Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
When the four teams competing in the recent ProStart High School Culinary Competition waited expectantly to hear the results, there was a notable buzz in the room that I could only describe as group pride! Every student, guest, instructor, administrator, judge, parent, and friend were beaming with pride in what these young culinary students had accomplished this day. It didn't matter what place they finished in - they all finished! I saw all of them as winners and any one of the teams had the capability to take home the first place trophy. It was, however, Simon Sanchez's team that retained the title for the 4th year in a row! You could see the expressions in their faces as they heard of their victory (it was a razor-thin one at that) over Team JFK.
(seated L-R, Vicky Schrage, Sanchez ProStart Instructor, Rhozlyn Javier, Abigail Pineda and Mac Daniel Dimla, Team Captain)
In an hour's time, Team Sanchez put out an appetizer (Crispy Herbed Chicken and Pork Belly "Spring Rolls"), followed by their main course (Moscato Chicken in Cognac-Peppercorn "Jus") and finished with an extravagant dessert (Grand Marnier Chocolate Mascarpone Cheesecake Brule). Their win has the team going to Minneapolis on May 3-5 to defend their National Title at the 13th Annual National ProStart Invitational. What was so wonderful about this competition is that all of the team's participating had the confidence and the belief that they could have gone off to win the title since it has already been done by Team Guam before! This just demonstrates that no goal is beyond our reach if we believe we can attain it! Watching these young people in their dress white uniforms one could not help but marvel at their devotion, commitment, and creativity. Their futures are so bright we all should be wearing sunglasses!!
Ken, The Guam Food Guy
Flash News: Hafa Adai Cafe is Now Open and Serving Dinner!!
Hafa Adai Cafe
Ground Floor Pacifica Plaza
For those awaiting the re-opening of the newly-renovated Hafa Adai Cafe, you have better news than you ever expected! Hafa Adai Cafe (a very popular coffee shop for breakfast and lunch) is now open for dinner (Mon-Fri 5:30 - 9:30) and will also be open on Sundays (6:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.)! When I say "newly-renovated", you will not believe your eyes! Brand new tables and chairs of a quality you will appreciate! Owners Bill and Joey Hon are beside themselves with excitement and pride for their new digs! Let's all congratulate the Hons on their achievement! They are a shining example of how hard work, perseverance, and dedication to serving good quality affordable meals for the whole family translates into success.
13th Annual Reunion and Celebration Izakaya Katsu Restaurant
aka "The Green Door"
3rd Floor Central Building
It's that time of year again when our good and long-time friend Dr. Jonathon Morris, a Portland, Maine-based psychiatrist, makes his 2-week visit to Guam where he volunteers his time at the Department of Mental Health, something he's been doing for over 20 years! Although he usually brings two or more graduate students for in-service training, he was accompanied by Elizabeth Burch, who was so impressed by the Green Door's signature Tofu Steak that we had to order it twice! She's intent on re-producing it when she gets back to the States (good luck!!). Not only did she love the Tofu Steak, she was delighted by the Chicken Salad, Fried Garlic, Fried Shrimp and Katsu's uniquely succulent and savory Ribeye Steak! Dr. Jon always sets up his interns by making "the Green Door Dinner with The Guam Food Guy" on of the highlights of their Guam visit! Of course, I always manage to rise to the occasion and orchestrate my food tour at Green Door with a gleeful panache, though I did spill my soup bowl!! Katsu's owner/manager, Yokho Soma, was the perfect hostess and obliged us again by posing with us for our annual reunion photo! We'll do it again in 2015!
New Italian Chef At Al Dente
Hyatt Regency Guam
Please join us in extending a hearty "Hafa Adai" to Cristiano Pozzi, the new chef de cuisine at Al Dente Ristorante. He has now been on Guam for just over a month and was happy to get a break from Tokyo's chilly winter weather! Of course he'll be much happier when he is joined by his wife, Akiko, and son, Oscar Aguri. Cristiano was born and raised in the Lake Como region in Northern Italy. He was previously Italian Chef at the Mori Building Rippongi Hills Club by Hyatt, sous chef at Armani Ristorante Tokyo, and Chef at Officina di Enrico Tokyo.
We were delighted to make his acquaintance on a Sunday night visit to Al Dente where we were able to watch his young kitchen team work their magic under his guidance. One of the junior chefs was Mac Daniel Dimla, Team Captain for the winning Simon Sanchez HS ProStart team (he was actually an alternate member for the competition held last year when they won 1st Place at the Nationals). I was able to get Chef Pozzi to assemble his team for a group photo. I should also mention that Maravic Capati was a member of that winning team last year! Regine had made the journey to the Nationals the year before! After dinner we were chatting with Chef Pozzi when he informed me that my very good friend and colleague from the Saipan Hyatt Regency, Chef Gabriele Colombo, was in the Hyatt upstairs with his family. He later joined us, making our evening more memorable!
Since we are talking about the Hyatt, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate our good friend Sophia Chiu Wigsten on her promotion to General Manager. She is the first local and lady General Manager! We are all so very proud of her achievement...she has worked many years and there is no one better qualified or suited!
