Are you generally satisfied with the service you get at local restaurants? When was the last time you had excellent or outstanding service when dining out? Have you ever complained to your family or friends about a bad restaurant experience? Do you tip your server more when given outstanding service even though a service charge has already been billed? Do you think the quality of dining of Guam has improved or declined in the past few years? These are some of the questions and topics that are often talked about, however, a meaningful study of these type of questions and answers hasn't been undertaken and quantified. I believe such a survey and its results would be a valuable tool to restaurant operators.
This kind of information is useful to those who appreciate feedback, whether positive or negative. Some restaurants already have survey forms that they ask diners to complete at the end of the meal. Others utilize "mystery shoppers" as a way to get feedback on their operations. With the increase in competition, restaurateurs should be more mindful about their overall quality standards if they intend to remain in business.
How do you communicate your satisfaction or dissatisfaction to a restaurant when you've finished your meal? I'm sure restaurants would be very interested in getting the results of "exit surveys" from customers who have just dined at their establishments. This is already done by big chains like Chili's, who invite diners to go to their website to complete a survey, usually offering an incentive for a response made within 24-48 hours.
Do you ever speak your mind? We'd like to know and would welcome any comments or suggestions you'd like to make. Please send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together we can make a difference.
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
GFG Hosts K57 "Tourism & You" Food Guy Show
Saturday March 12, 2011
Listen up this Saturday morning for the Guam Food Guy segment of K57's "Tourism & You" Show, from 10am-Noon. Our first hour guests will feature the folks from tu Re' Cafe, including chef Glenn Taitano, pastry chef Gary Cruz, and owner/partner Roxanne Garrido Chang.
In our second hour, we'll welcome members of PROA Restaurant & Sweet Relief Pastry Shop, namely pastry chef Mark Duenas and Chris Bejado, director of hospitality.
Feel free to participate by calling *57 on your cell phone or 477-5757. I'm sure we are going to have a lively conversation and restaurants and food are things about which everyone has an opinion!
GW High School ProStart Team Menu - 2nd Place Winners
In our last newsletter we featured the menu of Team Simon Sanchez, the first place winners in the recently held ProStart High School Student Culinary Competition.
In this issue we'd like to share with you the menu of the runner-up, Team George Washington, the winner of the previous two competitions Team members Charmaine Eusebio, Jhorge Gonzales, Dana Rea Hill, and team captain Vicenta Mendiola were coached by Instructor Frank Evangelista and mentored by Westin's Executive Chef Andreas Lorenz.
It was a very close competition as it has been for years. Take a look at these magnificent culinary creations by this award-winning team. We are developing and growing "world-class" talent right here on our island! This is certainly a source of great pride for us.
Ravioli of Scallop and Tiger Prawn, Pineapple Salsa, Annatto-flavored Coconut Dressing
Slow Roasted Beef Fillet with Mustard, Pistachio and Onions, Red Wine and Port Jus, Maxime Potato, Sweet Potato Puree
Calamansi, Mango and Raspberry Mousse, Almond Brittle
Sagano Japanese Restaurant
Sushi, Teppan and Japanese Buffet $48
Onward Beach Resort
It's been a while since my last review of Sagano Japanese Restaurant (July 2005), and reading it again reminded me of the extraordinary view of Hagatna Bay afforded by this restaurant's large bay windows. At the time, it was a lunch review and I was very impressed by the quality and value. For today's update, I was joined by my good friend and fellow connoisseur , Mark Oku. We were trying out the all-you-can-eat Sushi, Teppan, and Japanese Buffet held every Friday night (reservations are recommended). This buffet includes all you can drink ASAHI SUPER DRY, which is "Japan's #1 Beer".
We arrived at 7:30pm, missing the sunset but not missing the action as this restaurant was jam-packed. They have three private rooms as well as the main dining room. This is no static buffet where everything is just sitting out for diners to pile food on their plates. There are five very busy cooks working the food line - two preparing sushi rolls and sashimi, one frying tempura, another cooking yakisoba and okonomiyaki, and the fifth grilling steak, chicken, and squid on the teppan grill. It's really an impressive sight to see so much cooking going on simultaneously - the diners to enjoy the activity as they go from station to station selecting what ever catches their fancy.
