Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
We have a little catching up to do to as we missed an issue last week. Some very exciting things are happening to our northern neighbors with major hotel and casino investments being made in Saipan and Tinian. I have been able to see firsthand some of the property development projects in Saipan. This photo shows the earth being cleared for a 300-plus room hotel being built by Best Sunshine International as part of their integrated casino resort project. This land is adjacent to the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan in Garapan. The Grandvrio Resort (formerly Hafa Adai Hotel) is in the background. It has been several decades since such new large hotel construction projects have been undertaken. Other developments on Saipan are the renovation of the former Palms Resort (previously the Nikko) and new hotel being built next to PIC by the Honest Profit group. There are several other smaller projects underway.
We will be monitoring these projects as they progress. In the meantime, we do want to report on the Taste of the Marianas Professional Chef's Competition results, as well as a few other Saipan happenings. We'll also introduce our lunch experience at the newly opened Kitchen Lingo in Hagatna, and share a happy reunion with the Osawa family from Japan. So much to cover and so little time! Happy Father's Day to all you dads out there!!
Ken the Guam Food Guy!
Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan Garners First Place in TOM Chef's Competition
May 30, 2015
American Memorial Park
The Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan's junior chef team took home the $500 first prize and other prizes for beating six competing hotel teams in the 17th Taste of the Marianas Chef's competition held on the last Saturday of May. Chefs Ed Gabito and Nestor Devera were quite surprised to hear the results announced, especially since they only created their dish that morning. This year's theme was Marianas Albondigas, which are meat balls, which had to be made using Certified Angus Beef Chuck Ground. The chefs also had to use local produce in their recipes.
Fiesta's winning recipe was Tamales Beef Albondigas in Noni Salsa Sauce, and included ground chuck, sausage, onion, cilantro, garlic, bread crumbs, eggs, parsley, and salt/pepper. The sauce included the chopped noni fruit along with mango cubes, red and green peppers, cilantro, onions and tomatoes. The Albondigas were stuffed into masa harina dough, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed for a short period. Marianas Resort's team won the $300 second place prize, and the Hyatt Regency Saipan's team took home the $200 prize for third place. Hyatt Regency was the defending champion from last year.
This year's competition had the largest field of contenders in many years. It was Kanoa Resort Saipan's first time ever to compete. Other competing teams were from Pacific Islands Club, World Resort Saipan, and Aqua Resort Club. Every team had created their own version of the Marianas Albondigas. As they do every year, the chef's outdo themselves in building elaborate displays with fruit and vegetable carvings. The work is fantastic as was the taste of their Albondigas creations, which the eagerly awaiting crowd that swarmed the competition displays after the judging was completed confirmed by voting with their mouths! Thanks to the teams and sponsors for this annual competition , which includes HANMI, MVA, and Triple J Five Star, who provide that fabulous Certified Angus Beef every year! If you have never attended a Taste of the Marianas International Food Festival and Beer Garden, it happens every Saturday in May, with the chef competition taking place on the final Saturday. It is a must do if you are in Saipan during the month of May.
(Fiesta Resort & Spa's First Place winners Chefs Ed Gabito and Nestor Devera pose with HANMI representatives, judges, and competition sponsors.)
Roasts, Reds, & Rendezvous Sundowner Event
Hyatt Regency Saipan
May 29, 2015
Every May the Hyatt Regency Saipan runs a promotion called Roasts, Reds, & Rendezvous with sponsors Triple J FiveStar and Pacific Trading. Fine wines are paired with succulent Certified Angus Beef creations prepared by the Hyatt's award-winning culinary team. The month-long promotion takes place in several Hyatt outlets, including Giovanni's and the Kili Terrace. I have been honored to be invited to attend the culmination celebration, called the Sundown event, which takes place on Micro Beach fronting the Hyatt. As you can see from these fantastic sunset photos, this is truly a place of mesmerizing natural beauty.