King's Lenten Specials - Amazing Parrot Fish Creations
Guam Premier Outlets
You better pinch yourself because what I'm about to tell you may not seem real!! You can pinch me too!! The other day I had one of the tastiest Fried Parrot Fish meals in a very very long time! It was one of King's Lent Menu Entrees, and I had it at the Compadres Mall location. It was the Tinaktak Parrot Fish (a Lapu-Lapu version is also available) and is priced at $16.99. It is described as "Deep freid Whole Parrot Fish or Grouper with a generous helping of vegetables in coconut milk sauce with spices." I should have paid more attention since I could have ordered brown rice in lieu of the two scoops of white rice that comes with the meal. No matter, it's not about the rice...it's all about the fish!
When I first saw my Parrotfish straddling my platter, I was taken aback by its visual perfection! The light golden hue gave way to a crispy crunch with white steaming meat just below the surface. I took a bite and then one that I dipped in the tinaktak sauce. My, oh my, was that ever good! The green beans and onions and what may have been pumpkin thrilled my palate...I even tried some fish with the lemon finadene (which I usually like) and it barely stood up to this supremely tasty tinaktak! My server, Dee, came by and saw me elbows deep in my fish and I remember telling her how fantastic this was! It was definitely a keeper and I certainly didn't hesitate in communicating that fact to friends and colleagues. I was so impressed by this (and other improvements at King's) that I introduced myself to the manager, Frank Solomon, who had returned to Guam from the Mainland, and relayed my positive experience to him. Frank is a seasoned professional and definitely up on his game. I told him I wanted to personally compliment the cook and found out it was Victor, to whom I gave a personal shout out from the entrance to the kitchen!
It gets better! Today I had another late lunch (when you miss all the local specials), this time at the GPO Location. I decided to order a couple of things to get a variety. From the Lent Menu, I ordered a Half Order ($6.75) of the Salmon and Shrimp Fried Rice (full order is $9.50). This has tender crispy salmon flakes and whole shrimp (they say "sweet pieces" but the shrimp are more than just pieces!). The half portion was more than enough for me and I sampled this rice creation and again was impressed by the freshness, fluffiness, and tastiness of this rice...not dried out fried rice like were now getting in other places!
I also ordered the Lemon Ginger Herb Whole Parrot Fish ($16.99). The menu advertises "This tender white fish flakes right off the bone with citrus, ginger and rosemary accents." Hey, isn't this King's? When this bad boy arrived it was wrapped in thick steaming foil which was bigger than the platter. I opened this up and after the steam wafted away I gazed upon a surprisingly appealing gourmet-grade seafood extravaganza! This was definitely beyond my experience and expectations. As I took bite after bite I became convinced that there was a culinary revolution going on at King's, and that someone is blazing a new trail and direction in the kitchen! Though the fish was not as big as my fried parrot fish from the other day, it had oodles of flavor and richness, with lemon slices, chopped tomatoes and onions that really took this fish to a new and different level! Rosemary and not dill? No worries...rosemary worked just fine alongside the ginger. Tasty!!
Now I am not just tempted to try other Parrot Fish creations, I am COMPELLED! They offer a "Pika" de Gallo Gadao or Parrot Fish (with their signature pico de gallo finadene), a Spicy Garlic Grouper or Parrot Fish (with a generous helping of seriously spicy donne and garlic fish sauce), and finally a Kimchee Mayo Whole Parrot Fish or Gadao (flaky white fish poached in a delicious creamy kimchee garlic mayo). I haven't even gotten to the Crispy Parrot Fish Filet Sandwich or their Parrot Fish and Chips (both $8.99)! They ought to make some of these standard menu items!
King's is on a roll and I'm a tumblin' with 'em! It's about time!!
Rt 10 A Tiyan Parkway East
The time to go to Papa's had come! There's something about that name that offers comfort. Think about it..."come to Papa's"...makes you want a hug! Papa's had been open for over 3 months and I wanted to wait until things settled there and they worked out their service and operational issues, which is something all new restaurants experience. Well in the case of Papa's, they had a lot more to overcome than just being a new restaurant. They had to deal with the high expectations and pre-conceptions of a dining public looking for a fine-dining steakhouse. I am glad I waited until I did since I was able to come to the conclusion that all of the negative comments I had heard should not deter me from finding out for myself. I also believe that I can honestly recommend Papa's as a place with amazing possibilities and outcomes.
For my review I was joined by two colleagues, Mark L. and Jo-Anne Q., both of whom have been expanding their culinary diversity by hanging out with me (not sure if it's going to be good for their diets!). It's best to have others share a meal of this magnitude as it gives us the opportunity to sample a variety of their menu selections. The first thing you notice about Papa's when you walk through their entranceway is the warm feeling you get when greeted by a smiling face, or two, or three! They have learned the secret Sam Walton came across by having effective greeters at his Walmart stores. The floor on the entranceway has a beautiful inlaid compass rendering, which can symbolize the many directions you can take as you take a culinary tour of Papa's menu.
