Jan Z's By the Sea - A Good Reason to Eat Out Of Town
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
There are a few reasons why Jan Z's remains one of Guam's top destinations for eating "out of town", so to speak. It's a world apart from the hustle and bustle of our usual fast-paced, busy island lifestyle. One reason is simply because the food is good, really good! The other reason is that Jan Z's is consistent, where your expectations are met over and over and over again, so that their Cheeseburger is as excellent the tenth time as it was the first time!
Jan Z's is located in the Agat Marina, which is about a 20 minute drive south from Hagatna. They have the only complete marina view on island, with both indoor and outdoor dining areas allowing customers a chance to see the many boats and watch the sky change colors as the sun sets over the ocean's horizon. Other more limited marina views are from Old Hagatna Grill and Jamaican Grill, but Jan Z's is located right on the Agat Marina, which has an interesting life and community of its own, but that's another story.
We had occasion to sit down with Jan Z's manager, Bill Bradford, and to sample some of the regular menu items as well as some new original specials Jan Z's has been creating. Bill is more than just a restaurant manager, he has a passion for good food and fine flavors, and likes to experiment and invent new taste sensations. Jan Z's finadene is a unique creation, and probably is the most elaborate version I've encountered. Though it looks just like regular finadene, it's a concoction of ground boonie peppers, green and white onions, vinegar, ground fresh tomatoes, and some other peppers...the result is a powerful finandene that leaves your tongue buzzin', without burning.
Because the kitchen is so small at Jan Z's, Bradford and his kitchen crew, which includes Joe Pangelinan and Petry Rankin, both 5-year veterans, have had to improvise and get creative with using and combining foods to make different dishes on their menu. Thus many menu items have common origins, such as the Stir Fry's and the pasta dishes. One special we tried was the Spicy Marinated Marlin Saute, which included one side and garlic bread for $9.50. This entree uses a special poki that is seasoned with sesame, ginger, green onion, and kimchee base, and is later blended with Ranch dressing and Jan Z's finadene...resulting in a one-of-a-kind fish entree that's almost impossible to duplicate. Other daily specials are posted on the porthole placard on the wall...some other specials include crab cakes and meat loaf.
Among the appetizers we (I was joined by my colleague and fellow foodie, Gail, and my companion Zee) sampled were the Homemade Chicken Strips ($7.50), which we agreed were the best on island. They are made from whole chicken breasts cut into strips then double-dipped and double-battered to retain the moisture and achieve a flaked crispness. These are nice and meaty, and are certainly a must order if you like chicken strips at fast food and other restaurants. Now, you can taste and compare for yourself.
We also had the Popcorn Shrimp with French Fries ($6.50), which were tasty little morsels of Cajun-seasoned breaded shrimp. I have a weakness for another appetizer item, the Fried Chicken Gizzards ($6.75). Jan Z's does a marvelous job, and gives you both their finadene and a honey mustard dipping sauce. I'll go so far as adding different hot sauces...Jan Z has a collection of maybe 20 or more of these sauces.
Jan Z's Sashimi Plate ($10.00) is the best value for the money - ask anyone from the dive and boat industry. It's fresh and plentiful, and for some a meal in itself! The Blackened Sashimi with Dill Sauce ($12.50) is a hot-spiced sister to the sashimi plate. If you like oysters, they don't come too much fresher than these, which are from New Zealand, that are flown in chilled. A half-dozen go for $10.00 and single oyster shooters can be had for $2.00.
The French Dip ($7.75) is a modestly-portioned roast beef sandwich that is served on a grilled French Roll. The au jus is really tasty, and you can select from a choice of American, Parmesan, Mozzarella, Provolone, Swiss and Cheddar Cheeses. We had the Provolone, and it was very good.
The "Z" Burger ($7.00) is one of Jan Z's most popular sandwich meals (you select from french fries, rice, potato salad, garden salad or seafood salad as an accompaniment to all sandwiches), which is understandable , since Americans (and now everyone else) love hamburgers. However all hamburgers are not created equal, and Jan Z's ranks on the high end of the scale. It has 8 oz. of lean ground beef, raw or grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and pickle on a toasted sesame seed bun, with choice of cheese, sauted mushrooms, and bacon as extra add-ons. It is a work of art, and gives supreme satisfaction. I've watched world travelers from the food industry enjoy this sandwich. It is a model. Eat and learn! According to Bradford, the Sirena (Catch-of-the-day) Sandwich ($7.50) is gaining in popularity. Of course, it has to be good since it is one of the island's freshest fish sandwiches. (Also because the people responsible for putting the food out really care about the quality of what they serve their customers!)
Breakfast at Jan Z's starts at 8 a.m. daily and lasts til noon. Be ready for hearty meals, folks, cause that's how they come here! The Hobo ($8.50) is a popular breakfast entree, and has sauteed vegetables with meats, hash browns or home fries, eggs, cheese and toast or English muffin. The Steak and Eggs has a 14 oz. New York (which justifies the $15.00 price) and two eggs. Pancakes have been popular here too, and they make some "doozies!" as a single pancake will cover your plate - be sure you're hungry before you order the stack. This Sunday's special was Apple Cinnamon pancakes for $2.00.
There are many other dishes and unique items at Jan Z's, too many to mention in this review (I should say try the Seafood Salad - a unique product at Jan Z's, that has home smoked flaked tuna on a bed of fresh coleslaw.) Jan Z's bar serves cocktails and lots of beer. Their Bloody Mary's are legendary - ask for the Old Bay version. The service staff is friendly and the atmosphere is relaxed. The decor is "ancient mariner", which means it is a maritime and war museum, with a collection of artifacts, flags, military regalia, navigation charts and tools, uniforms, coins, currencies, swords, bayonets, and plenty of other neat items that stir the imagination.
Jan Z's serves food until 10 p.m. and is extremely busy during their Sunday Breakfast service...reservations are strongly recommended to assure seating at the time you want to eat. Call 565-2814. One of the only complaints I've ever heard was that it took a long time to get seated and served on Sunday mornings. Don't say you weren't forewarned.
Do yourself a favor and go to Jan Z's By the Sea, not just because it's a good reason "to eat out of town," but more so because it's a good reason to "get out of town"!