The Hyatt culinary team, under the leadership of Executive Chef Gabriele Colombo, prepared an elaborate feast for their casually-dressed guests to savor while sipping on a selection of Murphy-Goode Wines. Among some of the awesome menu creations were Churrasco Beef Striploin Skewers, red & green chimichurri, Coffee-Rubbed Short Ribs with nectarine salsa; Indonesian Seafood Pops with lemongrass peanut sauce; Beef Linguica Sausage, red onion and corn relish; Pork Belly Skewers with spicy sriracha sauce and cabbage slaw; Lean Colorado Buffalo Albondigas with cucumber raita and roasted tomato; Orzo Salad with Roasted Bell Pepper, cilantro and pancetta chips; and Island organic greens, shaved mango, cherry tomato, candied walnut with a white balsamic fine herbs vinaigrette. Of course, there was a fabulous dessert selection! This is certainly an event you should plan on attending in the future. I'm planning on it!
Happiness Chinese Restaurant
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
5:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m.
This was my first time eating at Happiness Chinese Restaurant. I've seen it and was supposed to eat here a number of times during previous Saipan trips. I'm glad we finally got acquainted. There must be something special about this place. It has several private rooms and a bar with a surprisingly extensive wine selection. Happiness Chinese is definitely Chinese, since most of the clientele were Chinese. The wood screens, colorful statues, art pieces, collectible dishes, curios, and vases makes this interior more of a Chinese art and pottery store. The house specialties include several dishes, notably among them are two dimsum dishes: the Minced Pork Dumplings and Crab Meat Dumplings. Unfortunately, we didn't have these on this visit (there's always a next time)!
I was with two colleagues (Ben & Mark) and we opted for basic, non-spicy foods, starting out with Crab Meat and White Corn Soup ($9.00), which was quite tasty and had visible pieces of real crab and corn. It was also a sizeable portion from which we each refilled our bowls several times.
The next dish we received was the Chinese Roast Pork ($12.00). This looked quite promising but seemed to have something missing or something too much. It was like Pork Tocino, and not Char Siu as I was expecting. It was the only thing we picked at and left some remaining. The rest of the meal disappeared!
We had the Sauteed Chinese Vegetables ($8.00) which happened to be Kang Kong. This is always a sure thing when eating Chinese stir fry. The vegetables are crisp, fresh and flavored with garlic and oil. The next to come was the Egg Fu Yung ($9.00), which I do order occasionally when eating Chinese. Happiness does an exceptional job with their Egg Fu Yung. It is moist and has the freshest flavor.
We also had another delicious dish that was true to its name: Tasty Pork Rib Hot Pot ($10.00). This had a very distinct appearance. It looked like a stew with big chunks of meat covered by a patch of creme fraiche (or something similar). The sauce was rich and the rib meat was fall off the bone tender. We all liked this dish as well.
The final dish to arrive was the Steamed Chicken ($10). We didn't expect to see this dish presented In his manner. It was chopped up chicken pieces in a gravy like sauce with vegetables, mushrooms, and jujubes. It was served on a dried papaya leaf that may have been used to impart flavor by baking the chicken inside. Really tasty and fun to eat! Whatever they did, this was another winner.
I really feel that I have several good reasons to come back to Happiness Restaurant during another visit.
Mabuhay! Taste Does Filipino that's Ang Sarap!
The Westin Resort Guam
If I didn't see it and taste it, I would not have believed it! Of course, when it comes to exceptional dining, you know that's the story at Taste Restaurant! This time I'm talking about Filipino cuisine, which Taste featured in a limited special lunch buffet promotion celebrating Philippine Independence that ran from my birthday, June 8 - 12th. I heard from the chefs that word of mouth was so strong from Monday's diners that they were slammed on the Tuesday I came for lunch.
