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August 15, 2014, Volume 14 Number 17

Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,

One of the benefits of living on a tropical island is that you don't get the same sense of seasons changing as you do in the States. There's little difference in climate between summer, spring and fall, and our winter usually is cooled down by trade wind activity. What's interesting about winter is how many people leave Guam in search of snow and cold weather, especially those who love to ski. Cold weather also evokes the need to eat hearty, stick-to-your ribs food. I make this allusion to hearty foods as that's been a common perception about Russian cuisine and I can honestly say that my experience at Izba Russian Fusion Restaurant has changed some of my perceptions about Russian food. You can read about my culinary education in today's review of Tumon's (and Guam's) only Russian restaurant.

I also want to take this opportunity to welcome a new restaurant to Hagatna. It is called 9th Street Rotary and is co-owned by Chef Mark Duenas. 9th Street is a casual restaurant with an Asian flair, according to a press release issued by the Farm To Table Guam Project, who helped Duenas in establishing the business. I am looking forward to my visit (it's a little hard to find, and near the Legislature). They are open for Lunch & Dinner Monday - Saturday, and their phone # is 472-8862. Thanks to entrepreneurs like Mark, we will never run out of places to eat! Good luck!!

Ken The Guam Food Guy

Happy Birthday Gordon Mizusawa!!

The Micronesian Chefs Association celebrated the occasion of MCA Secretary Gordon Mizusawa's birthday during the recent monthly membership meeting held at Meskla Chamoru Fusion Bistro. Gordon has played a key role in the growth and development of the MCA on Guam and internationally. We congratulate Gordon on his special life anniversary, which was celebrated in style with his food industry colleagues.

Meskla Chamoru Fusion Bistro Sneak Peek
Hagatna (Near Big Hook & IBSS)

I had the opportunity to do lunch at Meskla over a week ago and tried out an item from their new dinner menu. I have to mention this because it was so good it not only made my day, it made my week (until I went to Saipan)!. It was their Dinanche Glazed Smoked Double Cut Pork Chops ($22.95), which is a tender bone-in 1 Lb brined and quick smoked pork chop, flash grilled and finished in the oven, brushed with a boonie pepper butter and service with a chorizo butter sauce. I had this served with red rice and sauteed vegetables. The mushroom coconut gravy is a great companion to this plated meat feast, which is addictively delicious, bite after juicy - spicy - savory bite! The new menu features some new seafood (ocean catch) items including Sea Salt Salmon, Shrimp Hash Crusted Snapper, Fresh Pacific Spiny Lobster, and an Olive Oil Pan Seared Snapper that's listed on their "Paleo Diet Menu". I can't wait to sit down and eat my way through Meskla's new menu.

Speaking of "new" at Meskla! We'd like to congratulate Meskla's new Executive Chef, Ernie Merfalen, who is heading up the culinary team at this famous Hagatna bistro. Ernie's come full circle, having worked at Sam Choy's while Meskla's Corporate Chef, Peter Duenas, was head chef under Sam. Chef Ernie has already impressed the chefs at the recent MCA membership meeting!

Uffizi Gallery Virtual Museum Now Open
August 10 - Sept 13
2nd Floor (Underwater World Complex)
The Plaza in Tumon

The Guam Honorary Vice-Consul of Italy, Roberto Fracassini with the Rotary Club of Northern Guam in collaboration with Mr. Takayuki Morioka, Director of Digital Image Systems, Hitachi Ltd., Japan hosted the official opening of the Uffizi Gallery Virtual Museum at Underwater World Complex, 2nd Floor, Tumon on Sunday August 10, 2014 at 6:00pm. The Uffizi Gallery Virtual Museum is a traveling museum that showcases life-size replicas, touch-screen navigation of art pieces, and a digital theatre from August 10 through September 13 from 10:00am to 8:00pm.

The project features 10 life-size replicas of works by Italian Art Masters utilizing the finest and most detailed technologies in the presentation of notable works by Da Vinci, Botticelli, Raffaello, Caravaggio and other Italian Renaissance artists. Visitors will also have the capability to experience an intricate view of 92 other works from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Fracassini, in collaboration with Hitachi Digital, the University of Florence, Centrica of Florence and Polo Museale of the City of Florence, Italy are making it possible to experience these masterpieces that would otherwise never be possible without the technology. It has always been Fracassini's dream to share his culture with island residents, "it's a perfect time to showcase this special exhibition, 2013 has been designated the Year of the Italian Culture in the United States, what a great way to share my home with Guam," he said.

The Uffizi Gallery Virtual Museum presentation is a nonprofit cultural exchange event, "Bridge Continents-Connect Cultures" is the theme for the exhibit of Italian Renaissance Art and Guam's Modern Day Art. The exhibit will be on display from August 10 to September 13th, at the 2nd floor, Underwater World complex, Tumon (across from the DFS Galleria).

Buffet Dining at La Seine
Lotte Hotel Guam

It's a brand new dining experience at La Seine, Lotte Hotel Guam's signature restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets to hotel guests and local residents. One can't help but be impressed by the ultra-modern food displays and interior design of this restaurant, which bears no resemblance to the coffee shop located there previously. We had an opportunity to stop by for lunch one day (Lunch buffet cost $28 and dinner is $40) and were dazzled by the spectacular view of Tumon that stretches across the window wall of La Seine. Although the name is the same as the famous river in Paris, the cuisine is international. There are live cooking and prep stations for sushi, sashimi, pasta, soups (noodle), tempura, carving, and Mongolian stir fry. Be sure to save room for their glamorous desserts...they are attractively created and don't disappoint. One thing that's evident is the freshness and quality of ingredients. They are making a strong effort to put their best foot forward. I was also quite pleased to see so many former GCC culinary students manning the prep and cooking stations. We had intended to stop by for one of their nightly theme dinner buffets but were unable to prior to publication. They are completely ready to serve morning, day, and night. Welcome to La Seine!

