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August 17, 2012, Volume 12 Number 16

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

In our last newsletter we highlighted a few of the latest restaurant closings as well as the future opening of a second PROA location in Hagatna. There were three restaurants that closed that I omitted from the list. The first is the Piazza, which closed due the Hagatna River bridge re-construction project, which has made it all but impossible for any customers to reach this once popular garden cafe. The other notable restaurant is Din Tai Fong in Tumon, which closed due to a mysterious fire that completely gutted this Chinese restaurant known for its dim sum.

The final closure is Cajun Delight in the former Day's Inn in Maite. Known for its tasty New Orleans cuisine offerings, the owners decided to downsize to a smaller footprint and location in Hagatna. Now called Mama Peaches Cajun Hut, they are located at the corner of the DNA Bldg (PDN & Community First). Mama Peaches is open for lunch Monday to Friday, and dinner on Thursday & Friday. They still serve most of the same delicious Louisiana foods they prepared at Cajun Delight. They offer take out and delivery in the Hagatna area. Call Mama Peaches at 477-0542. Check them out!

You may have seen a blue sign with a happy shark in Tumon's Park Arcade across from the Hyatt. This is the home of Sharky's Tropical Diner, an American-style eatery that will be open until 4 a.m., serving burgers, hot dogs, chili, nachos, tacos, and burritos. Conspicuously missing from their menu are any alcoholic beverages! They are planning to open this coming weekend and will certainly fill a void made by the recent closure of Bully's. They are a sister business to Porky's Bar which is conveniently situated a few doors down in the same complex.

Sharing the spotlight with Sharky's upcoming debut is the relocation of a popular Tamuning bar, Abandon Ship, which has anchored itself firmly on the northern tip of the Park Arcade with a fabulous view of Pleasure Island. Talk about "location, location, location"! You can bet they'll be doing a lot more business here in Tumon!

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

Brutus Spicy Burger
House of Brutus
1st Floor, ITC Building

I promised myself I'd try the Brutus Spicy Burger which is highlighted as Super Pika! on their menu. This is justifiable, since this bad boy's made with a "spicy top bun, chili peppers, spicy aioli, fried onion rings, fresh tomato slice, Swiss cheese, Spicy beef patty (grilled), iceberg lettuce, sriracha" and a bottom bun, all for $8.00 (+10% S.C.)!

Although I had seen one of my colleagues eat this burger a few months ago, I had to "own the experience" of eating one! The good news is that it's not as pika as I would have believed. It darn sure is flavorful though and it gets a two thumbs up from me (after I licked them) for overall taste and composition. You'll need extra napkins.

If you aren't into spicy or pika aka heat derived from peppers, you should try one of their tamer burger offerings. The skinny fries will cost you $3. I do want to acknowledge my server, Carlene, who possesses one of those remarkable "hospitality" personalities. She impressed me with her knowledge of the menu and she explained to me the various burger options available at Brutus with confidence and cheer.

Menkui Ramen
Tumon Trade Center
Fujita Road

It's been over five years since this little ramen shop opened. As best I can recall, it was April or May of 2007 and its reputation as having the island's best ramen has continued to grow with a steadily increasing client base, many who return almost every week for their "ramen fix". I've become a "ramen snob" too and can't find myself eating ramen at other restaurants thanks to Menkui's spoiling me! Chef/Owner Akira Kudo and his wife Sumiko, who handles the front of the house, have definitely made a niche for themselves with this specialty ramen shop.

We recently returned for another "ramen fix" and I decided to take some photos to share with you why I love Menkui so much. The Chasyu Men ($10.50) has a soy-based broth with a hefty portion of tender thick-sliced roast pork loin aka chashu or chasyu. The bamboo shoots add a nice texture and the green onions give this awesome soup a special magic. This dish offers something you can definitely compare to other "Chashu" ramen dishes. I was told that Menkui uses a special recipe for the pork - it was heavenly in flavor, sliced thickly and noticeably tender. This superb pork is only matched by the delicate yet toothsome fresh noodles with which they're served. Menkui's MSG-free broth is light and served at the right temperature so you can eat without having to slurp your noodles.

We shared a plate of Gyoza ($4.75/five pieces), which are hand-made fresh by Chef Kudo. It's no secret why people who've ordered these before make it a point to re-order them on their successive visits. You make your own dipping sauce with hot chili oil, soy sauce, vinegar, and red chili paste.

