February 17, 2012, Volume 12 Number 4
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Happy 40th Anniversary to the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa! Wow, talk about time flying! Thursday night the Hilton held a spectacular 40th Anniversary celebration in their Micronesian Ballroom. It was one of the best events held in recent memory, with an elaborate futuristic motif.
A video walk down memory lane paid tribute to the Jones and Calvo families for their pioneering efforts in establishing this major hotel that has meant so much to so many people and whose lives have been impacted by the Hilton.
Dignitaries from the Ken Corporation and Hilton Worldwide were in attendance along with a large number of local business people and government officials, including Governor Eddie Calvo. First time visitor Charles Gremillion, Senior Director, Full Service Brand Management Asia Pacific for Hilton Worldwide praised Guam's natural beauty and let everyone know that he was truly impressed by Guam. "I get it!" he exclaimed, acknowledging an awareness of this island's amazing allure. He believed people from Singapore (where he's based) would love to visit Guam.
The Hilton has fondly been referred to as the "local hotel", since it's been central to so much of the island's social happenings over the last four decades. Let's raise a toast to the Hilton Guam Resort & Spa on this special 40th celebration! Here's looking to a fantastic future and the next 40 years of dynamic hospitality delivered the Guam Hilton way!
Today's newsletter features a Valentine Deja Vu pizza episode, a return to Santa Fe on the Bay, a ride down south to McKraut's Fast Food and Beer Garden in Malojloj, a Steak Adventure at Planet Hollywood, and our review of Areunda Restaurant, a relative newcomer to Guam's restaurant landscape which serves up tasty Thai food all day long in Compadres Mall.
Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"
Here it was, Valentine's Day, and I had my marching orders to get a Boston Pizza pie for Valentine's Dinner, Pepperoni and Italian Sausage.
I wasn't prepared for the amazing irony of what happened once I got my pizzas (I bought two) and had to drive home in what was to become a "deja vu" pizza journey for me. It all began for me on January 19, 2000 when I ordered my first ever Boston Pizza at the original Fountain Plaza location in Tumon. My friend, Bob McLaughlin (the Chamorro Chip Cookie Man) had just opened up this business and I was happy for him. I wasn't the Guam Food Guy yet (not for another few months), however I chronicled my experience with Bob's 19" pizza sitting in the back seat of my car as I drove home to Villa Rosario in Dededo. I was salivating as I was driving, taking in the heady aroma of that hot pizza as I made the long trek home. People who read the email review (see it here) I sent out went to Boston Pizza and eventually to other places I'd recommend. That's how it all began.
Fast forward 12 years and who would have guessed that when I ordered my Valentine's Pizza ( two 14" rounds, $14 each + $1 for the extra topping) that there were no pizza boxes! So I improvised, and was able to secure and partially box the first pizza but had to have the 2nd pizza exposed in my back seat! That's why it was deja vu for me. The pizza was good (not as good as the early days!!) and I have to acknowledge the students at GCC for their Chocolate Covered Tuxedo Strawberries and my chocolate mousse and truffles from Sweet Relief which all contributed to making Valentine's 2012 all the more special! Hope yours was too!
Grill at Santa Fe
Hotel Santa Fe
There's no place quite like the Grill at Santa Fe for seaside dining, which is so close to the water you can get your feet wet if it's high tide! The sunsets are mesmerizing, with an abundance of colors and hues which change and transform before your eyes.
It's also a popular drinking spot and when you find a good place for drinks, it only makes sense to have something to eat. Santa Fe definitely has you covered when it comes to food with appetizers, sandwiches, and entrees, and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. We stopped by to do the wings and have some other appetizers, including a Spinach & Artichoke Dip and Sliders.
The Bucket of Wings ($9.50/small, $14.50/large) offer a variety of spice seasonings and coatings. They are larger than most wings and are served complete with drumette, arm and tip. We ordered the lemon pepper . The small size is more than enough for two people and for the money, these are pretty good.
The Spinach & Artichoke Dip (served with jalapenos, green chili and cheese) with Crisp Tortilla Chips ($9.95), was our second appetizer. This was on par with some of the other spinach and artichoke dips out there, however, Santa Fe's Tortilla chips seem a little thicker and crispier, and not too salty. This was another satisfying dish.
Our main course, Sliders , consisting of 3 mini-burgers (American Cheese & Bacon Cheese) on dollar rolls served with accompaniments for $12.50. We had been eating all day and our visit was more to see the sunset and have something as a snack so we were surprised because the mini-burgers weren't so "mini" and bigger than expected. The Sliders come with Roma tomato slice, lettuce, a thick red onion slice, and some dressing between the toasted buns. The beef patties are hefty and come topped with cheese. It's a good thing we were sharing as I couldn't eat three of these bad boys! They were actually quite palatable.
Overall, a relaxing and satisfying experience with one of the island's loveliest views as a backdrop! We'll have to come back for a real dinner at the Grill at Santa Fe.
