner Sonya Han and she was just as surprised about re-opening this restaurant as I was. This place was supposed to "stay down", however, it (like its owner) was compelled to revive and it is indeed resurrected with a new "a la carte" concept replacing the all-you-can-eat buffet.

In our previous newsletter I meant to make a note of a soon-to-open restaurant called Cajun Delight. As you can see from the photo, this new eatery, located in the Day's Inn in Barrigada, promises to titillate your palate with Cajun and New Orleans cuisine. Who can resist "slap ya mamma jambalya"? or a bowl full of savory spicy gumbo? This restaurant is expected to open this month and is a labor of love for owners Pearl and Ernest Turner. I can't wait to sink my teeth into some cornbread and sweet potato pie! Stay tuned!

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

3rd Annual Taste Guam Competition Winners
August 7, 2010
Hyatt Regency Guam

Taste Guam III was a resounding success and really showcased some of the island's popular restaurants who served up hundreds and hundreds of dishes to eager and appreciative attendees. The Hyatt Regency's entire ballroom wing and foyer corridors were filled with displays and food booths and there were barbecue grills outside. Visitors also found beverage distributors booths from Ambros and Pacific Wines & Spirits.

In addition, Benson Guam built an entire kitchen set-up where four executive chefs from the Micronesia Chefs Association performed cooking demonstrations. I was privileged to be amongst a team of judges who had the arduous task of tasting the entries for the Budweiser Chef's Cup, a competition where a Budweiser product is a featured ingredient.

The top three finishers in this contest are listed below:

1st Place - Ivan Mendiola, PROA/Sweet Relief: "Budweiser Three Cheese Chowder w/Smoked Hamhocks & Yukon Potatoes in a BudLight Bread Bowl"

2nd Place - Ariel Rios, Pacific Islands Club: "Budweiser BBQ Glazed Spareribs w/Bean Curd Mousse Stuffed Tomato, Baby Carrots Beechy paired with Budtini Cocktail w/Lemongrass"

3rd Place - Byron Broughton, TGI Friday's Guam: "Texas Beer Chili"

In the PEOPLE's Choice Award category sponsored by the Guam Farmer's Co-Op, the main ingredient was coconut. Team PROA/Sweet Relief reigned victorious again with Mark Duenas' Frozen Ahu Ice Cream winning the nod from vox populi , leading a field of competitors from Outrigger, PIC, Meskla, and TGI Friday's.

Kudos to the Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association, the MCA, the event Sponsors, and all who participated in making this a fun, exciting, and successful event.

La France Special Lunch Menus
La France
Mezzanine Level
Outrigger Guam Resort
(Open daily)

If you have not yet been to La France for lunch (or dinner or even breakfast), you owe it to yourself and anyone you love to go there and indulge in the special ambiance of this sweet and lovely place. Although La France is considered a fine dining establishment, it offers a casual, relaxed atmosphere where diners can expect to spend from $12 to $60 for lunch with the high end for a broiled lobster.

We had lunch there this past Sunday. We arrived early, just after opening (11:30 a.m.) and were able to get a seat in the rotunda room which resembles a bird cage with windows overlooking San Vitores below. It's a great view during the day and a romantic one at night, with the city lights sparkling and glistening like diamonds.

We opted for the Special Lunch ($18), a Sirloin Steak with Chamorro Sauce (finadene), Rice and Dessert. Salad and soup are included as well. The other entree we ordered was a selection from the Lunch Menu ($12), an Angus Beef Hamburg Steak & Rice which comes with a choice of soup or salad. I should note that both dishes have a mini baked potato, as well.

The soup will surprise you when it's delivered. Talk about presentation. Delivered in an ice bowl, the delicate flavor of the Leek and Potato Cold Cream Soup is enhanced by the blue ice-filled globe supporting the glass soup bowl.

The salad has fresh greens with a light vinaigrette. The steak was cooked medium, had good flavor, and was topped by thin sliced battered onion rings.

One of the oddities of eating Western cuisine in Japan is the fact that rice is included as a side plate even though you may have a baked potato or fries. The finadene which they call "Guam Sauce" was just right. The dessert that was included in this lunch set was Grapefruit Jell-o, which proved to be a refreshing palate cleanser - I think it may have been made with champagne.

Zee's lunch (the Angus Beef Hamburg Steak) was a much heartier meal, with the hamburg steak seeming to be twice the size of the sirloin. It is topped with a sunny side-up egg, with baked potato and broccoli. This is complemented by a delicious red wine mushroom sauce.