There are some protocols to make ordering more efficient. Your server will take your drink order (house wine is also available for free), then explains using the form on your table to place your sushi order. You get two pieces per item choosing from Unagi, Yellowtail, Fresh Shrimp, Salmon Roe, Scallop, Sea Urchin, Salmon, Egg, Hokki-Kai, and more, with up to five choices on one order form. Also, for your teppan order, you give the cook a tag with your table number and a server will bring you your cooked dish.
The buffet starts out with the sushi counter which has a few prepared rolls such as Tekka-maki, Natto-maki and California, as well as sashimi, along with salad makings. If you want tempura (shrimp and veggies) from the station, it is cooked and placed on a rotating tiered display stand that has wasabi, green onions, grated radish, and grated ginger. Also in the line-up is an Oden station, complete with stewed meat, boiled eggs, boiled radish, and tofu.
Fresh Lumpia is available, as is Karaage Chicken, and such delicacies as stewed Yellow Tail Head with Radish. Bacon-wrapped Shrimp is abundant and the steaks are well marbled, succulent and delicious when grilled with garlic. Understandably , the teppan beef is the most popular. The meal ends with a Green Tea Ice Cream dessert - if you still have room!
Sagano's Chef de Cuisine is Koichi Komine, who brings years of experience with him. He oversees the actions and production of his line cooks.
I will have to return for a regular lunch and a regular dinner, as this Sushi, Teppan and Japanese Buffet is a bit overwhelming, though the guests certainly aren't complaining about the abundance of tasty treats!
Teppanyaki Thursday Buffet $20
Fiesta Resort & Spa
If you are ever in Saipan on a Thursday and have the appetite for a big meal, you won't be disappointed by the spread put out by the folks at the World Cafe in the Fiesta Resort & Spa, where they feature the Teppanyaki Buffet. This all-you-can-eat extravaganza costs $20 per person and offers a variety of Japanese, Asian, and local delights, such as the freshly cut sashimi and local tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables.
The salad bar includes a selection of Kimchis and Chicken Kelaguen, along with Sushi Rolls. The Cafe's teppan grill area has the cooking stations with buffet warmers filled with fresh-cooked goodies including Fried Rice, Stir-fried Vegetables, Braised Beef Short Ribs, Seafood Croquettes, and Okonomiyaki. On the teppan you can see the cooks grilling Prime Rib, Bacon-wrapped Shrimp and Chicken, along with red and green bell peppers and onions.
This buffet includes Iced Tea and ends with a selection of seasonal fresh fruits such as watermelon, orange, local bananas, and pastries.
The experienced cooks at the World Cafe take enormous pride in preparing delicious dishes everyday of the week. These guys are true veterans and have developed skills that are not easily replicated. For $20, you are getting a real deal!
Lunch Special $13.95
Saipan is home to a few notable boutique restaurants and one in particular is Shenanigan's, which I've visited and written about before. I stopped by while in Saipan last week and had one of their daily lunch specials, which offers a great preview of some of Shenanigan's eclectic menu creations. The lunch special includes a basket of their fresh Foccaccia Bread, which you can dip in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The featured soup was Chicken Tortilla with Avocado & Cheese. This soup had a very rich tasting tomato soup base that complemented the cheese and tortilla strips with avocado cubes.
The main entree was Chicken Escalopes with Porcini Mushroom which is a fancy name for breast of chicken, sauteed in olive oil, mushroom, red wine, brandy & demi-glace served with buttered fettuccine and vegetables. This dish had an appealing presentation and was garnished with a fresh sprig of basil. Grated parmesan was sprinkled atop and the porcini mushrooms dominated. This dish really showcases the chef's culinary talents, demonstrating his confidence in preparing French cuisine. The boneless chicken was cooked just right with a delicate tenderness that complemented the fettuccine.
Unfortunately, I was in a hurry to catch my plane so had to forego one of Shenanigan's desserts. Next time!
