New Year's Day Traditional Lunch at Issin Japanese Restaurant
Westin Resort Guam
We welcomed the new year by observing a centuries old Japanese custom - eating a bowl of Ozoni, the traditional mochi soup garnished with yuzu peel and mitsuba. Ozoni has the glutinous mochi rice cakes in savory dashi (soup stock) along with mushrooms, carrots (carved into stars), onions, and chicken. The mochi gets grilled in a broiler to soften it up and brown the outside, giving it a distinctive toasted rice taste. The bowls of Ozoni cost $9.00 each. I had made an earlier request to Issin's owner, Tom Iizuka, to have this dish available for us for our New Year's day lunch.
Zee ordered Kitsune Soba (Buckwheat soba Noodle Soup with Fried Tofu - $15) and I decided on Issin's Lunch Special Angus Steak & Shrimp Teppan-yaki ($22.00). We sat a window overlooking a slice of Tumon's beautiful bay where some tourists were already frolicking on the beach below. We sipped sake and marveled at the most gorgeous orchid framed by our window. Our Teppan Chef, Jesse Borja, stopped by and greeted us. We munched on his crispy garlic chips and I savored the medium rare sirloin steak, dipping it into my ponzu sauce. He takes such pride in his work and you can taste it with each bite!
Kanda's Corner at Tentekomai
The Plaza Bayview
It had been some time since we last visited Kanda's Corner and it was fortuitous for us to do so on New Year's Day! Tumon was packed with tourists and this restaurant on the 2nd Floor of the Plaza was jam-packed! We were blessed to find two seats at the counter and were greeted by our old friend, Chef Toshiaki Kanda, who was deftly preparing dishes for the many waiting customers dining that day! I have been a fan of Kanda-san since when he worked at Utage Japanese Restaurant in the Palace Hotel (now Sheraton). He later worked at Aji Hey (now Ebisu) and then at Kai (in Blue Lagoon) before settling down at his special "corner" in the Plaza!
I started out by ordering a few appetizers off the Chef's recommended list (these were some of his specialties). This included the Meibutu Papaya Kinpira ($4.50), which is fried and sweetened strips of papaya), Nanban-Zuke (Deep fried fish seasoned with vinegar and Shoyu ($5.25), and Cha-shyu Pork (simmered sliced pork) $4.50. I also placed the order for one of Kanda's most acclaimed dishes, his Tezukuri-Tofu (house made tofu), which takes about 20 minutes to prepare. Zee ordered a Shoyu Ramen bowl ($8.75), which is one of the adjoining restaurant Tentekomai's specialties. I also placed an order for the Tempura Moriawase ($18.00), which is the assorted tempura plate. Kanda is renown for his tempura expertise, and he has a variety of flavored salts to accompany the tempura he serves. The Nanban-zuke used salmon cubes that had been fried and then drenched in a pickle sauce with cooked onions, then served chilled. These are great with beer.
While we were waiting, Chef Kanda honored us with a beautiful gift of osechi-ryori (traditional Japanese New Year's food) that he had prepared on a small platter. This had kuromame (simmered black soy beans), kurikinton (mashed sweet potato with sweet chestnuts), candied shrimp, Gobo (burdock), and pink and white kamagoko (fish cake) which represent celebration colors. Each dish and ingredient has special meaning and represent such things a good harvest, good health, long life, prosperity, and happiness. Chef Kanda made us happy!!!
The Tempura Moriawase is elaborately served with wheat pasta deep fried into a floral fan shape . This is accompanied by 3 salts for dipping (curry salt, green pepper salt, and a special white salt). Eating his tempura is dreamy, and it's something I need to do more often because it is that good!
The Tofu Pot was brought out steaming hot. I ladled some out for Zee and some for myself, adding a little of the green sansho pepper and shoyu. This is one very delightful tasting experience, as the warm tofu is creamy, rich, and seasoned with the sweet, citrusy pepper and soy sauce. Kanda's been doing this tofu for years and it is one of his other trademarks or claims to fame! He is a true master and he's been an iconic part of Guam's culinary community.
Guam Food Guy's Top 10 Reviews for 2013
These lists are useful in providing an easy-to-follow guide of places to try or may have missed, however, they are by nature limited and don't give a full representation of the many excellent options not appearing on the list. These reviews and/or newsletters are listed in chronological order so their placement is not any indication of ranking. I hope you have the opportunity to experience these places and get a chance to enjoy them as I did! This list also gives us some time of looking back over some of the major culinary events that took place in 2013, some of which were ground-breaking!
Guam Diner Bytes November 29, 2013 - 34th Annual Autumn Festival, Shop Guam/Taste Guam, Who Will Be Saipan's Next Top Chef??, King's Restaurants, GVB's 50th Anniversary Celebration, Sunset Beach BBQ November 29th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 22
Guam Diner Bytes November 15, 2013 - A Gift for Ashley, Taste Guam, Roy Yamaguchi Dinner Exclusive Prix Fixe Dinner, Drop-Off Bar & Grill November 15th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 21
Guam Diner Bytes October 4, 2013 - Happy 20th Hyatt Regency Guam, WACS Pacific Challenge & Salon Culinaire, Somjai House, Pho Cafe Vietnamese Restaurant, Meskla Chamoru Fusion, Japanese Restaurant Iki October 4th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 18
Guam Diner Bytes September 13, 2013 - Brown Bag Cafe, Celebrity Chef's Cup, PIC's New Pacific Fantasies Dinner Show, Mosa's Joint, The Shack, Majesty Chinese Restaurant September 13th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 17
Guam Diner Bytes June 7, 2013 - Hilton Team Reunion, Taste of the Marianas, Hyatt Saipan Sunday Brunch, VIP House Chinese Restaurant, Tokyo Mart, Ruby Tuesday's New Menu Items June 7th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 11
Guam Diner Bytes May 10, 2013 - Chili's Breaks Ground, Guam BBQ Block Party, Toh-Lee Weekly Chinese Buffet, Sweetsnacks, Uncle Paul's Seafood Noodle & Bento House, The Kracked Egg May 10th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 9
Guam Diner Bytes April 26, 2013 - Sanchez WINS ProStart National Invitational!, Songkran Festival, Chopstix - A Japanese Restaurant, Johnny's Ocean View & Grill April 26th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 8
Guam Diner Bytes March 15, 2013 - Russian Romantics, Meskla Features Healthy Choice Items, Ono Hawaiian BBQ & Dessert Bar, Izakaya Katsu Restaurant, Sushi Ebisu, buongiorno Guam at Al Dente Ristorante March 15th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 5
Guam Diner Bytes March 1, 2013 - 15th Annual Arts & Crafts Fair, Terry's Local Comfort Food, Asu Smokehouse, The Shrimp Shack, Oishi! Japanese Curry House, Tropical Blendz, Australian Bee Gees Show March 1st, 2013, Volume 13 Number 4
Guam Diner Bytes January 18, 2013 - Farewell Chef House!, 16th Auction & Wine Tasting Benefit for Girl Scouts, Katya Grineva, MASA RestoLounge, Frost Bite, Papa John's Pizza, The Point Lobby Lounge January 18th, 2013, Volume 13 Number 1 See this newsletter
Ken the Guam Food Guy