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August 31, 2012, Volume 12 Number 17

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

August is rushing to a close and September's about to grab the time baton! Do you think that technology has increased the pace of time? Perhaps it's our perception of the passage of time that's been affected by technology. What do you think?

Switching gears I wanted to delve back into a past Guamdiner newsletter from exactly 5 years ago that talks about service standards in restaurants. I believe you'll find this article both interesting and relevant to our service experience today.

(August 31, 2007, Volume 7 Number 35)

When was the last time you walked out of a restaurant so completely satisfied that all you could say was "Wow!" OK, I understand, it sure does sound a little like "fantasy island" or something more improbable than ever likely, but if you've travelled to exotic destinations or even to major cosmopolitan cities on the West or East Coasts of the United States, it is possible you've had a "wow" experience at a restaurant, or made a comparison to dining at some of Guam's restaurants.

I came across this "wow" phenomenon in an article titled "Service: What's it all about?" written by Laurine Jacobs in New Zealand's Cuisine Magazine. In the article, she quotes Don Fletcher, a former President of the New Zealand Restaurant Association and a former restaurant owner. She writes, " For me, as a consumer, restaurants should be about providing more than just food, wine and furniture. As Don Fletcher says, "It can be an emotional experience and exceed all expectations. I want customers to go away saying, 'Wow!'"

The "wow" factor is when it all comes together. I want to be greeted at the door by neat, tidy professional staff and, if I have made a booking, taken directly to my table. Before the greeter leaves I should be settled, have a menu and be asked if I have any initial requests. Water should appear immediately and after no more than three or four minutes, the waitstaff should reappear to assist me.

Anyone who is charged with taking my orders for food and drink should be thoroughly familiar with the menu and knowledgeable about its contents. The restaurant must offer its staff regular training sessions to taste the food and to become familiar with wine styles.

Now, we don't have to go to New Zealand to see the sense of this, but I bring this point up because service issues and training are universal, so when there is an opportunity for staff training or improvement, I really can't over-emphasize its value. Where "staff turnover" is a constant concern, there are some things you can't help. As an owner and stake-holder of Guam's hospitality industry, you should consider any investment you make in personnel training as an improvement in the island's "gross service product"!

The ultimate bottom line to all of this and what I want to see, folks, is visitors leaving Guam after having experienced their own "wow" factor! Now isn't that something we should all put our energies toward achieving?

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

Lone Star Steakhouse Celebrates 17 Years!

Congratulations, Team Lone Star! Happy 17th Anniversary! If you are in the restaurant business, each year you survive in business is another layer of testimony added to your success. Lone Star Steakhouse has been a popular Guam icon for going on two decades and is an excellent example of how hard work and dedication can pay off hugely in one's personal success. This particular success story is about Brian Artero, who took on the ownership responsibility of Lone Star after having worked as a manager for the company that previously operated the franchise. Lone Star is truly locally-owned and managed, and Brian has made it his credo to manage by walking around. At an anniversary cocktail reception held last Friday at the Cars Plus Showroom, Brian thanked all of the invited guests for their patronage which has contributed to Lone Star's success. He also announced a new promotion called "Great Meals for New Wheels" where diners will have the opportunity to win a 2013 Hyundai Elantra. If you test drive one of the vehicles at Cars Plus, you can double your chances. The Grand Drawing is on December 15, 2012, at Lone Star Steakhouse. Diners will also be able to sample some new menu creations during this promotion. Lone Star will be donating proceeds from this promo to The First Lady Rigalu Foundation and Make A Wish Foundation. This is one of the cornerstones of Lone Star's success - giving back to the community! Bravo Brian Artero! Biba Lone Star!!

Ban Thai Restaurant

Another restaurant success story is Ban Thai Restaurant, which has been in business nearly 12 years. I happened to visit Ban Thai to sample its hugely popular lunch buffet ($11.00, including iced tea). Their buffet offers about 12 items, with Pad Thai being a constant while other items may vary. Today's soup was Tom Yum, and hot and sour soup with loads of flavor from lemongrass, coriander, kaffir lime, galangal, and Thai basil. Green Papaya Salad (Som Tom) was also on the buffet line and is usually a standard here. Other items included fried lumpia, fried chicken, seafood salad, stir fry vegetables, and stir fry pork with vegetables. On Wednesdays and Fridays they have fried bananas. Lunch is served from 11 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. It is recommended that you arrive early as Ban Thai fills up quickly.