Other Lunch Menu choices are Curry & Pork Cutlet and Pork Cutlet (served with miso soup, tofu, pickles, and rice). For $12 and that elegantly civilized ambiance you can't go wrong! We'll have to come back for dinner one of these nights.

Mary's Vietnamese
2nd Floor G.B. Sangalang Building
Rt 16 (just down and across the street from Iglesias Ni Cristo)
(Open 11am-8pm daily)

When asked where to get the best fresh lumpia, I always respond "Mary's Vietnamese". Every so often I have to return to validate my original assessment. I'm still amazed by just how good her fresh lumpia taste. Owner Mary To has mastered the fresh lumpia secret, using the thin wrapper to hold large cooked shrimp and chicken breast with rice noodles and lettuce. Her crushed peanut/hoisin sauce has a little hot chili pepper paste to give it a zing. I like it! You get two large fresh lumpia (each have protruding chive stalks that look like two tails) for $6, a price that's not changed in nearly 10 years.

I also had a bowl of Sinigang with Shrimp ($10), which is my favorite soup for fighting off colds. This is a spicy, aromatic, and pungent bowl of deliciousness, loaded with big, plump shrimp, cooked cherry tomatoes, bean sprouts, and basil leaves. The sour comes from tamarind and it is what makes sinigang so special.

Mary suggested that I make sure to try her Basa Filet in Blackbean Sauce ($12). I'll do that next time. Try Mary's for other great entrees like her Fried Pork Chops, Spicy Lemongrass Chicken, Spicy Lemongrass Shrimp, and Fried Tilapia with Ginger Sauce.

Be sure to bring CASH when coming to Mary's. it's a Cash Only Business! It's all good and well worth it.

Sakura's Kitchen
Tanota Building (across from GTA)
Upper Tumon

We stopped by Sakura's this past Thursday after being unable to satisfy a ramen craving we had at Menkui Ramen, which was closed that night. While Sakura isn't a ramen house, they have soba and udon, which are suitable substitutes. For me, though, coming back to Sakura's Kitchen allows me the opportunity to get my "Katsu-don" fix. Katsu Don is a version of the popular Japanese rice bowl dish known as donburi and it has breaded fried pork and egg with sauteed onions. I believe that Sakura's has one of the island's best Katsu-don. They know how to be generous with the sweet broth(dashi) used on the pork cutlets. The rice beneath absorbs this broth and makes it great to eat on its own! Other restaurants aren't as generous with their broth, so the rice is relatively dry. The Pork Cutlet and Egg Bowl (Katsu-don) is priced at $8.50.

We also ordered Garlic Chicken Salad ($6.50) which was more than enough for two to share. It's actually a delicious salad treat, filled with corn, lettuce, cabbage, shredded carrots, and lots of chicken sauteed in garlic.

Zee's Kitsune Udon (Hot $6.90) seemed to be okay with her after she added kimchi to the mix. I didn't try it so I can't describe the taste. We'll go to Menkui for our ramen fix. Other great things to have at Sakura's Kitchen are their Okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake), curry dishes and bento boxes.

Corridos Restaurant
Pia Resort
Upper Tumon

When I heard a commercial on the radio that Corridos Restaurant was open, I thought it was a mistake. This place has been closed for over 6 months and there was no sign nor mention of them being closed for renovation. Sonya Han, owner of Corridos Restaurant, and also owner of Imperial Garden and Mongo Mongo (both in the GPO Food Court), had initially intended to shut Corridos down just as she did with Esmeralda and El Asado in the Alupang Beach Tower. However, while on an airplane she had an inspiration and revelation about a new concept. It's called Keep It Simple! No all-you-can-eat buffet. Instead, Corridos Restaurant offers a la carte dining with prices starting at $10 for combo dishes, with access to the famous Corridos salad bar for an additional $3. The a la carte menu is the same for both lunch and dinner, and features Korean, Japanese, and local favorites.

Examples of these specials from the Main Menu are Beef Bulgogi & Fish Cutlet or Hamburger Steak with Gravy & Shrimp Tempura, or Beef Stew & Tempura. These all come with rice, soup and three side dishes. Pork entries include Pork Cutlet & Udon, Sweet & Sour Pork with seasoned cold tofu, and Deep Fried Ginger Pork and Crab Salad. Chicken and seafood a la carte options are also available. A Korean section had Bibimbap & Shrimp Tempura, Kimchi Stew & Grilled Mackerel Pike, and Spicy Tofu Stew & Grilled Mackerel Pike, all priced at $10 per combo.

