Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Is there a shortage of restaurants on Guam? Apparently so, if you look at the number of restaurants that are under construction! I can't remember a time when so many new eateries were being built at the same time! In Tamuning's DNA Plaza (home of Cost-U-Less), a two-story building is being erected that will house a Boston Pizza outlet and a 2nd Dolce Frutti Gelateria. I don't have opening date information but I'd guess it would be sometime mid-summer. Nearby just south of this will be the new iHOP restaurant. In Tumon, the new Dusit Thani Guam property will have up to five new outlets! In Hagatna, there will be a second Dr. Kebab next to Tokyo Mart, which could be opening later this month or early May. Also set to open soon in the former ChopStix Japanese Restaurant location (near Calvo's Insurance) is a new eatery called Kitchen Lingo. This really made me weep since ChopStix made the best Katsudon on island! Finally, a replacement restaurant for Jan Z's in the Agat Marina will be opening this year. It will be operated by veteran restaurateurs Tom and Magi Kallingal (Avenue Steakhouse owners). We should also congratulate Andrew Miller on the re-opening of Frost Bite, which is now located on San Vitores Rd across from the Hilton. That's a lot of new places for this year, right?
Ken - The GFG
Meskla Dos Burger Challenge Bests Guam Food Guy & Visiting Saipan Chef
Upper Tumon (across from K-Mart)
It was really happenstance that we stopped by Meskla Dos today. When Saipan Chef Donn Gueniot of the Paradise Hotel came to Guam to visit our showroom, the question of where to eat lunch arose. When he asked who had the best burger, well there was no question in my mind about where would this chef be most impressed. I had just been talking about Meskla Dos with owners Peter & Monica Duenas over dinner at Meskla Chamoru Fusion Bistro with another visiting chef, Andreas Lorenz, previously of the Westin Resort Guam, who was here with his wife, Merce and son, Kai. The Lorenz family reside in China. Meskla Dos has hit paydirt in this key location, however, It's more than location - it's the quality of their burger experience. When Chef Donn & I arrived just before noon, this place was already packed with tourists and locals.
We ordered the Maga'Lahi Burgers (the Chief's Burger, $15.50 ea., and added bacon, $2). This 1 lb. patty is grilled with three slices of cheese on a super king bun and has their special boonie pepper firecracker sauce! When you see this burger it is hard to imagine how anyone could eat the whole thing (I did before). While eating, we chatted with Andy Fernandez, Meskla Dos Restaurant Manager, who had actually stayed at the Paradise Hotel when he was in Saipan last year (prior to Chef Donn's arrival). Chef Donn was definitely impressed with Meskla's burger, and he and I gave this bad boy our best shot! Unfortunately, the burgers (we had fries and onion rings) were more than we could handle. It was a noble effort, however, we had to throw in the towel. Next time, we'll just have the Kuetes Cheese Burger ($8.75), which is more manageable at half the size of the Maga'Lahi!
Culinary Tour of Tuscany
Al Dente Ristorante
Hyatt Regency Guam
Not everyone has the opportunity to go to Italy on a moment's notice, however, you can do the next best thing and have a taste of Italy come to you when you visit Al Dente Ristorante at the Hyatt Regency Guam. Al Dente's talented Chef de Cuisine, Cristiano Pozzi, is delighting palates with his current promotion, A Culinary Tour of Tuscany, which launched in March with a special Chef's Table event (which I'd missed due to illness). We were able to make on Wednesday night and were again extremely impressed by Chef Pozzi's amazing ability to deliver exquisite cuisine based on traditional Tuscan recipes.
The tour is a set six course menu (priced at $60 per person, and $75 per person with wine pairing). Once seated you are greeted by Al Dente's signature pizza bread plate with that delicious aioli and marinara dipping combo. This irresistible starter is just one of many extravagances yet to come, put away your dietary qualms and just enjoy yourself! The Villa Antinori Toscana helped to release these qualms so we could enjoy this feast!