There were so many dishes available to try that I had to discipline myself and refrain from trying too much! I did have one of my favorites, Kare Kare with bagoong. I also had Tinola with malungay, Crispy Pata with Mang Tomas, Palabok, Dinunguan, Okoy (shrimp & vegetable fritters), Chicken Tocino, Marinated Bangus (milkfish), Chicken Inasal, Sinigang with prawns. There was this and more. It was my first time seeing this large (and very tasty ) spread at Taste. After all, Westin has some really talented chefs, many of whom are Filipino. We'll have to be sure to attend next year's promotion if they decide to do a repeat! I think they've been successful in testing the waters for this popular cuisine prepared using Westin's culinary expertise and use of high quality ingredients.
Osawa Family Food Guy Reunion Dinner - 5 June
Pacific Islands Club
We were delighted to receive an email from our long-time friend, Junko Osawa, advising that she and her husband, Masahito, along with their daughter, Benika (4), and new addition (Rinsei, 1 year old son) would be visiting our island again. It was their holiday trip to Guam and Rota and when in the neighborhood, they make it a point to meet with us. We first met Junko with her sister (before they both were married) when they set a "blind date" with the Guam Food Guy at Somjai Thai Restaurant in August 2007! Junko had read my review on line and emailed me requested I meet with her and her sister and that we dine at the restaurant I'd reviewed. Junko has since gotten married and has brought her husband and Benika back a couple of times. We would eat a different restaurant (we've eaten at Ruby Tuesdays, PROA, and Meskla). This Friday was the 5th year anniversary of their marriage so it was another reason to celebrate. They loved the dinner at Bistro and the ambiance, the view of the water park and Tumon Bay, and the fantastic menu items we tried. The seared ahi and the seafood sampler were so fresh they couldn't get enough! Benika's English is spot on and she is just adorable with her impish pixie personality. Her younger brother, Rinsei, is quieter and definitely a mama's boy! The family loves Guam & Rota and we need more family visitors to our beautiful islands!
(former ChopStix location behind Calvo's Insurance)
472-KL50 (5550) (Reservations Recommended)
Lunch - Mon-Fri: 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Dinner - Mon-Sat: 5:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
I was so excited to finally get a seat at Kitchen Lingo for lunch! The timing of my tasting was ideal (it was 11 a.m.) and I had reserved a seat at the counter where I would observe the chef team do its thing! I had briefly written about Kitchen Lingo and the buzz that had been created since they opened a couple of months ago. For those of you first-timers seeing this I will revisit part of my earlier posting about Chef Lingo Quichocho, who has collaborated with partners Lenny & Pika Fejeran (Pika's Cafe) to create a totally novel concept in dining - "Craft Eats & Drinks". Lingo has been simmering his years of culinary experience down into this small (20 seat) unpretentious bistro's heart and soul, which are the unique food creations - simple, fresh, and natural. His earned his chops as Lead Cook at L'Auberge Del Mar, and Sous Chef at Bali Hai Restaurant. He was a cook at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cafe. He most recently was the Executive Chef/Consultant at the Avenue Steak House in Tumon.
I will say this more than once. Please make sure you have reservations if you want to dine here. Period. You don't just show up at the airport gate and expect to get on a plane unless you've made reservations, right? Same thing applies here! Kitchen Lingo is charmingly intimate. I'm sure you could listen to other people's conversations if you really wanted to, however, as you will discover, you will find yourself totally focused on the food put down in front of you and the fabulous sensations that arouse and tantalize your palate, making you glad to be alive.
There is a distinct mystique and solemnity about Kitchen Lingo. I won't talk about the flying saucer and the cow pasture mural in the men's restroom (located outdoors - literally an outhouse!). No, that's a fun distraction (now you have to go look, right?). Once seated at your designated spot, your server will ask for your beverage preference. When eating and drinking here, keep the word "craft" in mind. It's used a lot here because it defines what they do. You can drink Watermelon or Mint drinks, Craft Soda, LemonGrass Water ($3), which I had, or Iced Tea. You could also order from their modest but engaging selection of Craft Beers (Grolsch, Unibroue Ephmere Apple, Blanche de Chambly, Modern Times Blazing World or Black House, and some basic wines (limited varietals).
