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December 2, 2011, Volume 11 Number 22

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

It's December and Christmas season is well underway, especially here on Guam with all those tax refund checks being distributed today and tomorrow at the malls! This will be an especially sweet Christmas for those who have waited a number of years for this money to come back.and the timing couldn't be better!

If you haven't yet picked up your Christmas tree, there are still a few beautiful Noble firs available for purchase at the Guam Girl Scout Center. Come by this Saturday and bring home one of our beauties - these last well past Christmas and will glorify your holidays!

This past Monday I was honored to once again be a guest speaker for the AVID Class at McCool Elementary School on Naval Base Guam. These young people (7th graders) went to Lone Star Steakhouse for lunch and were tasked with writing a restaurant review of their experience. I shared some insights about restaurant reviews as well as a lot of "life story". It's always enriching to have young people demonstrate enthusiasm and curiosity in a classroom setting. The mission of AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is to ensure that all students, and most especially students capable of completing a college preparatory path achieve the following:

  • will succeed in the most rigorous curriculum,
  • will enter mainstream activities of the school,
  • will increase their enrollment in four year colleges, and
  • will become educated and responsible participants and leaders in a democratic society.

I believe that "individual determination" is the golden key to developing opportunities in life for all of us!

Ken, The "Guam Food Guy"

Benika Osawa's 1st Birthday Party 11/27/11
PROA Restaurant
Tumon
646-7762

Happy parents Junko & Masahito Osawa invited Zee and myself to celebrate their daughter Benika's 1st year birthday at PROA Restaurant this past Sunday.

Junko (Shimizu) Osawa first contacted me prior to a visit to Guam in 2007 when we dined at Sesomaji along with her sister Kunie. Our next two dinners were on subsequent visits to Guam, one at Ruby Tuesday and one at PROA.

This visit was the first for Junko's husband Masahito to Guam. He had never enjoyed the delights of finadene, red rice and PROA's unique BBQ ribs and chicken! There truly is something addictive about that "Marianas Glaze"!

As per Junko's special request, Sweet Relief Pastry Chef Mark Duenas was able to create a beautiful sugarless fruit tart for Benika's special day!

There's a reason why PROA enjoys such a high level of success - the food and service are consistently great!

Table 35 Restaurant + Bar
Tamuning
989-0350

Table 35 is building its way up the popularity scale, which eventually leads to legendary status. Restaurants in this category include Le Tasi Bistro, Firefly Bistro, Old Hagatna Grill, COLORS Red, and Salzburg Chalet. Although these restaurants are closed, they retain a special place in people's minds as great free-standing restaurants - the ones that are truly "missed".

Table 35 has a super hot kitchen dynamic that's gaining confidence and momentum with each plate successfully served. They have a young, enthusiastic and energetic service staff who will become more seasoned with the passing of time. Table 35's management team is hands on and demonstrates a sincere commitment to quality service and hospitality. All of the elements are in play. Just remember, they are still the "new kid" on the block, and they are demonstrating a fierce persistence in improving their performance. Customers have high expectations the moment they walk into Table 35. It is the restaurant's goal to assure that they leave with their expectations met or exceeded.

In keeping with the necessary process for improvement, Table 35 has recently introduced several new dinner items to augment their regular dinner menu. We had an opportunity to test drive some of these recent add-ons, which I believe are sure winners.

As an appetizer, the Chicken Lettuce Wraps of minced chicken sauted with shiitake mushrooms, onions, and toasted pine nuts served with three dipping sauces, crisp romaine lettuce, julienne carrots and sprouts ($11) is one of those "forever" classics, the ones you can eat forever and ever and again! While Table 35 didn't invent this, they sure enhanced it and smacked their brand on it! And it's in the sauces. You have Sweet Chili Sauce, Firecracker Sauce, and a Thai Peanut Sauce. Each individually is great, however, combine the Firecracker with the Thai Peanut and your taste buds will be in a dream state! Talk about palate-pleasing food with great texture and a natural freshness. It's the kind of food one should prefer to eat. The toasted pine nuts bring an extra crunch to this party. Table 35 has a companion Vegetable Lettuce Wrap ($10) for those who prefer vegetables-only.

The Sweet Chili Glazed Wings ($11) are also winners, as they are marinated and fried crisp (just the way we like 'em), then glazed with a sweet chili sauce finished with fresh local lemon basil. These can become an addiction with the Asian flavor accents. There's a variety of tastes melded in this creation, including lemon grass and Thai fish sauce. This one gets two thumbs up for creative wingsmanship!