Menkui is not just a noodle house, it's a mind-set. I feel a true sense of satisfaction and well-being when I eat my ramen. There's something "spiritual" or subliminal in a perfectly prepared bowl of ramen. Menkui Ramen will always be a treasure for those of us ramen lovers who support this family-owned eatery that makes the best tasting ramen on Guam! It's the closest thing to being in Japan.

Underwater World & Sea Grill
2nd Annual "Hafa Dog" Eating Contest
July 28, 2012

I was once again honored to be a judge in the 2nd Annual "Hafa Dog" Eating Contest. Contestants lined up to compete to win the $500 cash prize and bragging rights for eating the most hot dogs, including buns. These were high-quality gourmet beef dogs made by Eisenberg. They were "jumbo" and intimidating. The event was emceed by radio personality, Rick Nauta, who can make something funny out of everything. You can imagine he had a field day with these dogs!

I was surprised and impressed by some of the contestants, notably some local personalities you would not expect to see in a hot dog "stuffing" competition. I'm talking about friend and impresario J.D. Iriarte and his bride, writer Hannah Cho Iriarte (owners of ZEN), as well as the great Ruben Mortera, who is a much better cook than hot dog eater. You should know that J.D. put away six dogs and Hannah did 4 which was more than most of the other contestants!

Another surprise contestant was Logan Reyes, who is the Marketing Manager for Market Wholesale Distributors, the sponsor of the competition. I can only say that Logan is a true sport and entrepreneur, firmly putting his money where his mouth is! A master of facial expression, he downed a respectable total of 3 dogs!

This was a fun and zany event that you'd have to see to believe! How many dogs can you down in 5 minutes? Well, David Popovich lead the pack and repeated his win from last year by downing a total of twelve (12) dogs! His nearest competitor struggled to stuff down a measly 8 dogs!

As I said, "fun and zany". $500 can buy a lot of TUMS so I guess it's worth it!

Denny's New B.L.T.
Denny's Guam

Denny's has a new BLT? That's what I discovered last weekend. I saw it clearly promoted on their menu: "New ! Bacon Lover's BLT - Eight crisp slices of bacon piled high with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on toasted potato bread. $8.45" Alrighty then, I am a BLT lover and wanted to see how Denny's BLT stacked up against some of my other BLT experiences. I liked the idea of having it on potato bread, which now that I think of it, it made the fries a bit redundant!

On first inspection, the sandwich appeared conservative and modest, with everything neatly tucked into place with just a slight view of lettuce, tomato and bacon pieces. My first bite determined that this was indeed a BLT. The tomato was good and had taste. The bacon at Denny's is little on the thin side. Eight slices of thin-sliced bacon is equivalent to maybe three slices of thick-sliced bacon, which makes for a good BLT. Still, considering the novelty of potato bread and not finding fault with usually disappointing tomatoes, I finished on a satisfied note. The sandwich was OK, not a "WOW!", but an OK or an alright! I'm still looking for that "WOW" like I make at home!

Sakura Noodle House
Governor Carlos G. Camacho Road (previously Camp Watkins)
Adjacent to Wild Bill's Bar

In all of my years as the Guam Food Guy which is since around 2000, I can honestly say that I'd not set foot in Sakura Noodle House even once. But is was one lady pastry chef, Shizuka Louboutin, owner of Patisserie Parisco, who successfully lured me into Sakura Noodle House with a Facebook posting, not to try their noodles or food, but to purchase one of Shizuka's famous French Profiteroles ($6), which was absolutely divine! She has a limited selection of pastries available for purchase in a refrigerated display case, as well as special dessert orders for customers to pick up after ordering on Facebook. It was during the course of my visit to Patisserie Parisco that I determined I could possibly do a review or at least attempt to do one of Sakura Noodle House later. I did return the next day around 2pm for a late lunch (hours are 11am- 10pm).

Before going further, I need to explain that I have not been to Sakura Noodle House as the Guam Food Guy because I had an unpleasant experience years ago, maybe as long ago as 18 years. Prior to my bad experience, I used to go there a lot in the 80's and early 90's. The owner, "Miwa" Saburo, was a customer of mine when I sold restaurant supplies for AK Commercial. I hereby confess that I don't remember what happened to bring about my total lockout of this restaurant's offerings, especially since they are one of the longest operating eateries on Guam having been in business for 39 years!