I selected from the Special Menu ($15) course, which includes rice, soup and 3 sides.There are 4 combo options, and I had the first, which was Beef Short Rib & Shrimp Tempura (3 pcs). This was a lot to eat, and the thick Korean-style short ribs were tender and spiced just right. The tempura was good, as were all the side pickles, stewed potatoes, and spicy dried squid. I didn't have room for the $3 salad bar trip, however, you can do the salad bar only for $8. Or, for those who remember Corridos famous Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl, you can get that with the salad bar for $10.

Corridos Restaurant is totally renovated with a soothing beige interior color scheme, new tables well-spaced for privacy, plush carpeting, and several function rooms which also offer karaoke. Corridos is back in business - this time to stay!

Shenanigan's Restaurant

I was very pleasantly surprised by a recent dining experience I had on Saipan at a new eatery called Shenanigan's Restaurant in downtown Garapan. I was joined by Mark Lim during lunch and we were impressed by the ambitiously large menu selections featuring Italian, Mediterranean, International and Mexican dishes. In fact, I have not seen a menu on Guam to equal this one - which could indicate a potential problem by having too broad a menu for a limited market. We'll see; this could correct itself in time. Nevertheless, the food we ate and service we received was excellent.

This unpretentious eatery - the outside sign is the most ostentatious aspect of this restaurant, though in a good way. The interior is modestly adorned and colored by orange hues and dark wood tones. It appears to have the personality and charm of a bistro with a pastry display case with cheesecake, carrot cake, brownie mousse and tiramisu on the top shelves and wine bottles below; beer and spirits behind a bar counter; and an assortment of teas and coffees.

The restaurant was empty but for two tables when we arrived around 11:35. However, this was remedied soon after we ordered. A white board advertised the day's specials of Grilled Opakapaka Fillet with Goat Cheese Presto, or Grilled Breast of Chicken Quesadilla with Jalapeno Pesto and Prawns. This sounded intriguing, especially since it included choice of soup or salad and fresh baked foccacia and iced tea.

When we received the menu it became clear that this was no ordinary restaurant, rather it was a bona fide culinary haven for foodies! This menu was a celebration for an amazing feast of the senses and I commend the creator. So, to put this "illusion" to the test of reality, we ordered Chef Tony's Famous Wrap ($13.95) and The Italian Fish Sandwich ($12.95). I also ordered the soup of the day, which was Chicken Tortilla with Avocado and Cheese and it proved to be hearty with a rich Mexican flavor. I asked the server for the fresh catch selection for the day and was told it was Mahi Mahi. This helped my decision to get the wrap, made of grilled flat bread with lettuce, tomato, olives, capers, feta cheese, cucumber, pesto mayo with honey mustard dressing. Wow! This was extraordinary. When delivered, the presentation impressed me, there were kalamata olives as garnish along with fried potatoes.

The Italian Fish Sandwich had that awesome fresh mahi served on garlic mini baguettes with lettuce, tomato, red onion, Parmesan cheese then finished with a honey Italian dressing. The food was as good if not better than it looked! Both of our orders were superb.

I do have to return to this great little establishment. I have heard that they offer breakfast only on weekends and serve omelets, crepes, and pancakes. The menu for lunch and dinner is comprised of Antipasti dishes including Bruschetta, Ceviche, and Chipotle Prawns with Corn Cakes. Salads (one is a Moorish Crunch Salad), paninis, and burgers like the Honey Chipotle Barbecue Burger are also available. Then you have 11 pasta dishes with choices of angel hair, spaghetti, penne, fettuccine, linguine, or fresh spinach fettuccine pasta in a variety of sauces and preparation. You will also find steaks, various meats and seafood. They also have a vegetarian menu that has more depth than most with Masala Dosa, Black Bean & Avocado Enchiladas, Tofu Lasagna, and Morrocan Strudel with Golden Curried Tomato Sauce. There's even a Kids Menu that features Pizza, Spaghetti Carbonara and Chicken Nuggets, Prawns and Chips. Anyway, you get the idea that this is one HUGE menu!

If I sound like I'm stoked about the food, well it's true, these folks have their heads in the clouds and I love it! As I said, I'll have to come back to Shenanigan's and work my way through the menu. I've heard that Chef Tony used to cook at Coffee Care and he's happy in his new venture. This is welcome news for a lot of folks who remember this popular chef. We'll be back!

Bon Appetit!

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