Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
"I am alive and recovering"! It's been an unbelievable ordeal and I want to assure all our readers that the Guam Food Guy is back online! The lapse in time since October 2016 was due to a debilitating and unusual illness called "Mastoiditis", which is an infection of the bones around my ear. This was detected by a CT Scan after I had been experiencing numbness, facial paralysis, difficulty holding food in my mouth, vertigo, and partial deafness. My energy was drained and I had difficulty speaking and framing words, and even completing thoughts! My doctor advised it could have been fatal had it not been treated. The treatment was a rigorous regimen of powerful antibiotics for about five weeks. I have been asked by many people what had happened to my regular writing and why we had not updated the www.guamdiner.com site. I was hoping to write a message to you in December and in January, however I just wasn't able to get it together.
So now that I've shared this and I'm on the road to recovery, we can move on in a modified format. I was supposed to also announce that we would be taking a hiatus during which time we would be working to revamp and change the Guamdiner site. That will still happen, however, I still would like to publish some newsletters and work on catching up on so much that I've missed.
One thing you can't miss is the gigantic construction site in downtown Garapan, Saipan. This photo was taken 2 weeks ago from the 6th floor of the Fiesta Resort Saipan. It shows the breathtakingly impressive architecture of the Imperial Pacific Resort Hotel and Casino, which will be opening later this year.
It is Mes Chamorro Month and we want to celebrate the Chamorro culture! Stay tuned for announcements for the many events and activities that will occur during the month of March! Bask in the culture by eating Chamorro foods whether at home, fiestas, restaurants, the Chamorro Village, and most definitely at the office!
Ken the Guam Food Guy
One thing that PROA has created that I will never get tired of eating is their exceptional barbecue! It is not your typical local barbecue - they have fashioned their marinade in what they call Marianas Glaze. I had the Big Feller Trio ($18.95) the other night just before they closed. It has a combination of Beef Short Ribs, Chicken Thighs, and Pork Spare Ribs. I habitually order this, however, I learned that night that I could change my order to get more Short Ribs instead of Spare Ribs - I watched my neighbor at the bar eating that and wondered why she had so many more pieces of Short Ribs than me! Although PROA doesn't consider itself a "Chamorro" restaurant (they coined their own culinary descriptor as "Marianas Regional Cuisine"), they serve up some awesome Red Rice and superb finadene! You can eat it with everything!
I did learn that PROA HAGATNA will be extending their hours to stay open all day (effective March 1), although with a limited menu (barbecue items primarily - which is fine by me!). Now I can stop by and eat my faves when I am having my typical late lunch!!
Rootz Hills Grillhouse (Formerly Jia Asian Bistro)
Lobby Level - Past JP Superstore
Guam Plaza Hotel
Lunch Buffet Service - Monday - Saturday 11:30 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Sunday Brunch - 11 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner 6:00 p.m - 10:00 p.m.
A big shout-out & uber Kudos to the folks at Guam Plaza Hotel for their phenomenal transformation of the former Jia Asian Bistro into the trendy, upscale, and strikingly impressive open kitchen dining concept called Rootz Hills Grillhouse. Inspired and headed by the culinary vision of long-time kitchen veteran Executive Chef Dennis Salenga, this new eatery teases and taunts the eye with bright steel structures and colorful cookware and serving ware. Rootz Hills serves an international lunch buffet (they have the coolest tubular pizza oven) and unique grills that cook meats at varying heights to maintain succulence. The feedback and comments are all pretty much the same - the food is fresh, surprisingly tasty, and originally prepared. They have managed to make their buffet offerings taste like a la carte preparations!
They also serve dinner with a range of steaks and seafood selections (I have to try their Rib Signature Steak). I also hear they have an extensive selection of fine wines. I will be dining for dinner in the near future!
Manhattan SteakHouse - Black Mountain Aged Angus Beef
Pacific Star Resort & Spa
Hours: 6-10 p.m.
If there is one thing that Manhattan excels in, it is providing a high quality dining experience for their guests. I finally had the opportunity to explore a new offering at Manhattan which is their introduction of Black Mountain Aged Angus Beef. I had seen posters and advertisements promoting this juicy succulent grilled beef dream and I was even doubt-full if I could eat that much meat! Well, I can honestly say I didn't eat it all myself in one sitting, but there are many who do!
Manhattan has a special menu devoted to their family of Black Mountain Aged Angus Beef, with two categories: Black Mountain Aged Beef Prime and Black Mountain Aged Beef Choice. Within these they have both dry aged and wet aged beef offerings, and these include the standard cuts of striploin, ribeye, and filet mignon. The aging is done in temperature-controlled environments with time periods of up to 28 days.
I did try the Prime Tomahawk Ribeye 32 oz cut ($130.00), which is a high-value, high-quality steak by any standard! We had it cooked Medium Rare and it came out with criss-crossed grill marks that scored the outside that gave way to amazingly tender and flavorful meat inside. This is something you would on a special occasion or if you just want to spend a pile of money on a darned good steak! You will not walk away disappointed. The marbling was balanced...and each bite was a flavor discovery especially enhanced by one of the three sauces provided - the truffle oil sauce...! The side vegetables accompanying this royal portion complemented and satisfied - potato, carrots, asparagus, grilled cherry tomatoes, mushroom, and roasted garlic.... Nice....really nice.