They did a lot to spruce up the outside of building with a fresh coat of paint, but there are still unsightly rusted vestiges of metal frame outside near the entryway. It is an old building and this is a tropical island. Inside you'll find an amazing collection of Japanese art pieces and Samurai armor. They have a nice collection of colorful Japanese paper lanterns overhead. It's a big place, well air-conditioned, and they did modernize by adding a nice salad bar and a giant flat screen TV that had an ABBA DVD playing initially which later changed to the Eagles, which was awesome thanks to my server, Linda Guerrero, who is an Eagles fan, too.

I originally ordered from Joanney (sp?), who had some communication challenges as she couldn't understand my questions about the menu. She only knew how to take orders, not to recommend or describe the menu entrees. Before I go further, you should be aware that MSG is used in the food preparation here. Rather inconveniently, there's a notice near the register you don't see until you're ready to leave which reads "Our Kitchen Uses Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) Kindly inform your server if you do not wish to have your food prepared with MSG". Got it.

Anyway I ordered two combination items to get some diversity for the review. The first was the Special Yakitori with Salad Bar ($13) with four meat sticks and three onion rings. I've always liked Yakitori so I wanted to try theirs along with onion rings. The meal includes a cup of miso soup. The Salad Bar has the same dressing they've used since they began. Some folks swear by it. The salad ingredients are fine with shredded cabbage, lettuce, beets, corn, raisins, daigo, and pepperoncino. My Chicken Yakitori sticks had been pre-cooked and they were reheated on the grill and brought out - how else could they be this done five minutes after ordering? They were not the most appealing I've had and I managed to eat one and took the other three home. The onion rings are a bit on the greasy side, but still crunchy. I'm sure their regulars like these.

The other dish I ordered was Chopsteak and Cutlet with Salad Bar ($9.95). The cutlet is panko-breaded chicken thighs and you can add some tonkatsu sauce to liven it up. I didn't particularly care for this and was absolutely disappointed with the chopsteak, which was more like canned beef stew in a thick gravy with a couple of pieces of bell pepper thrown on for garnish! I picked at this and gave up, wondering what the heck they were trying to prove with what really shouldn't be called chopsteak as most people on island know it to be. They need some fresh beef (even frozen) stir fried with garlic, onions, bell peppers, carrots, and celery, so you can get a mouthful of good veggies with your meat and please make it a meat you can identify!

The Eagles concert on the big screen TV was a lifesaver, keeping my mood and mind intact and my rage from boiling over! I finally understood how a food fight could occur. Enough! I paid and was talking to Linda about my disappointing experience. That's when I saw the sign advertising noodles available for purchase. They sell egg noodles for pancit and offer them to other restaurants, caterers, and individuals. Linda explained that they have several dishes that use their noodles, including Saimen, Chopsuey, and Yakisoba, which I ordered for $8.50. When it came, it looked ok, but before I could take a bite, Linda asked if I wanted any red ginger, which I did, so she brought me a small dish, which I sprinkled all over my mound of cabbage, noodles, pork, green onion, and carrots. This was a redeeming dish for me, and though I've had much better, this was still palatable. It will no doubt be a while before I return to Sakura Noodle House to eat their food. My tastes have graduated far past what they have been serving for years. I WILL stop by and see what Patisserie Parisco has in their refrigerated display case.

Marine Corp Drive
649-CAKE (2253)

This visit made me "true" to my word in the promise return to Sugarnomics for breakfast since my last visit in June 2011! Sugarnomics is the home of the big "whisk" and believe me, they'll definitely whisk you away with the imaginative culinary creations and fresh baked confections.

They are one of the unique cafe/bakery destinations that started last year and they have been continuously evolving and developing their product mix. Aside from fanciful cupcakes, muffins, cookies, designer cakes, sandwiches, tarts, and espresso-based beverages, they sell cake decorating supplies and products. I also learned that they will be starting dinner service soon, too, expanding from their current breakfast and lunch service.

Co-Owned by Pastry Chef Extraordinaire Tess Yao and her husband, Andy Figueroa, Sugarnomics is a dream come true as well as a dream still fulfilling. I feel badly that I've not made it a point to return sooner, so that's why I rushed to do this write-up on their breakfast eats, one of which I'd heard about on Facebook. It is their French Toast w/Maple Syrup ($4.75), which uses homemade challa (egg bread). While I pride myself on my own French Toast made with a multi-grain wheat bread, the difference between mine and theirs is night & day and I like their day better any time. Plus, you better have a local appetite because this is huge! Two slices pile and overflow on the plate leaving a little room for your syrup ramekin. The confectioner's sugar and cinnamon-spiced egg dip brings flavor that resonates through the entire slice, and these are thick 1-1/2" slices! Absolutely delicious and worth sharing with loved ones and special friends!