Casa Urashima - Saipan's Secret Treasure
Garapan (overlooking Kristo Rai Church)
(Reservations recommended due to limited seating)
Casa Urashima offers one of the best dining experiences of your life! How's that for a rave review? I had to apologize to Casa Urashima's owner, Osamu Taniguchi, for not dining here sooner. Truth of the matter was I didn't know where it was and didn't have the opportunity (or compulsion) to go until now! The apology should have gone to myself since it was truly my loss from foregoing what had been one of my most sensational dinners in years! I was (and still am) truly impressed!
Casa Urashima is a restaurant converted from a house, with every room having its own ambiance and special intimacy. The main dining room is where the bar is situated (it's not a drinking bar), but a working service bar which seems to be the control center for the restaurant. Above the bar is Osamu's personal CD collection of world music along with jazz and other genres of instrumental music that reflects the good taste and genius of Osamu - for me it was like the soundtrack to my life, as music permeated the atmosphere like surround sound, yet it was not intrusive. It elevated and heightened my senses and mood, perhaps enhancing my appetite as well.
I didn't have a reservation (please remember to call in advance!) and was relieved to find a seat in the waiting area where a reading table became my dinner table. Casa Urashima's menu is difficult to limit to any cuisine type, as they have varying treatments for appetizers, salads, seafood, meat and pasta, ranging from Italian and French to Asian and Japanese fusion. The one thing I all the dishes have in common is that everything is wonderfully fresh. I decided to order a variety of appetizers, pairing the first few with a Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc.
First to come was the Avocado & Yellowfin Tuna Wasabi Cream ($8), described in the menu as a "palate teaser". This was my first taste of Casa Urashima and it amounted to a home run! The avocado was fresh, the wasabi cream was a dream marriage of flavors, and the sliced tuna sashimi was covered in fresh chopped basil and garlic with olive oil in the style of a carpaccio. Everything worked in tandem and I reached a state of gustatory bliss!
My next appetizer was the Tuna Tartare Korean Style made with a spicy kochujan (red pepper paste) sauce with oba (perilla aka shiso) leaves ($8). This was a perfect follow up to the first treat and took me to another level and country, Korea, in the process. WOW! The tartare was so packed with spiced flavor and toasted sesame seeds that when I picked up the oba leaf containing the tartare like a taco and put it in my mouth, I was again overcome with pleasure. Yummy, and what a presentation!
My next treat was a refreshing Spinach and Shrimp Salad ($11) crafted from sauted shrimp with spinach leaves, arugula, radish and celery tossed in a Thai fish sauce dressing. This was another amazing creation and I noted its freshness in the color and texture of the spinach leaves and arugula with sliced radish and celery interspersed with a generous amount of meaty sauted shrimp. The Thai fish sauce has a quenching effect on one's taste buds. The Sauvignon Blanc complemented the dish particularly well. I also refreshed myself with San Pellegrino Sparkling Water.
When I decided to order from the appetizer menu, I was unaware that the portions are quite substantial, so at this point I had two more dishes coming and had to shift my appetite gears into over drive! I was then delivered Casa Urashima's "Half & Half" Combination Pizza ($11). This was on an 8" crispy crust with extra cheese featuring Margherita, the famed fresh basil and tomato pizza, on one half with the other half offering bacon and mushroom. It was presented on a round platter with a ring of holes around the perimeter. The photo of this wondrous pizza is beautiful but can't possibly convey the sheer perfection of the fresh ingredient combinations that made this pizza so doggoned good! I truly regretted not having anyone to share this amazing meal with though I did have a Mondavi Cabernet so I didn't feel too lonely.
Finally, my last "appetizer" was brought out. It was a classic French creation, Escargot Bourgogne Butter ($8) served with thin sliced toast. Not everyone likes snails, however, the French have elevated the slow slug to the culinary status of "delicacy" so that's what they are now. The escargot were served sans shell and cooked in a ramekin with lots of garlic and parsley. I ate all of my snails carefully placing them on each piece of crispy thin toast. I finished!
I asked Osamu about the chef making all of this magic and he introduced me to Taro-san, who is obviously an amazingly talented chef. I promised to come back and work my way through the menu reinforced by some other company. I highly recommend Saipan's Casa Urashima as a must-do dining experience you won't forget!