The first course is the King prawn with a white bean salad with bottarga. Once delivered, Chef Pozzi came out and with a small grater explained that he was grating bottarga (a condiment made of salted fish roe - a Mediterranean delicacy). We marveled at this simple presentation and let our palate register the flavor notes of the bottarga, olive oil, and balsamic. While some of the white beans were al dente, we were pleased with the natural simplicity and freshness of this dish.
Next to come was the Tuscana soup, sausage, Swiss chard, red potato in a creamy chicken stock. We were surprised by this dish as the broth was not thick, rather it was appreciably thin and richly flavored. Fresh was the operative word! The house-made Italian sausage was formed into mini meat balls that exploded on the palate with each bite. The potato wedges worked to give this egg yellow soup a rustic feel. It was apparent that this meal would be having a consistent theme of using fresh, simple, and natural ingredients that you could taste with each bite.
We welcomed the next course with delight-filled sighs (we love pasta)! Chef Pozzi's Homemade pappardelle with duck ragout and mushrooms was another homerun! People who love pasta can really taste and feel the difference between fresh made and pre-made pasta. The ragout had a sweetness from the marinara with bits of tender duck interspersed. This was something you could eat all by itself as a meal! Bravo, Chef Cristiano!
The Pan-fried cobia alla livornese was yet another treat to our palates. True to its Tuscan origins, the Cobia is an ideal firm-fleshed fish that can be fried in olive oil and served in zesty marinara. Chef Cristiano has perfected his methods for serving Cobia, ascribing a premium quality to his preparations of this relatively new farm-raised fish. We marveled again at the unpretentious simple nature of this dish with its fresh ingredients registering in our tastebuds.
The main course was a Braised beef cheek in chianti sauce alla fiorentina, which is a classic Tuscan preparation, using spinach. We both fell in love with the flavors of this dish and found the polenta to be nothing short of perfect! The tender flavorful beef cheek was a good choice over a denser cut of beef or beef steak, especially in view of the number of courses we'd already eaten. The balance of flavors and fresh ingredients prevailed again. The portions of each course were just right.
The dessert course was just magically delicious. It was Panforte di siena, one of the oldest sweet desserts in Italy with a centuries old legacy. Panforte literally means strong bread. It is essentially a spiced fruit and nut cake and my first impression was the taste of Christmas! This dessert had distinctly dense squares (likened to a famous plaza or square in Florence) that was coupled with a shot glass of a decadently rich chocolate sauce and a bowl of dreamy vanilla bean gelato topped with a blueberry sauce. You know something is fantastic when it rocks you to your core! That was how good this was!! I had to stabilize myself with a cappuccino!
If you haven't yet taken the tour of Tuscany at Al Dente, you need to hurry as it they will be travelling to the region of Lazio soon. This will introduce a new menu of Tuscan delights. Grazie, Chef Cristiano! We also wish to thank Executive Chef Mirko Agostini who joined us for a chat while eating! We had him and Chef Pozzi pose with me and their talented kitchen team in a group photo.
Tama Takoyaki Cafe
San Vitores Road
Pleasure Island (next to Western Frontier Village)
Hours: Daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Although I do not usually do write-ups or reviews of new restaurants after they've just opened (Tama's been open only 3 weeks), I decided to make an exception since there has been such a huge "buzz" about this place in the social media and I have had a number of requests for information about Tama. Tama Takoyaki Cafe is still a young newbie on the restaurant scene and is in a highly visible, high traffic location (housed in the former Shisen Ramen spot). The owners of Tama have totally renovated the interior of the restaurant -you would never recognize what it has transformed from originally. Now it is like an ultra-modern trendy furniture store - akin to IKEA!