I really didn't know what to order (there's not a lot of selection) so I requested suggestions from Chef Lingo of what to start with first. Had there been more in my party, I would have had this covered. He made me a few sampler size versions of popular dishes that are shared, such as the Charred Octopus ($11.00) and Sashimi ($12). The Octopus seems to form a small mound on a plate that is comprised of the elements describing it - herb salsa, Chickpeas, Roasted Eggplant, Lemon, Greens. There was a little red onion slice...it had been pickled ! Wow! One of the trademark signatory food items here are their pickled vegetables and fruits. They are refreshing and stimulating to the taste. Every element has a taste and texture chef seems to want you to experience. The pace is slow and deliberate.
The Sashimi is not at all what you'd expect as a Japanese dish. There are fried onions (not many, just thin tendrils), as well as Nori Oil (a first), Enoki, and Yuzu Pepper Vinaigrette. The focus is on taste. The texture of the fried onion, the nori oil, and citrusy pepper. Yes, the fish is fresh, but not the sashimi of Japan...this is Lingo country!
While I was eating my lunch, I was pleasantly surprised to see my long-time friend Roland Franquez walk in. He sat next to me and I started sharing (it was his first time as well). I had ordered the Short Rib ($21), which is described as Miso Short Rib, 5 Minute Egg, Sauteed Greens, and KL Pickles. I had shared some Octopus with Roland and some of the Sashimi! He was murmuring "WOWs" with me in unison!!
He had ordered the fish (today's special was Parrot Fish Fillet), and the treatment of the fresh local catch is basically the same. It comes with Chinese Broccoli, Herb Salad, and topped with Thai Basil Chimichurri. The Beef was fork tender and so richly flavored! We tasted the pickled watermelon! (another Wow!). We tasted the pickled dill pickles - and the jalapenos - so alive and explosive. We cut the egg and the soft warm yolk ran onto the beef. Everything worked in concert and still retained their singularity. This really is a place for foodies! A place to celebrate the culinary strides being made by Chef Lingo and his team!
The Parrot Fish Fillet was delivered and I photographed it. Roland couldn't eat the bean sprouts so had them removed. Then we went to town on this marvelous fish. The top layer crust was crispy and the white meat was so moist, delicate, and fresh that we murmured our "WOWS" in stereo! That green Chimichurri sauce was amazing. This was definitely that good! I need to point out that with the beef we had a different kind of dinanche they made. It was carrot and jalapeno (as I recall), and so vibrant on the palate...not scorching hot...just a little tingle.
I noticed other foods being prepared and took photos for future reference. All the sandwiches use flatbread instead of buns and they look terrific! They kind of roll over the ingredients in a sexy, over-abundant way. Chef Lingo talked about the Grilled Cauliflower ($9), which comes with Yogurt, Mint and Pickled Onions. Just the aroma alone has you swooning for this dish! I can't wait to have this! Looks so healthy, fresh and natural. Certainly "Craft" Cauliflower!! The salads are resplendent as well, with a Kale Caesar and a Local Lettuce version with baby tomatoes, avocado, Lemon Ricotta, Crispy Quinoa, and Champagne Vinaigrette ($11) - you get the picture?
So, all good things must come to an end and dessert was my final plateau to climb. Under KL Sweets is the PB & J ($8), which is the house made Raspberry Ice Cream, Roasted Banana Pudding, and Miso Peanut Cookies all layered into a round glass with fresh mint leaf accents. You will have to join me in applauding this taste treat! To accompany this, I had the SPIKE Coffee French Press ($4) experience. The locally grown coffee is from Hamamoto Fruit Farm. This is a another "craft" product, if you will, and is a smooth blend with a subtle richness. Will I return to Kitchen Lingo? You betcha! Going to make dinner reservations!