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August 3, 2012, Volume 12 Number 15

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

It's August already and time to get the kids ready to return to school! Summer just never seems long enough! Makes you wish there really was an "endless summer", right?

We've got a lot of ground to cover today so let's get right to our newsletter.

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

Restaurant Closings

In the past few weeks we've observed a relatively high number of restaurant closures. Some of these have been planned while others may have just been postponing the inevitable. Whatever the reason, it's left a few vacancies that will eventually be re-occupied.

Among the most notable are Merloj Prime Steakhouse in the Ramada Hotel & Suites on Ipao Road, Tamuning, and a long-standing popular destination, Bully's Bar and Grill on San Vitores Road in Tumon. Also on the closure list is Fiesta Filipiniana on Route 16 in Harmon, as well as the New Kinney's Restaurant in the old Cliff Hotel in Agana Heights.

Some coffee shops in Tumon have also closed. The Tree is no longer planted in the arcade across from the Hyatt and Diva's Cafe has closed its Tumon location, however, I've been informed it may be re-opening in Hagatna in the near future.

All is not bad news though. A bright spot on the horizon is the planned November opening of PROA Restaurant in Hagatna, which will be its second outlet. This will be a much larger facility for PROA, which is taking over the T.G.I. Friday's location adjacent to Skinner Plaza. This new PROA will have a full service bar, deli and pastry area, and plenty of seating for those families that "roll deep".

We're excited about this new development and hope you are too. We'll keep you posted on this new PROA's progress.

Grand Taj Curry & Grill
2nd Floor, Grand Plaza Hotel
Lunch Buffet: 11:30am-2pm (Mon-Fri)

The long-anticipated opening of Guam's newest restaurant, The Grand Taj Curry & Grill occurred last week and has received a good deal of positive feedback. Owned and managed by restaurant veteran Chef Singh Kotwal, it's definitely meeting the expectations of many dinner patrons as well as those who are lining up for Grand Taj's all-you-can-eat weekday lunch buffet, which is priced at $10.99 (plus 10% s.c.).

Though I'd prefer to wait until a restaurant has been operating long enough to work through the normal new opening challenges, I thought it would be a good idea to do a brief review of their lunch buffet.

If you love the cuisine of India as much as I do, then I can vouch for its authenticity. Given Chef Singh's heritage and passion, it makes a lot of sense for him to specialize in the food that's in his heart. Adding to the credibility of this restaurant, Chef Singh recruited the support of his uncle, Guman Singh Dabrwal, who is experienced in the preparation and cooking of Indian food and was Chef Singh's first mentor. To make this even more of a family business, Singh has put his son, Sisank, and daughter, Swetha, to work in the front of the house, greeting customers and overseeing the staff.

For only being open just over a week, the staff at Grand Taj is already well ahead of most other new restaurants as well as many existing eateries in service. They are constantly checking on your table, asking if everything is okay, and if you like the taste of your food, of if you'd like some more of their hot, tandoori-baked Naan bread, which is served for FREE during lunch - it costs $4 per order at dinner.

The buffet features a modest salad bar (pardon the anemic tomatoes), both saffron and white rice, a few hot entrees that vary each day. The day I visited Pork Vindaloo, Navaratan Korma, Chicken Makhni, Fried Chicken, Aloo Gobai, Dal Makhni, and Lentil Soup were featured. There were two desserts available, Carrot Halva and Gulab Jamun(Milk Ball in sugar syrup and almond).

The spicy and aromatic sauces in the Chicken Makhni and Pork Vindalo were absolutely delicious. You can tell these dishes were made by someone who knows what they are doing! The Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower) is a savory vegetarian dish. I had Raitha (the classic Indian food "cooler" of cucumber/yoghurtcream) and mango chutney. As I said, lots of flavor combinations.

Keep in mind that Grand Taj is still in its early stages and that they are busy refining their service procedures. The room got a bit warm, however I've heard that the hotel is working on the air-conditioning. Things take time. Indian cuisine is complex and requires a lot of knowledge to order and to serve.