Once inside you are captivated by the white streamlined spaciness of the interior, with floor to ceiling glass walls separating dining areas so you can see other guests, just not hear them. There are round circles on the walls and even the light fixtures are round - that's kind of the theme of the name (tama) round or sphere. The main draw for this place is the hugely popular Japanese treat, Takoyaki, which is a round ball made with whole wheat flour made into a batter with diced octopus, egg, green onions, and tempura scraps cooked in a special takoyaki pan.
Although for this review I didn't try it, Tama Takoyaki Cafe's Takoyaki is unique as they make it crunchy on the outside and creamy juicy on the inside. Typical cooking time is about 15-20 minutes and could vary if they are really busy. The price for the original Octopus Takoyaki (8 pcs) is $9.50. They also have Tama Takoyaki and you can choose you filling - Kimchee, Cheese, Mochi, Shrimp, Chicken, Tuna and Corn.
What I did order were two appetizers, Spicy Tako ($6) and Karaage ($6), and the Pork Okonomiyaki ($12). I also had a bottle of San Pellegrino Sparkling Water ($3.50), which is an amazing price for Tumon, and says a lot about the sophistication of the owners, Duke and Aya Urbano. Moreover, they also serve illy espresso-based coffees, with prices of $4 for a Cappuccino or Cafe Latte. They do serve premium and domestic beers as well as wine. This place will probably become a new hangout for a lot of demographics - its spacious, clean, and cool! Plus, if you look closely, they have little rabbit statues standing on the little greenways...(you'll have to come here to understand this phenomena).
My first appetizer, Spicy Tako (Octopus and Vegetables fried with Spicy Paste) was a tasty, perky bowl of thin sliced onions, red and yellow bell peppers, and tender octopus chunks. The unique sauce has a rich flavor that resonates throughout all the ingredients.
My second appetizer, the Karaage, has bite-sized Japanese style friend chicken. This is a very lightly battered, crisp and tasty kaarage, that has a minimal amount of grease. It's not a huge portion, but gives a nice introduction to the quality of the food here at Tama (the service is good too).
The last dish I'd ordered was the Pork Okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese style pancake with cabbage. This is a classic dish that I really love. They also have the Seafood version for $13.00. When I tasted Tama's Okonomiyaki, I immediately could taste the freshness of each ingredient. It was surprising to be so tasty. You can add sauces (Japanese mayo and okonomiyaki sauce) but I don't think mine needed anything else (other than sprinkling some of the dried seaweed on top).
I did get a photo of another dish, the Yakisoba ($10) which is another dish I love that's made with fresh fried noodles, pork, cabbage and ginger. As you can see from the photo, this is something you probably couldn't resist if they put it in front of you! Prices are in line with the portion sizes. Prices are great for Tumon!
Duke had wanted us to try the Yokote Yakisoba ($11.00), which has fresh fried noodles with ground pork, cabbage, fukujinzuke (red daikon radish), and a sunny side up egg. By this time Zee had arrived from a cancelled rehearsal so she really enjoyed this and loved the Okonomiyaki that was left over. Tama has some steaks on their menu, including a Saikoro Steak (Ribeye done Teppan style), Hamburger Steak, and a Salmon Steak.
For vegetarians, they do have Mentaiko Caesar Salad and Potato Salad. They also have Tofu Steak with a Shiitake Mushroom Sauce. I suggested they try to make a Vegetarian Okonomiyaki.
What was the biggest surprise was that we still had room left for a dessert that is destined to become a cult classic - Berry Chimichangas ($7), which is deep fried strawberry & blueberry cheesecake). OMG! This is so yummy...it's on a plate crisscrossed with chocolate sauce and nuts. The cheesecake was originally frozen but melts during the frying process to make it a warm, melt-in-your-mouth confection that'll have you moaning ecstatically (good things these rooms are semi-private!).
The bottom line on Tama Takoyaki Cafe is that I give it an unqualified two thumps up! You should find this a pleasant if not superlative dining experience!
Ita dake masu!!
Ken the Guam Food Guy