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September 14, 2012, Volume 12 Number 18

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

Do you have a favorite restaurant where you frequently invite friends and associates to join you for lunch or dinner? Do you recommend this particular restaurant when asked for a great place to dine? If you answered yes, then you are a bona fide card-carrying member of the "Word of Mouth" Club! This is known as the best form of advertising for a restaurant and it doesn't cost a penny. It gets even better. Let's say that the people you invited loved the experience and are now recommending this same restaurant to their friends and associates, as well as frequently dining there as well themselves. Talk about "network marketing"! This is essentially what I've been doing for the past twelve years, only I publish and promote these places. For those who have followed my writings and reviews over the years, you know that I consider myself a "reviewer" and not a "critic". I'm known to focus on the positive experiences. If I'm not happy with a restaurant, I don't write about it.

Well, if you have been reading some of my recent posts, you'll see that I've changed my position on this benign policy and now am sharing my disappointments. I'll still be a positive advocate for food and experiences I enjoy, but when I find sub-standard food or service, you're going to hear about it! I'll do my best to be fair and promise not to condemn a restaurant. However, as you'll probably agree, nearly every restaurant has some room for improvement, and that's what we can do together---help restaurants improve by giving positive feedback.

Ken, the "Guam Food Guy"

Meskla Dos Fine Hamburgers & Chamoru BBQ
Across from K-Mart & JFK High School
Upper Tumon (11am-9pm)
646-6295

It's been just over two years since I did a Diner Byte review of Meskla Dos, which boasts some of the tastiest and most creative burgers on Guam. In that time, the gamble made by Chef/owner Peter Duenas has paid off and business is thriving at this popular burger joint, with people still managing to park their cars in Meskla's cramped parking lot(next to Avis). He took over this spot while JFK was closed and facing an uncertain future. In the time that's past, JFK High School has been re-built and open. I don't know what percentage of business Meskla gets from the students but I'm sure it's appreciated.

I stopped by one recent Saturday for lunch and didn't really have an idea of what I was going to eat---I had a craving for the Meskla Dos "taste" (a succulent full-bodied burger flavor enhanced by Meskla's sauces and toppings). I spotted it at the top of the Menu Board: the "Maga' Lahi" Burger (The Chief's Burger) - $15.50, consisting of Meskla Dos' Famous House made 1 LB patty grilled to order with three slices of cheese on a super king bun and served with their special boonie pepper firecracker sauce. (Additionally, you can choose any sauce and add cheese, a fried egg & bacon for just $2.00 more!) After I ordered it, I started having serious doubts about what I was doing ordering such a mammoth sandwich. I joined a couple of friends who were sharing a table and we all waited for our numbers to be called. When I saw it, my mouth formed a big "WOW" and I placed it on the table, and tried to take a photo that would represent its magnitude. It made everything smaller(the 10" plate was over whelmed. The super king bun was grilled and the dough was able to hold the meat without sogging up. The first bite was bliss, with my palate registering all of the great burger taste sensations. The boonie pepper firecracker sauce gave this burger a flavor lift without any serious burning. It was "pika-licious", with a little fire balanced by tons of flavor. The meat was cooked medium and the cheese melted in layers over the top of the patty, like little blankets. I did finish this burger and would definitely try it again, though I'd share it! I was full for 6 hours!

Other burgers include the Rancheru Burger, a house made 8 oz patty grilled to order, topped with crisp bacon, a fried egg, and spicy house made ranch dressing, the Guetes Cheese Burger (Spicy), which is named after a firecracker and uses Chef Peter's signature boonie pepper sauce. The Uhang Burger is made with shrimp dusted with panko and deep fried to a golden finish. The Guihan Burger fries coconut battered catfish and pairs it with a tangy scallion tartar sauce. The Achang Bay Blue Burger has melting hot blue cheese and a creamy garlic aioli. The French Toast Slammer is another combo creation that has a burger patty with French Toast and a side of maple syrup. One sandwich I'd tried and will never have again is the Grilled Cheese Burger, which has a house-made 8 oz. patty grilled to your liking and served (believe it or not) in-between TWO grilled cheese sandwiches! Talk about an "artery clogger"! It is a true "fantasy" sandwich, joining the best of two favorites!