During my visit I had the good fortune to catch up with Tim Palacios, who's one of my favorite Thai cooks. I have been a fan of hers since she used to run Saba Dee, a restaurant we highlighted in a review about in 2004. She was cooking Thai in Saipan prior to that. Tim was replenishing the buffet line when I saw her. It's encouraging to know she's in the kitchen since I know she's got what it takes to make great-tasting Thai. I'll have to return and order a la carte sometime for an updated dinner review. It's been some time. I know owner Lek is pleased to have Tim on board heading up the kitchen. That's definitely what I consider "quality assurance"!

Jeff's Pirates Cove
Rte 4
Ipan Talofofo

One great thing about dining on Guam is that you can travel around the island and eat while appreciating fantastic views and scenic ocean vistas. That's exactly what you'll get when you drive south to Ipan Talofofo to Jeff's Pirates Cove. People are always asking for the best burgers in town and when you are at Jeff's, you'll soon discover that Jeff's has a contender in the best burger race.

Jeff's Famous Homemade 1/2 lb Cheeseburger ($12), features two slices of cheese, mayo, lettuce, tomato, onions and pickles accompanying a home-seasoned lean ground beef patty. Jeff is into merchandising his brand to such an extent that he even has his trademark skull & crossbones logo branded on the top of his burger bun! How's that for island pride?! Try this's as juicy and tasty as it looks!

A Majestic Wine Dinner - August 23, 2012
Roy's Restaurant
Hilton Guam Resort & Spa

As I listened to Hilton's Executive Chef Christopher House describe the menu elements on Ray Gibson's K57 Morning Talk Show, I silently prayed for an opportunity to partake of his culinary innovations that would be showcased in the Majestic Wine Dinner that was held a week ago at Roy's. The five-course dinner menu was created around a great stable of wines represented by Mid-Pacific Distributors. Moreover, Jeff Cook, a representative of the wineries, was present to offer insights to the wines being served.

I don't want to go into great detail about the dinner experience since what we did that night cannot be replicated. What I do want to do is show you what you missed so that next time you see an ad or hear about a wine dinner event at the Hilton, you will make it a point to attend. What's interesting about House's menu descriptions is that they concisely described ingredients in much the same way the maestro scribes a musical score to a symphony. The menu and wine pairings for the night:

Deep Sea Dry Pack Scallop (Watermelon Caviar, Balsamic Reduction, Citrus-White Asparagus Salad)
Paired with Murphy Goode "The Fume" Sauvignon Blanc

Maytag Blue Cheese Souffle (Olive Oil Poached Almonds, Arugula Micro Greens, Grilled Fig Bread, Caramel Sauce)
Paired with Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Chardonnay

Crispy Striped Bass (Herbed Risotto, Garlic Broccolinni, Lobster and Scallion Fritter, Morel Mushroom Jus)
Paired with Cambria "Julia's Vineyard" Santa Maria Pinot Noir

Wagyu Beef (Butter Poached Fingerling Potatoes, Baby Late Summer Carrots, Red Wine Essence)
Paired with Atalon Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

"Ambrosia" Molten Chocolate Truffle, White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie, Strawberry Sorbet Short Cake

Coffee - Patron XO Cafe Tequila

Executive Chef House showered praise and paid tribute to his culinary team who put on a grand showing for this amazing night of gustatory sensations. All of the wines served stood toe to toe with House's ingredient-laden orchestrations. Truly, this was an evening that will be remembered by attendees as exceptional and extraordinary. It's a wonderful impression to share. Thanks Team Hilton! Thanks Team Mid-Pac!!

Grill at Santa Fe Introduces New Menu Selections
Hotel Santa Fe

Heads up folks! The Grill at Santa Fe has recently unveiled a new selection of menu items that are designed to exceed your taste expectations without breaking your wallet! Among these items are a roster of sandwiches that are mostly priced below $10.00. Also featured are novel creations such as Lobster Poke, which is something you'll have to taste to believe! Served dramatically with a whole lobster on display, this is an unusual and imaginative way to merchandise this treat. You can also get a bucket of big BBQ Shrimp. Sandwiches include the Pulled Pork and Marlin Sandwich in the first collage.