McKraut's Fast Food & Beer Garden
After years of hard work, Ludwig "Lutz" Uhmeyer has finally realized his dream to have a beer garden and restaurant. What had only been a charming little road-side stand in this idyllic southern village has now grown to a full-fledged building complete with air-conditioning and rest rooms. The food menu hasn't changed much, so the basic bratwurst, fries, hot dogs and burgers are still available.
What's new is a glorious line up of premium German beer on tap! The Tap Beer Sign states that beers change weekly (ask your server what's available). Prices for tap beer are $3.50 for 330ml glass, $5 for a 500ml glass, and $10 for a liter! You have to be patient as quality Tap Beer takes at least 5-7 minutes to tap. don't think anyone on island is as devoted to the craft of beer tapping as Lutz! I've not seen nor tasted heads as thick and flavorful as those served by Lutz. There are other beers and beverages in this amazing yet quaint bar. There are stools for sitting at the bar which you really should do if there's space and your either by yourself or with one other person. There are tables for larger groups and families.
We ordered the Smoked Bratwurst in Loaf of Basil Bread, Dijon Mustard, Salad & Fries ($7.75). This is the perfect food to eat with these amazing beers. Come down to McKraut's Fast Food any day of the week and check out this wonderful beer and dining destination in one of the island's most scenic areas.
It had been some time since we'd last visited Planet Hollywood. It was actually not as busy as I've seen it, but then again, it was on Wednesday (which is the Wednesday Night Market at Chamorro Village). We were seated where we wanted with a view of some of the larger movie screens. It was while sitting down that I remembered the wonderful attraction of Planet Hollywood - the non-stop videos of Hollywood stars, the classic movies, the mega stars of VH1 and MTV, and the vast array of wardrobe, costumes, and special effects creations featured on blockbuster movies. There is something vibrantly and intently stimulating about Hollywood and the movies, and that's essentially the allure of Planet Hollywood.
While we sat watching some of the screen action, one of the servers, Tamarie, carried a sizzling something by me and thinking it might be Fajitas, I asked what it was to be sure. She called it "Cancun" and I told her I had to have it. The Cancun is one of six specialty steak dinners featured on Planet Hollywood's Steak Adventure menu. The Cancun has a Sizzling 12 oz. Strip Loin Steak brushed with Habanero Butter and is served with Mexican Rice, Guacamole, Sour Cream and Pico de Gallo. She explained that each Steak entree includes soup of the day, Chef's dessert and a beverage choice of Corona or Columbia Crest Two Vines Chardonnay or Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, for $37. That's actually pretty reasonable and the other Steak Set Menu choices were Tokyo, New York, Bali, Hawaii, and Guam. The Cancun is the only one delivered on a sizzling platter though!
Zee ordered the V.I.P. Platter ($18.50), which is a combination of Planet Hollywood favorite appetizers - Chicken Crunch, Hollywood Nachos, Buffalo Wings and Potato Skins.
My steak meal started with the soup of the day, an egg drop crab, chicken and corn soup with sadly soggy croutons. I would have preferred a salad. Things improved when my Cancun arrived. It was sizzling away and I marveled at the seared, sliced and peppered strip loin. The other items on the plate were seasoned guacamole, Pico de Gallo, and sour cream atop a bed of shredded lettuce. A blue ramekin held a flavorful green salsa that had just enough of a kick! As I started to eat, I thought I was missing something like a tortilla. I found out later that you can ask for these if you like. Though this is not a fajita dish, adding the various condiments to the steak will really maximize the taste! We kept sharing and cutting the steak into smaller pieces which made adding the condiments easier for us.
The V.I.P. Platter is best described as a "Super Bowl" appetizer. It's something to eat while your excited about the game!
I commend Tamarie for exemplary and enthusiastic service. Her winning personality and smiling bright-eyed face make it possible for her to sell anything. Even the yellow cake dessert at the end went down without resistance!
Areunda Restaurant - Thai Delicacies Deliciously Prepared
Open Monday-Saturday, 11am-9pm
Major Credit Cards accepted, Take-out orders welcome
I heard through the Thai grapevine some time last year (perhaps August or September) that there were several new Thai restaurants opening up. A GuamDiner.com reader contacted me and mentioned that Areunda Thai had opened and that the food was pretty good. That was enough of an endorsement to prompt a lunchtime visit.
Areunda is located on the north wing of the Compadres Mall, next to Community First and Joy's Restaurant. This spot was formally occupied by the Phoenix Chinese Restaurant. Once inside, you can tell that the new occupants expended a lot of elbow grease to thoroughly remove the old spot's residue, since Areunda is quite clean as well as spacious, with enough room between tables to allow some element of privacy.