California Pizza Kitchen
Lower Lobby Level
Holiday Resort & Spa Guam
Tumon
647-4888

Here it was past two and I was hungry for lunch. It's a good thing that CPK stays open when most other outlets close after 2! For some reason, I had been yearning for pasta with salmon. I was relieved to see their Pan Sauteed Salmon ($21.99) on their menu. I wasn't sure what else to order and was glad when my enthusiastic server, Phallen, suggested a salad. I decided on the Miso Shrimp Salad - ($15.99 / Half - $12.99), opting for the half size since I was dining alone and was ordering another dish. The Miso Shrimp Salad is made with Shredded Napa cabbage with fresh avocado, julienne cucumbers, edamame, carrots, red cabbage, green onions, cilantro, crispy rice noodles and crispy wontons tossed in a Miso dressing and topped with shrimp. (Diners can substitute chilled-grilled chicken breast for shrimp). This is one terrific salad...refreshing with amazing crunch surprises in my mouth as I chomped on the wontons and rice noodles. This salad was so good I was having a hard time topping myself since I needed to save room for my entree which had just been delivered. It wasn't until I read my earlier write-up on CPK that I discovered I'd eaten the Miso Salad before, which is almost exactly the same salad but with shrimp. This was salad recommended to me by Larry Flax, CPK's co-founder who'd I met at CPK's opening. Flax created the Miso Salad. The shrimp enhanced the saladÉthey don't skimp on shrimp. It is cut up into small chunks and nearly every forkful had some shrimp.

When I moved from the salad to the entree, I was equally impressed with the flavor and quality of the ingredients. This Atlantic salmon is lightly seasoned and pan-sauteed, and accompanied by fresh broccoli and spaghettini in a lemon-caper sauce. I could even have it blackened if I wanted. The salmon was cooked perfectly, with a crisp exterior and moist and juicy on the inside. There was no shortage of capers in the spaghettini, which was coated with that delicious lemon butter caper sauce. I surprised myself by eating nearly everything, leaving just a bit of salad on my plate. Phallen was impressed and told me I did well. I've got to come back to CPK and try some other CPK menu surprises!

Vitale's Italian Ristorante
The Plaza, 2nd Floor
Tumon 646-7692




Mama mia! Talk about food made with amore! This is an eatery one never gets tired of returning to dine! Zee & I were looking to try some different menu items than what we usually have. We ordered the Spaghetti Penne Arrabbiata ($15.95) cooked with Extra Virgin Oil Di Oliva, with garlic, peeled tomatoes, salt, red peppers, parsley and chili powder(SPICY), the GINA Spaghetti ($13.95) Fresh Tomatoes, Garlic and Onions, and a Deluxe Pizza (10" Small - $17.75) with cheese, ham, onions, pepperoni, sausage, green Peppers, mushroom.

The Spaghetti Penne Arrabbiata was not spicy "hot", but was spicy "spicy", with really intense flavors the melded together to orchestrate a crescendo of taste on my palate! It was addictive, with each bite satisfying a craving that seemed to want more. We shared the dishes (as always) and I focused on the Gina, which we ordered without onions. After the Penne, it was a little bland, but still good. We had a few slices of the pizza and we even had a little surprise when Joe Vitale sent a few meatballs in marinara, which were simply divine. I know we had several balutan packages when we left! Like I said, this food is made with amore!