Pictured in the 2nd collage are one of the Santa Fe's recent hits - the giant T-Bone Steak ($39.75), which is a gargantuan 30 oz., 1-1/4" thick T-Bone grilled to your liking. This is served with a choice of baked potato, fries or rice, and a side of corn on the cob, as well as soup and all you eat salad bar, dessert buffet, and free-flowing Beck's Beer! Also shown is the SPAM Sandwich which has Swiss Cheese and Pineapple slices. There is also a Philly Steak sandwich and a Vegetarian Sandwich, which has eggplant, grilled onion, portabella mushrooms, bell pepper, and tomato. Sandwiches come with fries, a pickle slice, and home-made potato salad or cole slaw.

The final sandwich shown is another fantastic lobster creation, the Lobster Sandwich( $25), which come with a half a lobster along with a lobster filled sandwich. Seems like Executive Chef Richard Schaaf's kitchen team has been busy dreaming up the fabulous new creations. Good job, guys!1

Well, what are you waiting for? Get on down to Santa Fe and enjoy these new menu selections.

PROA Restaurant
Tumon (across from GVB and Ypao Beach)

PROA's on everybody's "A" list. Or so it seems. There are those who are unhappy about not getting a reservation but who are ecstatic when they do! When ever I go to PROA I watch people eat. I may appear to be a bit invasive and I hope I've not made anyone feel uncomfortable with my gawking. I've just been studying people's dining behavior and I've reached a major conclusion. People love the food at PROA! I've been with many people who live off island who had been to PROA before and want to go there again. Is it possible that their food has ingredients that make it addictive? The other thing I've observed about PROA is how Executive Chef Geoffrey Perez and his team keep pushing the envelope on fusion cuisine, utilizing fresh local ingredients and imagining new ways to prepare and serve traditional Western, Local, Asian, and Pacific Rim cuisine styles, inventing something superb in the process. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the profusion of flavors and tastes they can conjure up. That's why I recommend that you try the appetizer and entree specials that are featured each day.

We had dinner at PROA last Saturday night with our good friend, Rick Davidson, who'd recently retired from a 30-odd year career with Hobart Corporation where he oversaw the development of their Asia Pacific business. I cherish my years collaborating with Rick. He's now wreck diving in Chuuk on a live-aboard, doing something he's been avidly enjoying for as long as I've known him. He wanted to return to PROA.

Our first appetizer was from their dinner menu. It was the Two-Cheese Quesadilla with Slow-Roasted Shreds of Tender Pork and Grilled Corn, served with a Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa and Sweet Red Pepper Drizzle ($9.95). This light and playful appetizer resonates with unique Southwestern Tex Mex accents. It was gone in a flash! ( I should say after my camera "flash"!!)

The next appetizer was from the Special Menu that night, which is something their servers all memorize and that's not written down. I believe these were NZ Mussels in a light tomato broth with crostini ($10.95). I was thinking this tasted like a Cioppino. The broth was savory if not slightly spicy. The crostini was great for dabbing up broth that I'd drizzle over the mussels on my plate.

Rick opted for the Cracked Black Pepper-Crusted Pork Loin with Brandy Pan Sauce and Fried Onions served with Sauteed Red Potatoes- ($16.95 ). This is an excellent dish and paired well with our Blackstone Merlot.

Although Zee ordered the Hibachi-style BBQ Chicken ($12.95), I used the photo of the Big Feller Trio (Hibachi-Style Short Ribs, Chicken, and Spare-Ribs $14.95) that I'd taken the Saturday a week before. This is served with Red Rice and Simple Salad. PROA's red rice is perfectly made, and I put my finadene on the rice to eat it since the meat has its own awesome flavor from PROA's proprietary Marianas Glaze.

My dinner selection was one of the Specials - a Surf & Turf concoction that paired a Pan-Grilled 12 oz NY Strip Loin with a Tempura-Battered Salmon Filet with Panko Zucchini Medallions and pickled onion ribbons with a brandy demi glace, priced at $29.95. I don't know if I have the name down pat but these ingredients were amazing.

Part of the fun of eating at PROA is appreciating the food as you work on de-constructing it. I don't pretend I can re-create it, it's more like working with a puzzle and finally figuring out how all the pieces fit together. That's kind of the story of PROA's success - making all the pieces "fit together", something they're going to be quite mindful of as they open their 2nd location in the old TGI Friday's in Hagatna this October! I'm sure they'll do just fine!

Bon Appetit!
Ken The Guam Food Guy

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