Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Happy July 4 Independence Day!! I guess the appropriate thing to say is to "batten down the hatches" as Hurricane Arthur is battering the North Carolina coastline while in our neighborhood we are keeping an eye on the soon to be developed Tropical Storm Neoguri which will just dampen some of the July 4 weekend activities planned. It's not often when we have simultaneous storms covered by local and national news! Speaking of covering, today's newsletter edition covers a long list of topics so we'll get right into it!
Ken the Guam Food Guy
2nd Annual BBQ Block Party
July 5, 2014
San Vitores Road
Pleasure Island, Tumon
5:30 - 10:00 p.m.
Talk about an exciting must-attend event! GVB is doing a repeat of its successful signature BBQ Block Party grilling competition that was attended by thousands of savory barbecue-chomping spectators who attended last year's inaugural event ! Some of the island's top grillmasters will once again be strutting their stuff in a competition that will put some hard cash in the top finisher's pockets! This year's event fulfills one of the dreams hatched last year which was to have international chefs join in the competition. The Micronesian Chefs Association, which is organizing the BBQ Competition, has played host to award-winning Russian Chef Choloaki Georgi and his assistant, Chef Grigorev Roman, both from Vladivostock, as well as to Korean Chef Tae-Hyun Lee (from Incheon). This will definitely broaden the scope of the competition and add some firepower to marketing to our emerging tourist markets. We welcome the internationalization of our culinary culture and see this as a first step in expanding this event to even more international participation. The Block Party will feature bbq you can sample and bbq plates you can purchase, beverages, cultural performances, live music, other food, and products sold by local vendors. It'll be easy to find...just take a trolley to Tumon and follow the smoky aroma of the barbecue grills!
Lotte Hotel Guam Opens
(former Hotel Okura and Aurora Resort Guam)
The grand opening gala welcoming Guam's newest luxury hotel on Monday, June 30, was a grandiose affair attended by island dignitaries, officials, members of the local business and hospitality community, and a high-level delegation from Hotel Lotte Co., Ltd., including its President and CEO, Yong-Dok Song. The Lotte Hotel Guam has 222 rooms, an international cuisine buffet called La Seine (after the Parisian river), the Crystal Ballroom, a Fitness facility, and private cabanas. It is really a remarkable renovation which completely modernizes the previous property as we knew it. The buffet food served in the Crystal Ballroom for the gala impressed the guests with its freshness, diversity, and taste. If they sustain this level of food service, they will be definitely be a favorite dining destination for foodies! The cost of the renovation was significant, and enough was spent on it to almost build a new hotel! We want to wish the staff and management of the Lotte Hotel Guam much success in becoming one of our quality resort destinations.
Sushi Ebisu Japanese Restaurant Moving to New Location
San Vitores Road
Sushi Ebisu is closed down temporarily until they complete their move down the street to their new location on the 2nd Floor of the Royal Orchid Hotel in the previous location occupied by Singapura. The last night of business in their quaint familiar izakaya-sushi bar was Saturday, June 28. They are looking to open in early August. Sushi Ebisu is famous for their unique and flavorful American-style sushi rolls, their lunch specials, and a menu full of delicious traditional Japanese favorites. Guests could relax and enjoy the smooth jazz being played all during the dinner service. Ebisu's owner, Fumiya "Fumi" Nakamura and wife, Rie, have built a large following of loyal customers in their nearly 7 years of business. They will be offering a breakfast service (Japanese style) after they complete their move. They will still be open for lunch and dinner. We will keep you posted on when they will open and will be writing about their new digs! They are one of our favorite places to eat!
(in the photo , L-R, is Chef Ito (Chef Fumi's new sushi chef) and Owner Chef Fumiya Nakamura)
Chef Roy Yamaguchi Returns to Roy's
July 11 - 12, 2014
Hilton Guam Resort & Spa
We are all excited and looking once again to savoring the wondrous creations of celebrity chef Roy Yamaguchi, one of the founders of the Hawaiian Regional Cuisine movement and cuisine known as Pacific Rim Fusion. Two special dinners with wine tasting will be held next Friday and Saturday. We applaud Chef Roy's imaginative use of fresh local ingredients and his insistence on optimizing the sensory elements of taste, appearance, aroma, and texture. The first night (July 11) will offer a six-course menu with wine pairings and the 2nd night offers an a la carte menu as well as a seven course menu. Chef Yamaguchi never disappoints and always surpasses one's expectations! Make your reservation NOW!
