October 18, 2013, Volume 13 Number 19
Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Today's newsletter is being written under the possible threat of a power outage due to the fact that Typhoon Francisco will soon be making its nearest approach to Guam. The wind gusts outside are whipping the nearby trees with tropical storm force and it really will be a matter of time for the lights to flicker and finally go out! We will be mindful of this and truncate the newsletter to a smaller edition than the fuller version we'd anticipated sending under normal conditions. We are praying that Typhoon Francisco leaves our island relatively unscathed.
Ken, the Guam Food Guy
W. Soledad Ave.
A picture is worth a thousand words! Just look at this photo of PROA's Big Feller Trio ($14.75). Marvelous, isn't it? The oval mound of moist, flavorful red rice partially obscuring the porcelain ramekin of finadene offers a solid contrast to the salad greens and bronzed stack of Proa's famous BBQ. PROA's red rice isn't just moist and flavorful, it's been perfected as a model of our national starch! PROA's finadene isn't just our local condiment awaiting a rib or chicken dip. It is a bold, exciting, and powerful celebration of fresh made ingredients that stimulate the palate with its sweet, acidic and pika sensations. The red rice and finadene combined are a culinary homing signal to anyone of us who has to travel off island and eventually find our bearings once we've tasted both! Take your first bite of a pork spare rib and there you go! With eyes closed in sheer ecstatic appreciation I don't compare this to our local fiesta bbq. No, it is a completely unique and original bbq flavor made with PROA's own Marianas Glaze! Who knew Beef Short Ribs , Chicken Thighs, and Pork Ribs could taste so good!?? Profs to the special genius and talent of Executive Chef Geoffrey Perez and his extraordinary team of grillmasters. For those of you who don't know the story of PROA's dazzling success, it has much to do with knowing how to captivate the hearts, minds, and bellies of both locals and visitors with compelling, world-class cuisine. It's not quite a 1000-word tribute to this photo of the Big Feller Trio. Suffice it to say this is what you can eat once the lunch specials and lunch service is finished! It this great feast is an idea of what is basically "left over", can you imagine the adventure awaiting you when you order when the kitchen is open? Thank you, Team PROA, for making my late lunch a reflection of a great island culinary legacy!
Ground Floor F&J Bldg
Mangilao (on the way to UOG)
Hours: Mon - Thurs 6 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Friday 6 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Sunday 6 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Ron's Diner is the realized dream of a guy who not only loves to eat, but whose passion is to make others happy eating too! I deliberately listed the hours of operation for Ron's Diner since we made the mistake of going to eat there on Saturday, when they are CLOSED. The bright yellow sign with orange letters spelling out Ron's Diner is visible from any distance or angle from the main drag next to the New Campus Store. Once inside, the yellow and orange color scheme takes up the familiar diner black and white checkerboard motif (I feel right at home since it reflects our Guamdiner motif). Depending on where you are seated, you can see small antique period posters from the 50's era. Pictures of Elvis Presley, the Rat Pack (Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis, Jr.), Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara (Gone with the Wind) and who could forget the talented Don Knotts portraying Deputy Barney Fife, a Mayberry stalwart from the Andy Griffith Show, in his later role heading up the Fife Security Agency. It's true..."Not Much Gets By Him!" Everything on the walls of Ron's Diner is meant to relax and entertain guests, and prepare them for the feast ahead.
The menu of Ron's Diner covers all bases, with something for everyone's preference. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, local, Western, Chamorro, Local, and Vegetarian - that's broadly ambitious and yet owner Ron Fejeran manages to pull it off fairly well!! We waited until the huge crowds from their August 4 Grand Opening had subsided before visiting. Even so, this popular eatery seems to always be busy. We went for breakfast and ordered the 3 Large Fluffy Pancakes ($7.50) with banana slices (other choices were apples or peanut butter). We also ordered the Golden Crispy Waffles ($8.00), with peanut butter and bananas. Finally, since I'd heard so much about it from friends and many on the FB community, I took the plunge and ordered Ron's signature burger, the Ronster Burger ($12.00), which has (2) Char-grillled 9 oz. burger patties with onion rings, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and denanche mayo, with bacon added for an extra $1.00.