Amista
Ground Floor Ya-Han Bldg. (next to First N Ten)
Anigua
969-3213

Amista Hours:
Monday - 11 AM - 2 PM Dinner-Closed
Tuesday - Friday 11 AM - 2 PM, Dinner: 5:30 - 9 PM
Saturday Dinner 5:30 - 9:00 PM

It's been about a year since I first visited Amista, which is a quaint and cozy restaurant located in a three story building in central Anigua's "Restaurant Row", which at night becomes a "Bar Row." Siam Thai is a neighbor and Big Al's BBQ is across the street. Don't be too put off by the run-down appearance of the building---it's been here for a while and nothing's been done to spruce it up. Amista (which translates from Chamorro, means "fidelity, loyalty"), and it's something that actually is appropriate since the restaurant has built up a "loyal" following of customers who swear by the home-style comfort foods served at Amista. On entering Amista, you'd initially think you were in a cafe with walls filled with interesting art pieces collected on travels throughout Europe and other places. Locally-themed music plays in the background and diners are all engaged in conversations at their tables situated throughout the dining room. When plates are delivered, there's usually an audible exclamation followed by murmurs of joy and appreciation.

I was joined for lunch by my good pare Joe Barcinas(Joe B), who had suggested we go here. He was telling me that Amista had an outstanding salmon dish. Amista had changed a lot since my first visit(they take credit cards now) and they have developed a rather large menu of appetizers, entrees, sandwiches and salads, which is a lot more than the one page menu I'd seen in the past.

We decided to sample our way through the menu by choosing some of their more popular items. We started out with the Marinated Chicken Wings($7.50), which are marinated in Binaklin Tuba and Tossed in a Spicy Wing Sauce (Mild Sauce is also available). We were also brought out two finadene dishes, a soy and a lemon. The wings looked enticing, and we started to eat them. They were a bit vinegary. The Binaklin (coconut vinegar) may have been too concentrated. We managed to finish them since the meat was still good.

The next dish was the Salmon ($12.99). This entree makes a grand entrance on the table as the large Salmon filet is topped with Shrimp Stuffing and Spicy Herb Mayo, and is served on a bed of Tuba Slaw and Steamed Rice(which Joe had substituted for Amista's mashed potatoes). These are really superb potatoes(rich, smooth with pieces of peeled skin). Moreover, they've improved the portioning(originally they were served in a huge pile) now they stack round scoops. The salmon was just as Joe B described. Delicious! The Shrimp stuffing with the spicy herb mayo is one of their creations. It's baked on top and enhances the dish.

We'd ordered the Amista Combo Plate($11.50), which the menu describes as "A Perfect Match of our Smothered Pork Chops and Drunken Chicken Served with Our Homemade Mashed Potatoes and Tuba Slaw". This also was a statuesque and visually impressive entree, and this was made with a scoop of steamed rice and a scoop of mashed potatoes. Amista seasons their pork chops and dip them in a creamy garlic sauce. This is topped with Fajita onions. The chop was really quite tasty. Amista's Drunken Chicken is slow-roasted tuba-marinated chicken topped with a Chardonnay herb sauce. Maybe it was the time of day, but my pieces of chicken were a bit dried out. They looked like beautiful golden roasted chicken pieces, but they may have just cooked out by re-heating. I had to put some finadene on the chicken to kick it up a notch. Finadene is a cure-all condiment!!


The final entree we ordered was even more impressive when it was served (I imagined I'd heard a drum roll and an trumpet announcing the arrival! It was the Amista Burger 2.0 ($11.50) our very own Burger with a choice of Topping (Pulled Pork or Shredded Drunken Chicken). Served with Amista Sweet Potato Wedges. We had this with Pulled Pork on top of the burger. This was a gigantic sandwich, with the burger being served on thick sliced French Bread. The Amista Burger is a perfect mixture of ground beef and chorizo patty, lettuce, and tomato. The 2.0 version is an upgrade for sure!! I don't know how, but we must have asked for thick bacon and cheese, which you can get for $1.00 more. This comes with Purple Sweet Potato Wedges served with a smoked jalapeno dip. Pretty good tasting, too! The burger was char-grilled and really carried a lot of flavor with so much stacked on top and blended within. The pulled pork was moist and savory.

I don't know how we did it, but we did manage to finish our meal. Aside from the vinegary wings and the dried out chicken pieces, the meal was definitely worth repeating. A little tweaking in their cooking process should do the trick. I do have to return to try out a few more of their unique creations. Bon appetit!

Ken

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