We also tried the Dry Aged Angus Beef Prime Striploin 10 oz. ($55.00), which is more my style and personal preference - the Tomahawk is one of those extreme show pieces! If you are eating "Prime", it is the highest grade and offers the best bite for the money. Definitely worth ordering and a different kind of steak experience than some of the traditional offerings. For those who want other Prime cuts the Porterhouse is 18 oz and the Ribeye is 20 oz. The Choice selections have a lower pricing tier.
Manhattan still reigns supreme in the fine-dining steakhouse category.
Issin Japanese Restaurant
Westin Resort Guam
Issin Japanese Restaurant is one of the legendary greats of Guam! The restaurant is located in the Westin Resort Guam and has just celebrated 20 years of continuous operation there (Westin celebrated its 20th last month!). Issin was open for over 15 years prior to that...and was actually interrupted by a severe earthquake that destroyed the Royal Palm Resort Hotel on August 8, 1993 - three weeks after opening. Issin Restaurant had moved from its original location on San Vitores Rd into the new hotel, which was a major investment by owner Tom Iizuka, who was actually in Tokyo when the earthquake struck Guam!
Today we honor Issin Japanese Restaurant as one of Guam's long-standing establishments offering a full menu of traditional Japanese favorites. Issin has a separated room for their sushi counter and a separate location for its teppan-yaki grill, with both offering seating for an up-close and personal interaction with their respective chefs. The ocean views from the windows are mesmerizing during the day and offer stunning sunset vistas.
Today's review will take you through some of Issin's menu choices, many of which are ideal for those who are observing LENT! Some of the items we ate (I had enlisted the support of my long-time friend and fellow foodie, Carol, who bravely endured this arduous task of multi-coursing through Issin's menu) were new to me so that was my reward. The photos really tell the story!
Our first surprise was the Barbecued Cod Fish ($17), which is in the appetizer section of the menu. It is garnished with a pickled ginger spear that is a delight to nip on and savor its intense tart flavor. The tender white fish is grilled to perfection and basted in a miso sauce that imparts a rich flavor. The charred skin is a delicacy. My first time treat and a popular, must-have favorite among Issin's regulars!
From the Nigiri Sushi menu we had the Aburi Salmon ($4.50/roll). Watching our sushi chef Mike torch the top of the salmon roll had our mouths watering in anticipation. The thin onion slice combined with the buttery grilled salmon "broke da mouth" as my Hawaiian friends would say in utter praise! You'll just have to eat this yourself!
Next was the Spicy Tuna Special Roll ($14.00), which was something else new to me. These little treasures are full of surprise tastes and I can remember the textured popping of Tabiko and sesame along with a little pika mayo heat and fresh tuna with sweet soy drizzle. I have been trying to cut down on my rice consumption but have to admit this was a temptation I could not resist! Worth trying!!
We ordered more appetizers-Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab ($9.50) and Assorted Tempura ($23.00). Both came out around the same time and we shared these. The delicate tempura pieces exploded with freshness with each bite...source ingredients were that good and make a difference in the quality of your tempura. Soft Shell Crab is always a wow and Issin's was great! (just wish there was more!!)
We were caught by surprise when our server put down a plate of Grilled Scallops ($14), a side order on Issin's Teppan Yaki Menu. The garlic butter sauce was mesmerizing and these meaty scallops were simply sensational! Carol had a craving for the Chawan Mushi ($8) which is a seasoned egg custard. It may seem on the pricey side but the ingredients (real crab meat) and other vegetables take this version to its own level.
The Assorted Sashimi comes in three sizes - (Small - $19.00; Medium - $37.00; and Large - $72.00). These samplers are excellent in showcasing the amazing freshness of the fish served. Of course the artistic presentation is a celebration of sea life, with green sea weed blending with floral highlights. Of course the ingredients may change based on availability. The salmon, maguro, hoki clam, ama ebi (sweet baby shrimp) and octopus amazed us!
The Assorted Sushi comes in two sizes, Medium ($45) and Large( $88). We chose the Medium which was more than ample. The Tuna maki pieces were joined by a colorful collection of fresh sushi pieces, including octopus, shrimp, scallop, squid, salmon, tuna, yellowtail, and mackerel. At Issin, they want diners to experience their Japanese food using the best accompanying condiments, so they offer a light soy sauce (usukuchi) to enhance their sushi - the lighter is sweeter by adding mirin. It also has a little saltier taste than dark soy sauce.
We had earlier asked for the local dinner special menu for Issin's Teppanyaki offerings. Side orders (BBQ Hamachi Kama is $22) and Sashimi and Tempura appetizers are $11.00. We ordered the Angus Sirloin & Shrimp Combination ($43.00). This comes with Green Salad, Teppan Vegetables, Rice, Miso Soup, Pickles, and Ice Cream. This was our final dish in this epic dining adventure! It is difficult to adequately describe what the teppan cook did to make the medium rare steak "scream" with flavor and succulence. This was actually "sensual" - that's meat that gets primal...which is the highest praise given by a carnivore! It's about quality ingredients and everything on the platter was superb! The fresh, juicy, meaty shrimp tasted like they were just caught...the pumpkin, eggplant, bean sprouts, onion, and bell pepper were all teppaned masterfully! This was memorable dining! This was definitely a taste of Japan on Guam!
Ita dake masu!
Ken, The Guam Food Guy