My lunch server, Rose, was busy with another customer when I entered. She brought me a menu after I'd seated myself. It was a limited menu, with Som Tum (Papaya Salad) for $7 and Laab Gai (Chicken Salad) for $8. The Seafood Salad was $10 with Beef Salad being the most expensive at $12. Of the six appetizers on the menu, I opted for the Fresh Lumpia ($7/5 pcs). I bypassed the soups since I was alone and ordered a Combination Pad Thai ($10). I was in the mood for a curry and went for the Green Curry with Pork ($9) medium-heat, the same as I ordered for the Pad Thai. I also ordered a Thai Tea ($2.50).
Areunda has only been open since the latter part of December though it has been in the works by owners Aaron and Dara Tanoue for more than five years. It is their first restaurant venture, though they had done some plate sales at Chamorro Village's Wednesday night market a couple of years ago. Perhaps that was part of their market research.
Now it was my turn to do my market research! The Fresh Lumpia were covered with a few sliced chives and chopped nuts which seemed to offer a color contrast/distraction to their slightly translucent alabaster skin. The peanut dipping sauce had some pepper flakes. I liked the texture of these lumpia as they tasted as though they had been freshly rolled and weren't all tough and chewy as sometimes happens. The lumpia was filled with vegetables (carrots, bean sprouts, lettuce, rice noodles) and a bit of shrimp. They were light and you could taste and feel everything you put in your mouth. Pretty good.
The Combination Pad Thai arrived. It had a nice presentation, with red pepper flakes visible throughout. I mixed it up and squeezed my lemon over it and ate.The Pad Thai had a freshness that surprised. I liked how it tasted and was hoping that it would hold up as left overs for later at home.
Then the Green Curry came. Thai basil leaves adorned the top along with red bell pepper, bamboo shoots, green beans, egg plant, cilantro, and pieces of sliced pork that seemed to float in the rich, green-tinted coconut broth. I liked the aroma and portioned some out onto the rice I'd put on my side plate. The first bite didn't disappoint! It had captured the taste essence I was craving.
Dara is a great Thai cook! She knows her flavors and spices. So, we were three for three in impressing me! I had Rose wrap my three remaining lumpia, Pad Thai, and Green Curry to go.
Rose mentioned they had a special dessert they'd just made and brought out a green tapioca dessert with pandan leaves.There was grated coconut atop this confection which I dispatched with in short order leaving none to bulutan!
It was after my dessert when I introduced myself to Aaron. He is a really nice guy, and has lived on Guam since the mid-60s as a young boy who used to go surfing out a Rick's Reef. He is well aware of the risk he and his wife are taking to be in the restaurant business. I know they are both sincere in their commitment. He's no stranger to hard work and I'm confident they'll do fine, especially once word of mouth spreads about how good their food is and it is served a la carte and not a buffet like their competitor just up Harmon Loop Road.
When I returned to my office I shared the Fresh Lumpia with some office staff. The feedback was positive, although I should mention that my colleague Vivian's fresh lumpia is incomparable and much better than you'd get in any restaurant.
The Pad Thai I had later that night for dinner along with the Green Curry. The left over Pad Thai packaging was something to behold and I should have photographed it! It was reorganized with chopped nuts in one corner and a fresh lemon wedge in the other. Very thoughtful. When Zee told me the leftover Pad Thai she took for lunch the next day was "pretty alright", well that sealed the deal and I was taking her to Areunda that Friday night for dinner.
We arrived close to 8pm and were greeted by "T", our server. We ordered Chicken Wings ($8), Som Tom (Papaya Salad) medium-heat, and an appetizer I has never had before called Saku Sai Mu ($7). For mains, we ordered the Stir Fry Noodle with Pork ($9) medium-heat and the Beef Penang ($11) hot-heat.
The Chicken Wings were fried whole and came with a sweet chili sauce. They were okay.
The Papaya Salad looked treacherous with the red chili peppers glaring up at us! This was an excellent som tom, with lots of flavor sensations at play.
The big surprise for us was the Saku Sai Mu, which are tapioca balls stuffed with pork.Saku means tapioca, and Sai means stuffed, Mu is pork, though there are a lot of ingredients like garlic, peanuts, chives, coriander (cilantro) and fish sauce. The way to eat this is to wrap a ball with a piece of cilantro in one of the butter lettuce leaves. You can bite a chili pepper just before putting the tapioca ball in your mouth. Anyway, this appetizer was fun to eat and we'll order it again to share with friends.
The Stir Fry Noodles were fresh and filled with a lot of vegetables like baby corn, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, red bell pepper, green onion, carrots, and flat noodles. The pork was interspersed but didn't dominate. It was a balanced dish.
The final dish was the Beef Penang. This was a beautifully presented dish, the kind you can tell how good it tastes just from looking at it! The Penang curry was perfect and did have some heat. It was so rich and garnished with kaffir lime leaves, which impart a distinctly unique flavor. We really enjoyed this dish. The only thing Zee had trouble with was that the beef was a little tough. It could have used a tenderizer. All in all, the food tastes and flavors were quite good.
Areunda Restaurant is still in its opening phases and will be expanding its menu selections in the future. I hope you find the special dishes I've recommended as good as I did.
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