The dining room is enormous and spacious, almost hall-like, with a distance spanning over a hundred feet to the back wall. Then there's the window with that unparalleled panorama of Guam like you've never seen before unless you are flying or sitting in a seat at Papa's! Gosh...it is breathtaking and no one can deny that this key strategic attraction in this restaurant's arsenal of features. I've been here long enough to remember the sense of empowerment one would get from dining at the Top of The Reef! Well Papa's overlooks the Reef and all of the others lining the horizon! I could come here just for the view! I will even be sure to make a reservation for a window seat when I'm looking to treat my lady to a romantic evening! An aqua marine canal spans the entire length of the oceanview window and outside deck and emanates a spa like aura! A magical design element!
It is also apparent that a considerable investment was made to furnish and accouter the interior, including the vast amount of woodwork, light fixtures, doors, and paneling. It is well -constructed and has a sophisticated, yet inviting appeal...comforting and not off-putting in the way some fine dining restaurants can behave. This place has a genuine desire to welcome all, young and old, and more to the point, families! There is an entire section of the restaurant that can accommodate some of Guam's larger family groups, some of which roll pretty deep! Another room has the most amazing lounge with a long bar (good for watching sporting events, something the owners value). The night of our review was on a Wednesday, so it was a rather light evening with many people opting to go to Chamorro Village's Night Market. It is possible that a full house would significantly ramp up the acoustics!
Well enough of the "fluff"...let's get to the "stuff"! We started off with some Pellegrino and Pinot Grigio for the appetizers we ordered, which included the Steamed Manila Clams ($10) - cooked with Chinese Sausage, Anise Butter, Pickled Onions and comes with Grilled Bread. We also ordered (on our server Danny's recommendation) the Watermelon Salad ($9), that features confit cherry tomatoes, Mozzarella and cucumber dressing. This truly refreshes and surprises the palate - something everyone should try.
We ordered the Calamari Fries ($9) that are drowned in a sweet chili glaze on a bed of cabbage slaw. We were told by Danny that we could order this appetizer with the chili sauce on the side. I wasn't too fond of these...the texture didn't appeal to me as I'm used to more crunch to my chew. The shredded Cabbage Slaw on this dish is a winner that would make anything better!
The Achote Corndogs ($13) are made with lobster sausage and tobiko aioli. This is almost a "you gotta be kidding me" dishes, however, not only does it play on our childhood love of the old corndogs, it jumps it up a notch with an intriguing blend of flavors that leaves you craving for another bite.
Being a wing fanatic I had to try their Honey Sesame Wings ($9) that are cooked with Roasted Peanuts and Scallions. I liked the rich flavor of these wings, and would rather have more "heat" than sweet!
For the main course, Jo Anne opted for the Grilled Rack of Lamb ($43), which boasts 2 double cut portions, and served with 2 sides and 1 sauce. Papa's, like a true steak house offers diners a choice of tasty sauces including Papa's Steak Sauce, Green Peppercorn Sauces, Bearnaise Sauce, Maple Jus, Porcini Cream, Chimichurri Sauce. The Rack of Lamb was quite good...cooked medium and succulent. I had my portion with my green peppercorn sauce. I think the other sauce was Papa's.
Mark had the Guihan Palakse', Steamed Parrot Fish "Nizakana" Style ($23), served with blistered peppers, shimeji mushrooms and chili oil. This simmered dish is also an unusual and enticing treatment for our parrotfish. Nice!
I should mention that some of the sides we shared included Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Roasted Garlic Potato Puree, Truffle French Fries, and Veggie Fried Rice. Though all of these were palatable and good tasting complements to the entrees we shared, the Truffle French Fries were the biggest hit...exciting our palates in an addictive way!
My choice for the main course was the Prime Porterhouse ($65), which was 24 oz. of Prime Certified Angus Beef. I ordered this medium rare and when it came out and I sliced through it was just slightly over-done, still pink with some red meat. However, the flavor and the taste of the steak was what one expects from this highly regarded and regulated steak. Where so many other steaks are okay, this steak gives you that "a ha!" experience! I ate this (and shared some) and still had plenty enough left over for a breakfast a few days later. I re-thermalized it and fell in love with it all over again (had that delectable green peppercorn sauce).
As much as we enjoyed our wining and dining, I want to give kudos to the service team (our server Danny was there most of the time) and when he wasn't he was covered by other team members. It seemed that we just had to think about something and someone would show up...must be some new kinds of telecommunication service! Also, I wanted to honor and acknowledge Papa's Executive Chef Ted Cipollone, whose inventive creations are show-cased throughout the menu. This restaurant was like a blank canvas, and the Executive Chef is the culinary artist tasked with the job of creating memorable masterpieces. Based on what we tasted, I'd say he's done a pretty decent job and I believe things will get even better. Finally, the man who needs no introduction to most of Guam's masses is Frank Toves, General Manager, who is a reputable foodservice manager with a lot of local connects...Frank is definitely the impresario who can energize an F&B team! The prospects for Papa's are better than good as it is a vision based on the love for food and family...something intrinsic to the foundation of this restaurant. It's no franchise. It's a local landmark.