I will have to return in a few weeks time for Grand Taj's a la carte dinner, which I hear is tantalizing and fun.

Dinner hours are 5:30-10pm, Daily. A la carte lunch is served on Saturday and Sunday from 11:30am-2pm while the Lunch Buffet is Monday thru Friday from 11:30am-2pm. I can't wait to try more of this authentic Indian cuisine!

The Lemai Cafe and Restaurant
673 Purple Heart Memorial Highway (Rte 8) next to Cars Plus

It was a wet and dreary Thursday and I needed some hot soup preferably Kadu! Where to go? You got it...Lemai! Yes, you better get there early or call ahead and reserve, because they've got one of the best Beef Shank Kadu's on island. For $10, you get a large bowl of savory broth with lots of boiled cabbage and potato chunks floating above a huge thick slice of tender beef. You also get two big scoops of steamed rice, and finadene. If you ask nicely they'll give you some donne.

Every day (Monday to Saturday) they feature a set of specials. I know that Thursday is Beef Shank Kadu day and that on Saturday the special is Kado PIka, which is really good at Lemai.

The other dish I tried, which was more for the photo and tasting, with the rest going home, was the Chopped Steak ($10), which is also one of their more popular dishes. They give you a lot of high-quality beef stir fried with cabbage, bell peppers, onions, and carrots, and two big scoops of rice!

Other dishes to try are the Ham Hocks, Tinala Katne, Fried Chicken, Grill or Fried Pork Chop, Chicken Chalakilis, Grilled Salmon, Shrimp Scampi, and Pork SInigang.

At Lemai you can sit outside or indoors where there's air-conditioning. Outdoors dining is covered and offers a scenic view of Nana's Garden and nursery just off the parking lot.

This is a special place where you can catch up with friends while eating a hearty meal. Take a break from the helter skelter pace of life and enjoy island-style dining at Lemai Cafe.

South Seas Coffee Co.
The Plaza

One little cafe that's been open for a few months in Tumon is South Seas Coffee Co., located on the ground level of the Plaza next to Godzilla Bowl and Hot Diggety Dog.

I've been meaning to try this since I noticed that, among other things, they serve Sliders. Yes, we've come to enjoy these little nearly bite-size mini-burgers when dining casually and South Seas has a set of 3 for $7.95.

This smart little shop is open from morning to night - 8am to 8pm. (The table tent says 8am-9pm, though I think they've changed the time since).

As we learned, this is a cool little hang out spot. Since it is a coffee house, I wanted to try some of their locally roasted beans and had an Iced Mocha ($5) while Zee went for the Mango Smoothie ($5). I must say this was a rich and flavorful Iced Mocha, with lots of whipped cream and chocolate syrup which is just what I needed! I can be a bit indulgent once in a while!

Zee's Smoothie was fruity. I saw it being made and they use real fruit ingredients - mango and banana. I also noticed that they sell bags of roasted coffee beans, a dark roast House Blend and medium roast Tumon Breakfast with the South Seas Coffee Co. brand, never mind the ultra-cool factor that these beans are "Roasted On Guam". Cool!

Back to those Sliders which are what originally pulled us in! The Sliders were served in a styrofoam tray along with curly fries. Each slider had different toppings. The beef patties were probably about 4 oz. The first had a fried onion ring and tangy barbecue sauce. The middle slider had grilled onions and a little teriyaki sauce. The last slider had cheese and bacon with a little spicy sauce. I liked this third one the most. I like how they toast the buns and the burgers are served at the right temperature. I asked one of the cook team leaders if we could order the same slider toppings for all three and he said yes. I think I'll be doing that next time.

Other food items at South Seas are Breakfast and Savory Wraps, and fresh Salads. A sister coffee kiosk, The Grind, is just inside the Plaza while cousins Godzilla Bowl and Hot Diggety Dog are outdoor neighbors. It's a clever concession consortium.