For the Main Course, I had Roasted Beef Tenderloin ($30.95). This is topped with grilled portobello mushroom slices and white truffle butter. It's all layered on a bed of garlic smashed potatoes. This is where Executive Chef Christopher Aguon shines and has found his pace! The medium rare tenderloin sliced effortlessly (just like the mushroom) with both giving up exciting flavors. Bok choy, broccoli, and zucchini retain their crisp freshness after light steaming or par-boiling, and an eggplant slice and red bell pepper show off their just grilled suits with flavor to match. The white truffle butter is not merely ornamental - it performed a very focused taste role, winning a culinary Oscar in the process. I just wish there was more of it!

One of the dinner specials I enjoyed was a masterfully grilled Mahi Mahi drizzled with a fabulous Coconut Curry Ponzu Butter Sauce ($26.50). Atop the fish was something that challenged even my taste experience - tempura carrot strips with a little Cajun spice! This was a clever embellishment, however, it was the coconut curry ponzu butter sauce that ruled the day! Credit must go to Sous Chef Sara Pleadwell for coming up with this delectable, versatile and exciting sauce, so good you can put it on vanilla ice cream. It is really that fantastic!

Other new dinner Items include Crispy Artichoke Hearts ($9.75), which are fried a golden brown and served with caper tartar sauce; Goat Cheese Timbale Salad ($14.50), featuring Napa Valley goat cheese wrapped in a grilled eggplant and served warm over local greens with roasted red peppers and balsamic-thyme vinaigrette; Cajun Smoked Chicken and Shrimp Fettuccine ($16.75) and Grilled Ribeye rubbed with house made Creole spice served with roasted tomato salsa over rice ($29.95). Well, I guess I have my work cut out for my new few visits!

Chowon Restaurant
DNA Plaza (near Cost U Less)
Tamuning
646-3269

I have been very happy to share this restaurant's unique dining experience with everyone I talk to who likes Korean cuisine. We recently tried something different from their menu the Tofu Casserole ($30), which in Korean is Tubu Jeongol. It's actually more of a hot pot than what we call a casserole. Either way, this is really a hearty meal with lots of spice and flavor, easily shared by more than two people!


It comes with thinly-sliced beef (shabu shabu thin), Enoki mushrooms, green onions, perilla (sesame) leaves, tofu, cabbage, and onions, all in a red simmering spice broth.

I didn't eat it as soup, more as a topping for my rice bowl. I liked combining bites of the beef and vegetables with different ban chan, like the pickled daikon and kimchee. I was glad to try something new and different, which satisfies my curiosity.

If you want to try one of our favorite soups at Chowon, ask for the Gamjatang (Pork Bone & Potato Soup). It's an awesome spice challenge! Chowon is a small and intimate family owned and operated restaurant. It's also quite clean which is something that draws discriminating customers.

Yogurtland Tamuning
DNA Plaza (near Cost U Less)
648-9595


I didn't realize just how exciting it is to have Yogurtland in our Tamuning neighborhood until I had my first tub of mixed frozen yogurts and assorted toppings just after our spicy Tofu Jeongal from Chowon! I was so impressed that I returned the next night for an encore!

This new Yogurtland is the largest in the entire system. That reminds me of the day when our Tamuning McDonald's held the title as the world's largest McDonald's until one in Russia overtook us! (and now the Russians are coming to Guam!!)

Anyway, the frozen yogurt selection is amazing and they have introduced four new flavors not at the other store in Hagatna. Among some of the variety of flavors are Pistachio, Mango, Superfruit Tart ( pomegranate, acai, cranberry and blueberry), Chocolate Milk Shake, Oatmeal Cookie, Kona Coffee Blend, Red Velvet Cupcake Batter, New York Cheesecake, Lychee Tart, Matcha Green Tea, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Toasted Coconut, Vanilla Wafer, Plain Yogurt - this list just goes on and on.

There is a continuous flow of customers stopping by and getting their frozen yogurt flavor of choice and adding to it from a wide range of toppings including nuts, candies, and fruits.

If you choose wisely, you may even get some health benefit from eating your yogurt creation. I'm just glad they are open and within walking distance of my home!

Cabalen Fast Food
Rt 16 (across from Le's Market & Iglesias Ni Cristo)
Harmon
649-3663
5:30am-10pm Monday-Saturday, 5:30am-9:30pm Sunday

It may have taken me ten years to do this but I finally did! Yes, I finally stopped by and ate at Cabalen Fast Food in Harmon and I "gorged" myself on some pretty tasty Filipino food!

I don't know why I never stopped by this place that is so obvious and inviting with and odd-shaped building and red roof tiles. I guess it's just one of those places I was meant to come to in my own time, and I'm glad I did! As I was entering I encountered two departing GPD officers who were rubbing their bellies and asked if I was going to do a write-up on Cabalen. I said yes and asked them what they thought. They just grinned and gave me a two thumbs up!