GAX VII Guam Art Xhibit
The 2nd Floor of The Plaza (above DNA Evolution)
You will be amazed at the diversity and quality of art work created by Guam's local art community at the GAX VII (Guam Art Xhibit) being held now through the 26 in Tumon's The Plaza. From the opening event last night, which held the premiere viewing of a locally-produced film, "Talent Town", and continuing throughout the month will be a number of events including Live Art Night(July 5), B-Boy night (July 11) and Portrait Night (July 17), and Jazz Night (July 26), visitors can view the variety of creative works displayed on the walls, floors, stands, and doors...there is definitely some serious artistic talent on this island! I remember the very first GAX which was held in a small 15' x 15' space! Now there are over 50 artists (painters, sculptors, photographers, multi-media producers, live art, spoken art, and art in nearly every shape, size and color!). There is also a famous Street Artist (aka graffiti artist) named Tristan Eaton, who is commissioned to create a giant mural on the wall of the Plaza just north of the SandCastle. I saw the beginning of the mural as Tristan was spray-painting (in broad daylight) 50 feet up in a bucket lift! I only hope the weather cooperates with his ambitious project...it really looked fantastic when I saw it on Thursday. Just get down to Tumon during this month and check out the awesome artwork on display...it'll lift your spirits and make you proud!
Pika's Cafe Breakfast Treats
Monday - Saturday 7:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.
Star Building (across from St. John's School)
There probably aren't many people who haven't been to Pika's Cafe, or at least those who have tried to eat at Pika's Cafe! Yes, it's that much in demand and, yes, the food is terrific, and yes, it is worth the wait so bring a book or an iPad with a full battery charge!! We stopped by Pika's on a Saturday morning, and though I had dropped by a half-hour prior to Zee's joining me, we still waited another 20 minutes for a table to clear. I had been craving Pika's Benedict Dela Cruz but they've since changed it to Benedict Chamorro ($11.50), which is fine by me...after all it is the spicy Chamorro sausage that I wanted with my poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. I also opted for the fresh spinach and tomato add-on for $1.50 more, plus a side of bacon ($1.50). You can't go wrong with this combination of flavors, including the sauteed red potato wedges.
Zee had ordered the Vegan Rancheros ($12), which had soy chorizo & Guam tofu scramble, black beans, grilled red potatoes, ranchero sauce and tortillas. She also asked for lana (pronounced lahn-ya) sauce for an additional kick. I didn't even taste hers as I was so engrossed in my selection. As we finished we were offered a sampler of the Kahlua French Toast ($8) with caramelized bananas (add $3). Boy was this sweet and decadently delicious....will have to try it when I need a sugar boost!
I did return to Pika's on a Thursday morning after doing my water aerobics at the Westin. Guess what? It was 8:35 a.m. and no line, no wait! I was seated immediately and ordered the other great Pika's Cafe eggs benedict original, Salmon Benedict ($13), which has all of the same delicious ingredients to which I added the spinach and tomatoes, as well as my bacon side. I did eat this rather filling meal (they really give you large portions of salmon), and satisfied my Pika's benedict craving for now. My favorite version --- the Benedict Chamorro! I just love how the Chamorro sausage flavors every bite. Go to Pika's for breakfast or lunch...whatever you get, you'll probably want again!!!
Avenue Steak & Lobster
The Outrigger Guam Resort
Lunch 11 a.m. -2:00 p.m. 7 days
Dinner 6 - 10 p.m. 7 days
What a difference a great steak makes, or should I say, a great steak tradition and brand! Yes, the magic word and name is CAB• or Certified Angus Beef•, which is an assurance that the meat you eat has incredible flavor, is both tender and juicy, with incredible marbling. I start out his review with these comments because I have experienced a before and after with this restaurant (under previous ownership) and now with a new owner/operator. The previous steak experience I had never received a written review on Guamdiner. The steak I've had at Avenue recently literally had me howling with glee (slight exaggeration) but I was definitely raving to those within hearing distance.
Avenue also has made another change besides ownership. They have changed chefs, and now have leading their experienced culinary team a dynamic young culinary visionary who'd been raised on Guam, left the island, went to a culinary school in San Diego and had cooked at Roy's there. He later cooked Pacific Rim style cuisine in Springfield, Mass., His name is Lingo Quichicho, and I am impressed with what he has done with a new menu (one that actually represents a steak house menu), as well as his ability to restore confidence in what is and should have been a bona fide, high quality steak house. The new owners have extensive restaurant ownership and management experience. They are my long-time friends Tom and Magi Kallingal. They have owned K-Steak House, K Seafood, Seafood Chef, and Maharani Indian Restaurant. It's an ideal combination of talents and experience, and the results are evident in the food you eat!
I want to start with lunch as I did stop by twice for lunch and once for dinner. Avenue Steak & Lobster was previously known as La France, which was an elegant, fine-dining restaurant with European and American cuisine with a primary market being wedding receptions for Japanese tourists. They were open for dinner, with a breakfast and lunch service as well. The view from the ornate, bird-cage rotunda dining room reveals the life pulse of San Vitores Road below. The adjoining dining room is elegant but lacks the majestic view. For my first lunch visit I had the Pepper Steak ($24), which had a New York Steak with Black Peppercorn Sauce, Garlic Fries, Mushroom Salad , and Demi-glace. The steak was good and worth the money. If you prefer something lighter, they do have Salads (the B-L-T, Grilled Chicken Cob, Caesar, as well as sandwiches, including Hoisin Glazed Short Rib, Herb Crusted Rare Tuna, Cali Steak, and a Teriyaki Burger.)