Godzilla Bowl
The Plaza

Since we were right next door at South Seas Coffee Co., we decided to try out one of Godzilla Bowls dishes along with the Sliders we'd already ordered. These are a popular fast food take-out item which are a staple for busy on-the-go folks wanting a quick, tasty meat & rice bowl.

I didn't know what to order at first and studied the sample entree pictures on the counter menu. The Bowls looked appetizing enough, however, I'm not a big fan of Teriyaki so I ordered a Gyudon (sliced beef) with Chicken( $8). Somehow, I received the a triple combination (Beef Teriyaki, Chicken Teriyaki, and Gyudon) on rice with red ginger strips garnishing the top. When I mentioned this order confusion, I was brought out another (we were eating inside South Seas' dining room, so I may have contributed to the confusion since I ordered an outside dish), which had Gyudon, Chicken Teriyaki and blanched carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Actually, I'm glad this happened because I was able to try the vegetables and they were really good, not overcooked at all and still retained their fibrous crunchiness. Moreover, it turned out I didn't mind the Teriyaki sauce they used on their beef or chicken. It was not overly sweet like some I've had.

However, they Gyudon, with its simmered broth and onions, is my hands-down favorite. Though these dishes aren't served in the bowls as pictured, they are still colorful and offer plenty of food for the price.

I should note that the staff at Godzilla Bowl and South Seas are both friendly and courteous, and seem to take pride in their jobs, which is a good thing!

Terry's Local Comfort Food
Across Yigo Shell Gas Station

You've no doubt heard the mantra, "Go Local, Go Green". Well it doesn't get more local than the tasty home-style good tastes of the many dishes served at Terry's Local Comfort Food in Yigo, which serves lunch Monday-Saturday from 10am- 3pm.

I was up at the Dededo Recycling Center tossing my glass bottle accumulation when I decided to drive up to Yigo see what all the "word of mouth" raves were about. Once inside and seated in this small, quaint eatery, I saw several tables of lunch patrons chatting and eating up a storm. As a matter of fact, a table with five guys received their order of Fried Parrotfish (on special that day). Now that was a convincing sight. I went up to the order counter and read from a large menu aboard on the wall above the kitchen window.

I decided on the Kadon Pika (chopped chicken in local stock) for $7.25, and the Fiesta Plate ($8.50), which has Fried or BBQ Chicken, Ribs, Chicken Kelaguen, Pancit, Shrimp Patty and Red Rice. Soup or Salad is an additional $1. I had a bowl of Arroz Caldo, which was thick, rich, and tasty. I added some Tabasco to spice it up some more.

When my Kadon Pika arrived, I liked the rich golden color of the thick broth along with the sliced green onion. I spooned some out atop the steamed white rice along with a piece of chicken and tasted it. It was much different than what I've had before, but quite good. The flavor was rich and well-constructed, yet didn't have the pika kick I'd had before. You can add donne if you need more power, in fact I did!

The Fiesta Plate's Chicken Kelaguen was filled with peppers and I dropped a few in my Kadon Pika - these were especially hot peppers, so be careful if you're not a seasoned pepper eater. I had some of the chicken, pancit and red rice, and ate part of a rib. All very good and I'm glad they served an extra large portion of kelaguen.

It was about this time when I met Terry's owner, Tessie Bordallo (daughter of Terry Sablan, the same Terry' as the outlet in Chamorro Village). This energetic and gracious young lady is proud of her little neighborhood eatery and welcomes everyone here as if they were family. In fact, there are a lot of extended family members eating here alongside friends. There's a strong sense and respect for family tradition in Terry's, and every piece of art on the walls has a story to tell and some link to her family lineage.

Terry wanted me to save some room to try a couple other popular menu items: their Funnel Cake ($5) and Terry's Cheeseburger with Fries ($9). I was glad to have obliging neighbors who started on the funnel cake. Now this is a local version of a carnival/fair confection that you should eat on special occasions or maybe not at all depending on your health! It's like a deep-fried waffle with sugar and cinnamon and you dip crunchy pieces in the accompanying syrup. I haven't had Funnel Cake in years!

