The Vino Spanish Bar's renovation has enclosed the space so that it air-conditioned (the previous Vino Bar was open air). The Tapas menu has a variety of popular Spanish appetizers that have been perfected by ARC Sous Chef Joe Bayking, who has been assisted by newly-hired Executive Chef Ed Olarte, formerly of Hyatt Regency Saipan and the Outrigger. Although we sampled most of the twelve tapas items featured on the menu on Friday night, it was during our Saturday dining experience that we were able to try a la carte ordering of a selection of tapas.
The Lengua Estopado Con Chorizo ($10) is Beef Ox Tongue that has been stewed to perfection with sausage. These bite size chunks are delightfully rich and flavorful, with cooked green olives exploding in flavor.
Not on the menu but sliced and served for this Grand Opening was the Jamon iberico de bellota. This rare and unique ham has to be slowly savored. It has a luxurious amount of fat that gives it a silky texture with flavors that are both sweet and salty. The ham literally melts in your mouth and is wonderful when paired with your choice of wine.
Another dish we tried was the Caldereta de Longosta ($12), which is the Menocan Lobster Stew. Just like all these small dish tapas, they can be shared and offer diners an opportunity to sample a wide variety of diverse foods without getting full on a single entree based meal. This is another stew (with vegetables ) in a thick tomato based sauce topped with green peas and lobster chunks over grilled bread.
A traditional favorite of mine is the Gambas Ala Jillo ($10), which is sauteed shrimp and garlic in tomato sauce. This is a garlic lovers's dream come true, providing just enough shrimp to satisfy your palate, leaving you plenty of room for your next course.
The last tapas we ordered was the Coca de la Huerta ($6), which are Summer Veggies on flat bread. This is known as a Catalan pizza and is more oval shaped than round. This version has ricotta cheese and some sliced cured ham, swiss chard, tomatoes, red onions, celery, and red bell peppers. I really enjoyed the freshness of these ingredients as they blended in my mouth, as I married this with my sauvignon blanc. The celery was sliced just thin enough to leave a crunch with each bite...you really enjoy eating these delicious ingredients while having fun conversations while sipping your wine!
This is the beauty of the tapas dining experience! Other great tapas treats also available are Gazpacho Soup, Chopitas (crispy fried baby squid), Paella Ala Valenciano, Huevos Rancheros, Relleno Pimiento de Padron (Fried stuffed pepper with ground meat) and Almijas Marineras L'Avi Pau (stewed clams with tomato garlic). So the next time you are in Saipan, go to the beautiful romantic Aqua Resort Club's Vino Bar for a tapas dining adventure you will never forget!
ARC Executive Chef - Ed Olarte (left) and Exec Sous Chef Joe Bayking
Eat Street Grill
The Plaza, Suite 101
The sign above this bustling establishment tells the story - "Eat Street Grill - Breakfast - Burgers - BBQ - Beer". There's no mystery here - you know what you are going to get! Brand new and open for just a month, Eat Street Grill has been a year in development and is making an impact with its audacious Gourmet "Steak" Burgers, succulent Barbecue Ribs, and craft beers on tap. That's just part of the story. They will soon be serving breakfast (this weekend I believe) and will have some amazing Eggs Benedict, Stuffed French Toast, and more. Plus they have a secret weapon you have to taste to believe - a Bacon Cured Pork Belly with an incomparable flavor!
We were invited to come out and try some of the great eats at Eat Street Grill by that foodie entrepreneur Darren Talai, President of International Dining Concepts, who operate California Pizza Kitchen, the adjacent Beachin' Shrimp, and Hot Diggety Dog, which I learned they'd acquired when they closed the South Seas Coffee Co. for the build-out for Eat Street. What a brilliant strategic placement! As they say, "location, location, location", which is what Eat Street Grill has in spades! Beachin' Shrimp is doing well, as is Hot Diggety Dog, however the potential for Eat Street is fantastic! The other notable thing is how this area has utilized the sidewalk to extend seating capacity. Eating outside on Tumon's popular San Vitores "boardwalk" has never been better.
Eat Street's Menu is well-designed with eye-popping food shots that look so good you could lick the paper! They are colorful, broken down in sections, and even translated into Japanese and Korean. These are Tumon prices, so expect to pay a little more. However, you should know that you are getting your money's worth since there is nothing regular on this menu! We skipped the burgers for this review. We ordered two appetizers, the Smoked Salmon Roll ($15.99), which has fresh avocado, housemade smoked salmon, and cheese wrapped in a crispy wonton roll. This is also served with ranch dressing. We also tried the Bacon Cured Pork Belly ($7.99), which has triple cut bacon that's perfectly grilled and served with their zesty barbecue sauce. While the Salmon Rolls are both tasty and plentiful, they are eclipsed by this awesome strip of pork belly...which you just want to slice and just put in your mouth and suck on the flavor! It's that good !It can be added to your burgers and will be available for breakfast. I should also mention that we were totally impressed with our server, Jadene, who is one of those special shining stars of hospitality! They are fortunate to have her on their team!
Another entree we ordered was Taco Rice ($11.99), which is described as handcrafted chili on rice, topped with lettuce, tomato, red onions, and cheddar cheese. We had had this in Sapporo, Japan and have been craving it ever since. None of our favorite Japanese restaurants don't have this Okinawa-originated dish, so it was a huge thrill to see it on their menu. It had all the flavors we remembered, though more rice than we usually eat. Imagine eating your favorite taco, just without the shell and over a bed of rice.
We also ordered a BBQ Combo ($22.99), which paired American BBQ Sauce basted Baby Back Ribs with golden deep fried succulent shrimp. Other sauces available for your rib selection are Boga Boga Asian Fusion and Espresso BBQ (Malaysian-inspired). Eat Street's BBQ and Burgers are served with an awesome housemade Kim Chee and a choice of beer-battered fries, sweet potato fries, or onion rings. We opted for the sweet potato fries. The ribs were meaty and tender, and the sauce satisfied my craving for a rich and savory American sauce.
The final entree we tried was something we'd also been seeking and that was the Loco Moco ($13.99), which is an Eat Street House Specialty. (Jadene had been telling us she'd been craving it for later when she's off and we even offered to share ours!) For their Loco Moco they use their hand-crafted gourmet burger patties that is made with cuts of prime and choice grades of strip loin, ribeye, sirloin and tenderloin, with no additives! Put this bad boy on a bed of rice, smother it in a rich and savory Portabello mushroom and caramelized onion gravy, then lay a sunny side egg on top and there you have it - Loco Moco! We put a little Tabasco on this (they will soon be serving their finandene dinanche in a side dish). It's already used on their GU Burger. This is a very satisfying Loco Moco and we certainly can recommend it.
Though we hadn't intended to drink beer, we were persuaded by Restaurant Manager Chris Robang to give it a go. It was a new craft beer made on Guam. Called Minagof Green Tea IPA, it has a tropical fruit, melon and citrus flavor that's mixed with American hops and Japanese sencha green tea. It also has a kick, at nearly 7% alcohol content. One of the things we also promised to try on a future visit is the Spicy Northern Thai Sausage Sandwich, which is akin to the Vietnamese Bahn Mi sandwich (usually on a baguette) - this one is on a hot dog bun, but it has ingredients galore (fresh peppers, herbs, ground pork and Thai spices). The sandwich is topped with pickled carrots, cucumbers, and fresh cilantro - then served with Siracha aioli! There you have it! It's like eating on the Food Network!
Get on down to Eat Street Grill and indulge in a world of good eats! Bon Appetit!
Ken the Guam Food Guy