On my 2nd visit, I was joined by a work colleague and we shared two fabulous dishes, the Shrimp Curry ($18.50) and the Chamorro BBQ Shortribs ($18.50). The Shrimp Curry was not hot spicy, but it was flavorful, with authentic Indian spices, coconut milk and cilantro. It comes with steamed white rice and red bell pepper and broccoli. There are a fair number of plump juicy shrimp (enough to share). I marveled (as did my colleague) at the tasty rich flavor combinations in that curry sauce. Yumm!!!
The Chamorro BBQ Shortribs surprised me with their portions, which I considered large as they were boneless and meaty. There were two ribs and they were perfectly grilled. The red rice and finedene definitely verified it's localness! Chef Lingo's grilled vegetables enhanced this even more with red and yellow bell peppers, and mushroom, also grilled, and cauliflower and broccoli. Believe it or not, I was full already and we still had some food remaining!
Our dinner was really the game-changer for us. We were served by Gilbert Matienzo, a capable and experienced veteran of the restaurant. We had a lot to order and were joined by Magi in our sampling. We ordered the Classic Caesar Salad ($7), Scallops ($15), Tuna Tartare ($13), Potato & Leek Soup ($8), Pan-Seared Salmon ($35), Combination New York and Lobster Tail ($49), Rosemary Rack of Lamb ($35), and were later surprised with one of Chef Lingo's dessert creations, a deconstructed funnel cake (not on the menu yet).
The Caesar was perfectly blended and made...everything you wanted in a Caesar with the exception that it wasn't made in front of you! The Scallops had creamy leeks with a balsamic reduction. The leeks reminded me of a hot slaw and my only suggestion was that there should be more balsamic reduction and maybe a little more salt to enhance the flavor. The scallops were fresh and firm.
The Tuna Tartare is one of those epicurean delights, made with scallions, onion, tobiko, pine nuts, and roasted red pepper aioli. The colorful presentation was appealing. After a few bites, we realized that just a few drops of squeezed lemon juice brought an acidity that sweetened and enhanced the taste.
The Potato and Leek Soup was quite good and had scallions and truffle oil (which elevates any soup or sauce). Zee's Pan Seared Salmon had potato, fennel creamed leeks, celery and chowder sauce. It was a full plate of wonderful goodies and I regret not having any more than a piece of the salmon which was quite good.
While we waited and sipped on the Mondavi Private Selection Merlot, I watched a constant procession and flow of servers carrying plateful after plateful of steak and lobster (live lobster) to tables throughout the restaurant. The agents who have brought these tourists know that they are getting a great fine dining experience at Avenue Steak & Lobster. This was definitely not a ramen night for these tourists!!! I was wrestling with my main course and was wavering between a Porterhouse ($45, for 16 oz.) and a New York 8 oz and Lobster Tail. Magi kept urging me to try the Angus Beef Tenderloin 6 oz. and Half Live Lobster ($70 on the Pre-Fixe four course menu). I didn't know why she was trying to convince me until later.
I did get my New York Steak with Demi Glaze, a beautiful lobster tail (perfectly cooked with the right texture) grilled vegetables, and potatoes gratin (excellent, with some melted cheese). I asked for a Medium Rare steak and I got it! Great! I was working on eating this when Magi asked me to try a bite of her Filet Mignon. She cut me a chunk and I sliced a piece of this (it was fork tender!) and I took a bite. WOW!! EUREKA!!! It was steak Nirvana! How could this filet deliver so much juiciness and flavor in one bite!?? I knew I had to have this on my next visit! She said it was their most popular and now I fully and completely understood why! Certified Angus Beef at its best!!
As this was a night full of tasting, I was glad we were able to get to sample Avenue's Rosemary Rack of Lamb (8 oz), which is something I have become quite partial to enjoying lamb. This was served with a delicious Parmesan polenta (though the menu said Potato). It had a delightfully fresh cooked Kale that was magical, and the chops had a tomato ragout and demi glace with mushrooms. The lamb chops were cooked medium and were very flavorful. We ate as many as we could!!
Magi wanted us to meet one of her long-time employees who she calls the grill queen because if anyone could cook any steak to perfection, she is the one. Her name is Sandy Delgado and she is one proud grillmaster! I captured her in a photo with Magi Kallingal and Executive Chef Lingo. We finished the night with one of Chef Lingo's dessert experiments - a deconstructed funnel cake, with caramel apples and vanilla ice cream! Oh my...a delightful treat and not at all greasy as funnel cakes tend to be! This was light & airy!
Well, folks, I've written a very favorable review of Avenue Steak and Lobster. They haven't done much in the way of advertising and promotion, and still have some more fine-tuning to do. I know that I will return to eat a fabulous meal - and I use the word "fabulous" to describe the the total experience: service, price, quality, taste, and ambiance! This place gets both thumbs up high!
Ken The Guam Food Guy