Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Welcome to our first newsletter of 2015! We want to thank you for your continued readership and continuing interest in our restaurant commentaries and updates on Guam's culinary scene. We hope all of you celebrated an awesome New Year and that you reveled in the fireworks displays that ignited the skyline and launched the New Year. This year marks the turning of another page in our journal as we embark on another chapter in evolving saga of the island's eateries. For those who are new readers, please browse through our vast archives of newsletters to see past reviews and events that will bring you up to speed recent developments. It's also a great way to take a virtual walk down our Guam Diner "Memory Lane" where you can get some historical perspectives.
Enjoy your time on Guam Diner. Thank you again!
Ken The Guam Food Guy
New Year's Day Traditional Lunch at Issin Japanese Restaurant
Westin Resort Guam
Once again 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 cake in savory dashi (soup stock) along with mushrooms, carrots, onions, and chicken. The mochi is grilled in a broiler to soften it up and brown the outside, giving it a distinctive toasted rice taste. The bowls of Ozoni cost $7.00 each. As this is not on the menu, it is a special they should have available. I had contacted Issin's owner, Tom Iizuka, to order our Ozoni for New Year's day lunch when making our reservation.
Zee ordered the Issin Bento ($25.00) and I decided on Issin's Lunch Special Angus Steak & Shrimp Teppan-yaki ($25.00). We sat at a table in the sushi counter section that still afforded a view of the azure waters of Tumon Bay below. We sipped sake and marveled at the gorgeous orchids on the tables adjacent to the windows. Our long time friend, Teppan Chef Jesse Borja, stopped by briefly and greeted us. It was deja vu! We munched on his crispy garlic chips and I savored the medium rare sirloin steak and juicy jumbo prawns. He takes such pride in his work and you can taste it with each bite!
Kar Kar Restaurant
Mikkel Tan Vy Bldg (formerly KimChi Complex)
Looking for good Chinese? Kar Kar has some of the best overall dining values on island. You can get a complete meal here that will fill you up without emptying your wallet! Freshly prepared Chinese and local items are what makes Kar Kar one of the island's favorites. Lunch and dinner specials start at $5.00. We had a craving for dim sum that Sunday morning just before New Year's. We ordered from the dim sum menu several items from a selection of 35 choices. First to come was the Pan Fried Rice Noodle Singapore Style ($4.50). For the money, this is really a generous portion of soft glutinous rice rolls with a curry spice seasoning sprinkled with sesame seeds and sauteed red and green bell peppers and carrot slices.
Next came my favorite, Shrimp Dumpling ($4.00), which in Chinese is called "Har Gau". You get 4 dumplings with this order, which was enough for us (though I could probably put down a few more orders on my own!!). Our Steamed Pork Spareribs/Black Bean Sauce ($3.50) came next (keep in mind that these dim sum orders are delivered as they are prepared, allowing you time to eat one before the next comes). These little pork riblets are gristly and somewhat spicy (with chili peppers), though the steaming has tempered some of the usual heat.
The first item on the menu is the Steamed B.B.Q. Pork Bun ($3.50), which has 3 of these delicious, moist flavorful buns, popularly known as Siao Pao. Kar Kar's are fresh made and you can't get better than these locally.
A really fragrant and flavorful dim sum treat is the Pan Fried Chives/Meat Dumpling ($4.50), of which there are four to a serving. These translucent green tinted dumplings have a savory taste heavily accented with chives, which are more pungent and intense than green onions.
The final item we ate was the Sesame Balls ($3.50), which are airy like donuts and studded with sesame seeds. These are a favorite way to end a dim sum meal with hot jasmine or oolong tea. Though they were delivered earlier, we waited until we'd finished the rest of our meal, which also included Sauteed Chinese Broccoli with Garlic ($8.00). Kar Kar is open 7 days a week for breakfast and lunch, and only closed on Wednesday night. Dinner is served 6 nights a week from 6 - 10 p.m. For takeout orders or to book reservations, call 647-3188.
Sea Grill Restaurant Lunch Treats
If you are looking for something new and different while dining in Tumon, you can find an amazing variety of tasty eats at Sea Grill Restaurant as we discovered during the next to the last day of 2014. I was joined by Aileen L. who really appreciates quality dining as much as I do. Once Executive Chef Rey Dasalla heard we were in the house he wanted us to try some appetizers after we'd ordered our main courses, which was the BBQ Mixed Grill Trio ($18.50) and Ground Sirloin Loco Moco ($16.50).
The view of San Vitores Road below is scenic and busied by the moving waves of walking visitors shopping on both sides of the street. While sitting here you can get a real sense of Guam's premier tourism hub, Pleasure Island. The first item to arrive was an eye-popping plate filled with cheese topped bread chunks. The name is as much of a mouthful as each piece -- Roasted Eggplant Bacon Quattro Cheese Bread ($9.50), which is a blend of mascarpone, boursin, cream cheese, and mozzarella cheese served with garden fresh basil tomato sauce. When they say "garden fresh", they ain't lying? They have their own herb garden that they pick from everyday! If you are a cheese lover, these are really satisfying.