The interior of Cabalen tells a story. It's more restaurant and cafe than the typical fast food joints which usually have cheap tables and seats. This place has tradition and maturity, with nice scenic paintings depicting simple Philippine village life. There's a lot of wood, and what looks like mahogany on the walls and creating door frames. The fast food counters are well maintained and are designed in an L-shape. I noticed an Alto-Shaam Cook & Hold Oven/Warmer in the back, which is a sign of culinary sophistication not found in your typical run of the mill Filipino fast food eatery.

Then there's the wall of fame. Yes, some certificates of achievement and plaques showing some awards. A PDN article from May 30, 1990 had this to say about the owner:

"Lydia Valencia, an apprentice cook for the Hilton Hotel, won yesterday's Chefs Association of Micronesia Cook-off with her recipe of Aspic of Tuna and Shrimp in a Shallot Dressing, Beef Tenderloin Stuffed with Garden Vegetables served with Mustard Sauce and Strawberry Bavarian Cream served with Chocolate Sauce."

"Valencia won over four other apprentice cooks. The budding chefs were each given a basket of ingredients from which to prepare a three-course meal. The contest began at 8:00 a.m. They were allowed one hour to plan their menus and cooking began at 9 a.m."

Now that certainly got my attention! I was even there for that competition as an observer. Lydia Valencia garnered the Commis of the Year award and won a three-week scholarship to attend professional classes at a prestigious culinary school in Rhode Island. How cool is that? Other certificates are for her son, Junee Valencia, who is a junior chef. Neither Lydia nor Junee where present during my late lunch visit.

I had come here to satisfy my craving for adobo and got both pork and chicken adobo, as well as Tinoala soup and Kare-Kare. I also ordered a fried chicken piece since I saw everyone else in the restaurant getting fried chicken. I found out why soon enough. It was really good!

My pork adobo was cut up in cubes and was very tender and quite delicious. The chicken adobo was in larger chunks with pieces of bone. This was also quite good. I liked the Tinola soup. I was a little disappointed with the Kare-Kare. It may have been their bagoong, which had a different flavor that what I'm used to and they also used pork knuckles. While there was plenty of meat pieces, I just had to remove the outer fat/skin layers to get to the meat.

There are plenty of choices here at Cabalen Fast Food, with prices starting at $4.50 for one choice; $6.25 for two choices; and $8.50 for three choices. They do accept credit cards with a $10 minimum purchase.

I really want to return to Cabalen to meet with Lydia and Junee. The Valencia family has built and established a reputation as well as several businesses, including a check cashing and wholesale business. I also will eat some more of Cabalen's Filipino cuisine. It's masarap!

Palm Cafe's thru Christmas Eve December 24
Palm Cafe
Outrigger Guam Resort
Tumon
649-9000

You will truly be amazed by the incredible variety of Japanese food being served at this all-you-can-eat buffet! From 11am until 2pm, this special promotion runs Monday -Saturday. The price is only $17.50 per adult and $9.50 for children (6-12), plus 10% service charge.

Many of you will be happy to know that long-time sushi chef Charley Venezuela is hand-rolling sushi and slicing up sashimi for your dining enjoyment. Charley is an established pro and veteran from the Hyatt's Niji and Hilton's Islander Terrace and Fisherman's Cove. You know what you are getting when you have Charley serving your fish!

I was astonished with the amount of food and the variety. They have a Shabu-Shabu Station, which can be and is a complete meal in itself! The number of sushi rolls along with sashimi, edamame, salads, tempura, hot soups, sukiyaki, oden, Japanese-style curry, tonkatsu, salmon, yakisoba, and chawanmushi (savory custard) plus additional items was more than I could eat in three trips. I did try and like a couple of things I've not seen at other Japanese buffets and that was the Horenso Ohitashi (blended spinach with soy sauce) and Nasu No Nikomi (stewed eggplants).

The Teppanyaki Station sends up wafts of garlic grilled meats that will have you salivating. When you go there you see all of the fresh vegetables that are grilled with the beef and chicken options and it presents a very tantalizing choice.

Try to save some room for dessert and fruits. Outrigger now features desserts from the talented award winning pastry chef, Dominique Brindejonc. The Yogurt Cake was dreamy, as was the Bread Pudding, Green Tea Cheese Cake, and Chocolate Mousse.

There's no question about a return to try other foods I missed on this go around! I just have to be sure to bring someone to help me eat it!

Ita dake masu!

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www.mymicronesia.com

www.guam-online.com

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