The other breakfast item I made it a point to try on this stop was their "BS" Breakfast Sandwich ($6.50), that has two thick strips of bacon, two eggs, cheese, greens (arugula-I think), and garlic mayo served on an oversize Pan De Sal bun that is sliced and grilled. OMG, this is a truly awesome breakfast sandwich! I was so conflicted since I fell in love with the challa bread French Toast but had to decide on what I could save for later and what was best to eat now. I can tell you that I didn't realize pan de sal could support all those ingredients (but it did) and it gave the sandwich a special comfort (here's a new category for comfort food). Love it! A breakfast item I didn't try was their homemade Honey Fruit Granola ($4.25), but I will soon enough when I return with reinforcements.

I have had their famous Cuban sandwich of slow-roasted pork, Swiss cheese, mustard, and pickles and I want to try their Grilled Cheese and Peppered Bacon. BUT, what I really need to have is their BLT, also made on their challa bread. Since their bacon is already thicker than most, I may have met my match at Sugarnomics.

I want to mention the Lunch Specials here to give you a hint of things to come. One was Carne Guisada, a Puerto Rican-style beef stew served with rice & beans, and the other was Sancocho de Pollo, which is a delicious, hearty, rich soup served with toast and this dish is literally another chicken soup for the soul.

Sugarnomics is open Mon-Thu from 8am-6pm, and 8am-10pm on Fridays. They are open Saturday and Sunday from 8am-4pm. Can't wait for my return visit and I most definitely won't wait a year!

Issin Japanese Restaurant
Teppanyaki Dinner
Westin Resort Guam 4F

It was the perfect night for a birthday celebration dinner while we had our fabulous Westin "staycation"! That's what the boss wanted (Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Shower) and she had to have it her way or no way! So I called Issin owner Tamotsu "Tom" Iizuka-san for a table and we started off with a celebratory martini and ordered from the Dinner Special Menu. Zee had the Angus Tenderloin & Shrimp ($45) and I had the Angus Sirloin & Shrimp ($42). We ordered some appetizers from the Dinner Special Menu to balance our martini launch, getting the Sashimi and the Tempura Appetizers (both $9). I have to say that there is a 10% s.c. added, however, with the SP card you can get a 10% discount off your food charges at Issin.

The Sashimi Appetizer plate was almost too beautiful to eat! Adorned and garnished with micro flowers and colorful seaweed, it demonstrated that food can taste as delicious as it looks! I'm glad we ate it instead of just admiring it. The yellowtail, maguro, and squid were perfectly served and enough to share along with the tempura appetizer.

I was in an expansive mood, thanks in no small part to the martini, so I perused the a la carte menu and ordered from the Teppan Yaki choices a plate of Spinach ($8) and the Scallops ($14). We were certainly pleased with the spinach, which had been sauteed in a butter sauce with garlic.

The real surprise came with our order of scallops which were sizable, succulent, and mesmerizingly delicious! Zee is not a big fan of scallops however these changed her belief system. The savory sauce they used for these was rich and memorable - one of the best I recollect having anywhere.

Both our teppanyaki plates where extraordinary! Everything was expertly cut and grilled by Teppan Chef Jesse Borja, who was definitely on his game that night! Our steaks were perfectly medium rare, the tiger prawns were firm and grilled just right, and the vegetables (eggplant, bean sprouts, red & green bell peppers, and onion) could not have been better. And yes, the garlic, we do love our "gaahlick" grilled to crisp perfection! The Teppan dinner specials come with rice, miso soup, and oshinko (Japanese pickled vegetable).

Then came a surprise. Iizuka-san gave us each a gift of Chawan Mushi ($7) (Japanese egg custard), which is a savory dish served hot. There was a piece of crab meat along with soy beans, button mushroom, and a mini leaf. It was probably one of the most artistic I've seen and you could tell they take a great deal of pride in their presentations which is as it should be in Japanese fine dining restaurant. The flavors were spot on! Zee never cared much for this type of custard before but her mind and heart changed after this. Beautiful!

So be sure to make a stop at Issin Japanese Restaurant when you visit the Westin Resort Guam, or do like we did and make it a Heavenly "staycation"!

Ita dake-masu!

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