Izba Fusion Russian Restaurant
(Across from PIC)
Hours: 12:00 noon - 10:00 p.m daily

Since their opening in January of this year, Izba Fusion Russian Restaurant has seen a steady rise in traffic as customers (both Russian visitors) and local residents walk in to this chic and modern designed restaurant that has an understated charm. For locals, it has to really be a curiosity to venture out and try Russian cuisine. I had wanted to visit Izba but wanted to wait until they were "ready" (or as close to ready) as they could be. I also wanted to get a Russian perspective on the food at Izba so we (Zee & I) made a date with our friend, Vasili Mladinov, who has Guam Voyage (a Russian tour company) and also jumps out of planes at Sky Dive Guam! Joining our dinner were work colleagues, Mark and Aileen. We also were joined by Natalya Burykina, owner of Izba. Natalya was a most gracious and entertaining hostess and we communicated with Vasili's translations . The dinner conversation was quite animated and we literally broke bread as we shared a closeness one can only find around a happy dinner table. The word "Izba" means a small wooden chalet, which made our experience more intimate and homey.

We ordered a wide variety of food selections, which I thought would be the best way to appreciate the breadth and scope of Izba's menu offerings. We focused on the key Russian entrees. The first thing we tried were Piroshki, which were delicious soft warm rolls with a jelly filling. Piroshki often have meat or something savory inside, so the jelly was a treat. These are baked fresh every day!

Next to arrive was Olivie ($8.00), which is a Russian home-style salad served cold with eggs, potatoes, carrots, chilled beef, and pickles. This was formed in a mold and garnished with parsley. The flavors were rather muted, yet you could distinguish each ingredient. The Smoked Salmon slices ($7.00) we had as an appetizer.

We had ordered Shashlik ($18), which is Marinated Pork Loin Grilled with Vegetables and Potatoes. This has a dramatic "grilled" presentation as it comes in a foil wrapper and the meat is quite good. The cauliflower, green onion, bell pepper, broccoli, zucchini, and tomato were all grilled perfectly. Of course, mashed potatoes were as they should be - prevalent throughout the meal although rice was an option!

Natalya had ordered a Greek Salad ($13) which we shared. It had the usual Feta cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, olives, and peppers, but also had basil and walnuts, giving it a different spin. Again, all ingredients were very fresh and delighted the palates with their crunchiness.

What would a Russian meal be without Beef Stroganoff? That was what arrived next to everyone's delight. It's always been a favorite food for many and Izba's Beef Stroganoff ($19), doesn't disappoint. It had thinly sliced beef rib eye sauteed with onions and mushrooms with a cream sauce and mashed potatoes. We were sharing these dishes and I'm glad we did because I could have tackled this one alone!

The next two dishes were the Pelmini with Bouillon ($8.00), which is a Russian style dumpling made with ground beef and pork, served in a savory bouillon. The other version of the Pelmini was served out of the broth in a bowl, and you would add sour cream on top. Pelmeni are often called Siberian dumplings - maybe because they could be made up and put outside where they would remain frozen until you needed them. They are akin to pot stickers, dim sum and pierogies.

Finally we were served the Borsch (which we had ordered earlier, but the order was somehow mixed up and the soups came delayed and without much temperature). Borsch is the traditional Russian soup made with beets, carrots, cabbage, onions, and garlic, then simmered in a meat bouillon. This gets served with sour cream and bread. A higher temperature would have melted the sour cream, however, the flavor of the broth and taste of the ingredients was exquisite. This comes in a large size ($8) and a small one ($5). The bread we had was fresh baked rye, which was notably delicious. It was then that we found out that our old friend Chef Joe Borja was baking his great breads there!

Unfortunately, we didn't have an intermission so the food kept coming out! Next was the Golubtsy (Cabbage Roll- $11.00), which has fresh ground meat and rice rolled in a steamed cabbage then baked in a homemade sour cream and tomato sauce. This was another great surprise! I liked these ingredients and have always enjoyed cabbage. A little more salt enhanced the flavors.

Our final entree was one I had really anticipated having when I'd ordered it! It was the Chicken Tabaka ($17.00). The description alone sells this dish! "Young Chicken Fried under a press with garlic sauce and served with mashed potatoes"! Doesn't that sound appealing? By this time in the dinner, everyone else had slowed down and I was able to enjoy the lion's share of this grilled fowl!

It would not have been right if we left without trying dessert - Blinis were brought out! These Russian pancakes or crepes are a royal Russian breakfast/dessert, and are best when eaten with sour cream, honey, and jam. Of course these were eaten and enjoyed by all...they are light and people love a little honey in their lives!

We were very well served by the staff at Izba Russian Fusion Restaurant. The only hiccup was with the Borsch but that was understandable with the volume of food we'd ordered. I can absolutely recommend Izba Russian Fusion Restaurant as a fascinating place to cross over the cultural culinary gaps between us. We definitely can learn more with our mouths and palates than we can just using our heads! We must and will return to try more items on their menu! Kudos to Natalya and her team. Thank you Vasili for your patience, grace, and humor! We enjoy life!

Bon Appetiti!

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