While waiting for our food to be served, we watched other diners go gaga over the foods they ordered. The kids at one table had an "Oh My Cheese Sandwich" which seemed to have three slices of Texas toast filled with 3 layers of cheese, with a rash of bacon on top and and egg on the bottom. Another table had a large (super-sized) Corned Beef Fried Rice Omelet ($11.00) that can feed 2 very hungry people. We definitely got the impression that people were definitely getting their money's worth of food whatever they ordered.
The Ronster was the first of our order to arrive. It was even bigger than it looked! It's the first time I'd ever seen a burger with its own shadow!! It was the singularly largest burger ever put in front of me on Guam. It was a piece of burger art. I've always been a burger lover however this was the first time I was defeated by one! After all, I'd started a food program to limit my portions (which I did exceed, even though it was my "cheat day" Sunday). I tried to cut it in half but it was futile since I couldn't grab it with two hands for a bite. I did enjoy the taste of this burger with all the ingredients blended together. The donne mayo had a little burn going on and I soon realized there was no way to finish this and have room for the other foods I needed to eat for breakfast. The burger was cooked close to well done so it was nearing the dry stage. It was a very lean burger which minimized the fat content. I'd like one a little juicier and might try the Classic Burger on a future visit.
The pancakes were quite good. These I'd ordered as my breakfast selection (knowing full well that I'd be taking 2 of the 3 pancakes home as balutan.) Unfortunately, the waffles were disappointing to Zee (she had her hopes up high). They were overly chewy, not crisp as they should be. She tried to eat them but had to settle for the bananas and the side dish of grilled vegetables she'd ordered. I tried the waffles and found them chewy and on the verge of being rubbery. I don't know how or why they turned out this way, but they did. We did inform our server and told Ron as well. That's something they should work on. I'm sure with their quest for quality they'll do this.
For this Sunday breakfast review, we were "comped" a slice of their famous Donne Cheesecake. This was certainly worth the price of admission! As stuffed as I was, eating this was something I felt compelled to do. It was delicious and original. I liked it!!
I made a second visit to Ron's this past week to try some of the the "local" menu items. The lunch special that day was Spaghetti (I took a photo of a guest's order). It sure looked good! I ordered The Chopsteak ($10.00) which has beef stir-fried with cabbage, carrots, celery, bell peppers, and onions. It is served with 2 oversized scoops of white rice (Brown Rice is available on request). This chopsteak was just how I like it and made the way people on Guam are used to eating it! It was very good!
Another dish I ordered was the Chamorro Style Fried Chicken ($9.50), which has golden fried chicken flavored with mustard. I really liked this too. Ron's served a finadene and a kickin' donne dinanche! My gosh is that pika-licious!!
My final item for my lunch trial (don't worry...I had plenty of take-away for tonight) was the Chicken Kadon Pika ($10.00), with plenty of chicken (enough for 2) stewed in a rich broth with onions, garlic, hot pepper, vinegar, and soy sauce. This comes with two big rice scoops. This was very good to eat there (I had a pile of bones going on between the fried chicken and the kadon pika). As with all stews, this one was even better reheated for dinner later since it had time to soak and absorb the rich, spicy flavors.
Ron's has Vegetarian items including Vegetable Lasagna with Ratatouille Herbed Sauce, Vegetable Loaf, a Veggie Burger, and a Mongo Bean Patty. They have a Kids Corner, too. I almost wish I had more life times so I could come back and have a Banana Split or Chocolate Milk Shake or a Float! After all, the Rock & Roll music playing the sound track of my life is a not-so-subliminal message to eat, drink, and eat some more, right? That's got to be the attraction at Ron's Diner! Go to Ron's for a dining experience that'll have you talking to other people! Bring your camera!