The second appetizer we were treated to was the Chamorro Chicken Empanadas ($7.95). This dish is beautifully plated and honors a local favorite, chicken kelaguen, which is encrusted in Tatiyas and served with their famous coconut dinanche sauce. Once you have a taste of this creamy, orange tinted condiment, you will know why it's "famous"! This is not spicy at all and has an addictively delicious taste. These unique treats are excellent and are something you could eat every day! The pickled cucumber and carrots garnishing this plate provide a surprising taste zing!
The lunch menu at Sea Grill is quite extensive and includes everything from sandwiches and salads to steak and lobster! The BBQ Mixed Grill Trio ($18.50) is a belly-buster and includes Honey-hoisin BBQ Pork Ribs, Kalbi Short Ribs, & Teriyaki Chicken with shrimp garlic fried rice, kim chee and wasabiyaki sauce. This plate is piled vertically and the meats lay atop sauteed vegetables (including bok choy). The kimchee is notably tasty and complements the rich variety of grilled meats. Though I had ordered this, we shared our plates and did our best to finish.
Aileen had ordered the Ground Sirloin Loco Moco ($16.50), which I had endorsed based on a prior experience. It has a 1/2 pound ground beef patty atop shrimp garlic fried rice, caramelized onions, mushrooms and acho chili demi glace. Two eggs are layered on top of this and they are garnished with tomato concasse and green onions. Again, we had more than enough to share!
We were able to catch up with Sea Grill Restaurant Manager Josh Suka and were able to get a photo op with Executive Chef Rey and his Sous Chef, Joel Aranas, both of whom were sporting new Sea Grill logo hats! Thanks for the awesome lunch experience...what a way to end the year!!
Tumon View Plaza
Upper Tumon (next to Infusion Coffee & Tea)
A new Korean restaurant opened late 2014 amid little fanfare in a location that had once housed Aji Ichi Japanese Restaurant. Mi-Dahm Restaurant (the sign outside has transposed the "a" & "h" in Dahm ). "Mi-Dahm" is a Korean phrase that means to talk about food, which is something you will undoubtedly be doing once you start eating here! Zee & I were honored to be the guests of our friend Nelson Xu who had wanted me to try out this restaurant owned by a Chef Seung Chol Jung, who had previously cooked at the Calvi House in Tumon. We were delighted to be able to join Nelson, his wife Heejung Won, and daughters Justine and Jamie, both of whom are quite talented musical performers in their own right, just as their mom is an established pianist. Since Heejung is Korean, she was able to help navigate us through the variety of courses and dining rituals involved in our magical Korean culinary fest.
Our party was rounded by two other friends of Nelson and Heejung, Curtis and Jeanette Van De Veld, both of whom are bon vivants (like the Xus) and contributed greatly to the casual, family-style dining experience this meal had become. Mi-Dahm Restaurant is clean, spacious, and has a comfortable, reassuring ambiance. There are partitions between the tables affording some aspect of privacy though our table was large due to our size. We were up against one of the large bay windows that has an astonishing view of Tumon.
Although the majority of Korean restaurants on Guam are small, family-owned businesses, very few are owned and operated by a chef. This is probably one of the key distinctions that elevates Mi-Dahm above some of the smaller mom & pop restaurants that may have some very good food. When you view the menu at Mi-Dahm and observe how their food is presented, you can see the professionalism and expertise involved.
Mi-Dahm Restaurant has advanced new bbq grills built in to their tables which have special heat deflectors that can cook the meat without flare ups and heavy smoke. We ordered family-style as well as a variety meats including Beef Ribs, Marinated Grilled Beef, and Beef Brisket. We had the Mi-Dahm salad ($10), which was a light assortment of green leaf and iceberg lettuce with a light dressing. The Pan Chan was fresh and had the thin-sliced radish circles excellent for wrapping meat.
One of the notable, first-time tastings for me was the Chopped Noodles with Little Neck Clam Soup ($13.00). This was a large bowl filled with delicious broth, egg, sliced onion, clams, and thick noodles. I should have come back to have this for New Year's dinner! A small dish of sliced marinated green chilis can be used as a condiment. The beauty of this entire meal was how we were able to eat a very large selection of menu items, especially what was being grilled. We were able to wrap meats Korean style in Romaine lettuce leaves.
Another first for me was Mi-Dahm's Boiled Pork Wraps ($35.00 Medium Size). This had meaty pork belly slices piled on a plate with kimchee, which is used to wrap and eat the meat! This was delicious too! I should mention we were able to enjoy our meal drinking Jinro Shochu mixed in our beer. I can't emphasize the importance of toasting and tasting while eating Korean BBQ with a close circle of friends. It is their custom and culture, and we must pay tribute!
Chef Seung Chol Jang will occasionally walk through the dining room greeting customers. His wife, Eun Sun Park, oversees the front of the house. Mi-Dahm is open 7 days a week and serves lunch and dinner, staying open until 10 p.m. The menu includes a variety of Beef and Pork cuts (belly, ribs, and pork neck), as well as salads (tofu salad), Noodle dishes (including Cold Buckwheat Noodles and Spicy Buckwheat Mixed Noodles), hot soups, Bibimbap, and hot pots. I am so looking forward to returning to Mi-Dahm Restaurant and to sharing it with some friends! I am also looking forward to enjoying fun dining adventures with Nelson and his family & friends.
(L-R) Mi-Dahm Chef/owner Seung Chol Jung, Justine Xu, Eun Sun Park, Ken Stewart (GFG)