Terry's Cheeseburger is a seasoned hand-made patty using their own secret ingredients. It is one of their special features because people on this island have a love affair with burgers. Most of it owing to Cool Spot and A&W I'm sure. The buns are toasted and the tomatoes were good!

My personal feeling is that I would spend my time eating my way through Terry's local food items before I went for the burger! I see myself returning one of these days for some more serious eating.

Guam Farmer Chef Conference
July 23 25, 2012
Guam Community College

Chef/Farmer Grill Night Cookoff Competition
Hamamoto Tropical Fruit World
July 24

I am still buzzing with excitement from the recent conference held last week at GCC's Multi-Purpose facility. The conference was offered by the UOG Cooperative Extension Service (kudos to Bob Barber for organizing this conference), GCC Culinary Program, Micronesian Chef's Association, Guam Farmer's Cooperative Association, Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association, and the Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.

Featured off-island guest speakers were Ken Love, President, Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers, VP, American Culinary Federation/Kona Kohala Chefs Association, Director, Hawaii Master Food Preservers for University of Calif. Cooperative Extension, and Farmer; Paul Heerlein, Assistant Professor/Chef Instructor Coordinator Hawaii Community College; Aubrey Bray, Program Representative for the California Statewide Master Gardener Program; and Gary Kastle Certified Master Gardener Hawaii and formerly New Mexico, Certified Master Composter, and Certified Korean Natural Farming Instructor.

As you can tell by the titles and positions, we were treated to a wealth of amazing and useful information. This conference provided an opportunity for Guam's farmers and chefs to sit down together and review the progress that's been made over the past five years, when we had just been making the first in-roads into sourcing local produce for restaurants.

It's taken a lot of education and awareness-building, show and tell and expert collaboration. Having Ken Love return again along with Chef Paul Heerlein provided a forum of enlightenment and idea generation from which we will reap the benefits for years, especially in areas of Food Preservation and value-added processing.

We were treated to fabulous lunches using locally-grown produce and farm-raised Tilapia sumptuously prepared by the GCC Culinary students. We are all so very proud of the excellent progress that the culinary program has made since its early days.

One of the highlights was the 3rd Farmer/Chef Grill Night held at Hamamoto Tropical Fruit World in Talofofo. Tours of the vast collection of tropical fruits and plants were organized by Mr. Hamamoto, who drove a tractor pulling a train of carriages with guests taking photos and basking in the natural beauty of this hidden gem. I would encourage everyone to take this tour.

The 3rd Farmer Chef Grill Night pitted three chefs - Paul Kerner, Chef/Instructor at GCC; Soung-Jeagal, Executive Sous Chef of the Guam Marriott Resort & Spa, and Joel Arenas, Chef de Cuisine, Fisherman's Cove, Hilton Guam Resort & Spa against each other in a contest using a mystery basket of local produce. Among these were breadfruit, Macao bananas, taro, pineapple, key lime, green onions, jackfruit, cherry tomatoes, bottle gourd squash, guava, papaya, long beans, and kang kong. Pork butt was the featured protein.

The efforts and performances by these three teams (each chef had one person as an assistant, and two GCC student assistants) was exemplary and wowed those in attendance.

Despite the sultry heat that left chef coats drenched in sweat, the teams invented appetizer, entree and dessert creations that were judged and later served to a large and hungry crowd who'd been waiting patiently during the two hour cooking time.

First place winner was Chef Paul Kerner, followed by 2nd place finisher, Marriott's Chef Soung. It was the first time that Chef Soung and Chef Joel had ever used many of these local ingredients. They did a fabulous job creating what they made. Hopefully we'll be able to get concise names for each of their creations along with recipes to share. All in all, it was an awesome event that made all attending proud to be part of this local Farmer/Chef movement.

Bon Apetit!

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