Japanese Restaurant Yamato
Near Oka Payless on Farenholt Ave on Sheraton Way
Opened less than two months on the corner of Farenholt and Gov. Carlos Camacho Road (previously known as Camp Watkins Rd), Yamato has boldly announced its presence with a bright neon sign and clean, solid metal framed exterior. Numerous people have asked me about this and one had written and told me that he'd lived in Japan and the food here is good and geared toward local tastes. Once inside, the decor is definitely Japanese, with a sushi counter/bar directly visible from the front entrance. The place is roomy (they even have a function room that seats up to 20 people). There is one amazing aerial photo (enlarged) of the Reef Hotel and Tumon Bay in the background taken in the early 80's, prior to the additions like the Pacific Star (Marriott), Holiday Resort, Hyatt and Outrigger. They also have NHK on a large TV...this certainly lends to the izakaya ambiance.
Yamato has fashioned itself as an Izakaya, much like Green Door (Katsu), Kai, or Ebisu, however, they have a menu that goes beyond in their effort to reach out to locals (one item in their appetizers is called the Guam Style Poki ($7). There are some eye-catching offerings such as Salted Squid Guts ($5) and Beef Guts Stew ($4), along with traditional Edamame ($3), Deep Fried Garlic ($3), and Deep Fried Squid Leg ($7.50). The menu is quite extensive and it took some effort to narrow our selection down to what would be a manageable amount of food to sample. We ordered a hot sake ($7) and a large Asahi ($8) to start. Our server was a perky young lady named Kumiko (Kumi for short), whom I later discovered was the daughter of one of Guam's venerable Japanese chefs, Chef Kanda (Kanda's Corner at Tentekomai). The menu has photos of some of their offerings. I asked about the Yakitori since it looked pretty good.
We ordered the Assorted Sashimi (serving size 2-3 persons) - $16.00. Zee ordered Edamame, and wanted a Daigo Maki ($5). We also ordered the Tofu Steak ($7), BBQ Chicken (2 Yakitori sticks for $6), Fried Chicken ($7, Karaage), and a Spicy Tuna Roll ($7). After the Edamame was served, we received the Tofu Steak. It looked rather promising, sliced into 4 big cubes, smothered with bonito flakes and green onions, and sitting atop grilled onions on a sizzling platter. The tofu itself was disappointing. Once you cut through the crusty exterior, the interior was spongy, which made it difficult to eat. It literally sucked all the moisture out of your mouth. I had to dip it in some of the sauce at the bottom of the sizzling platter to moisten it. Perhaps they need to try a softer, silken tofu.
Served just after the Tofu Steak was my assorted Sashimi plate, which was beautifully presented with the three types of fish layered on perilla leaves atop shredded marinated onions and carrot on a banana leaf. This had a tropical appeal. The wasabi was the tube type. The different sashimi were Kampachi (almaco jack, from Kona, in the same family as yellowtail and amberjack), Maguro tuna, and KariKari (a white fish like hamachi). The sashimi was fresh and I found it quite good. I would have preferred a larger selection, however, this eatery is still new. Need to give them some time.
The Spicy Tuna Roll was brought next. This was also well-presented, with sesame seed, mayo, and chili sauce garnish. The spicy tuna itself was good, however, there was a bit too much rice in the roll for my liking. The Yakitori Chicken sticks were on the right track for me. They were better than many of the others I've had, but I would prefer a little more charring on my chicken. Zee's Daigo Maki simply had too much rice for her. She's used to smaller vegetarian sushi rolls that are made at Ebisu and Kai.
The Fried Chicken was another disappointment. The pieces were well-seasoned and almost looked appealing if not for the amount of grease that was visible. I had to use napkins to absorb the grease off the chicken before eating it. The cook was not cooking them at the right temperature. The oil needs to be higher. I did tell this to Kumiko and she said she'd bring it up to the cook.
I do believe that people will come to like this neighborhood Japanese restaurant that chose to build away from Tumon. It takes time for restaurants to build up their cooking experience and and quality of their food. Kumi's service and energy are gold! I would definitely go back and try other dishes on the Set Menu items. They are open for lunch and dinner. Try something new in Tamuning. Try Japanese Restaurant Yamato!
Ken The Guam Food Guy
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