Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
It was Tuesday night and just after a relaxing stretch at my Yoga Class, I invited myinstructor, Linda, to join me to try the new menu items at the Jamaican Grill. Since she's vegetarian, I wanted to get her first-hand impression of the new "Veg-Out, Vegetarian" entrees.
As there are far too many new item on this extraordinary menu(I say "extraordinary" because Frank & Tim have taken their original Jamaican "jerk" concept and adopted it to popular local(Guam) delicacies, and this is a notable achievement of original creations), I asked Tim to prepare samples of selected items so that I could better relate my experiences to you. Erla, our smiling and ever-present waitress suggested that I try the "The Mix", which is a refreshing combination of their "Splash" (a mixture of mango, guava, and pineapple juices) with their Citrus Ade (lemon & lime juices with a bit of sugar syrup)--this becomes a fruit flavored lemonade!
They also have a Mango Tea, bottled water, Ice Coffee, a selection of quality beers, Maui Wine(from the islands, and they even recommend matching meal accompaniments for the 3 types(Maui Blanc, Maui Blush, and Ulupalakua Red--I've had them before, and even visited the winery!) There is a selection of Festive Island Drinks available, which are mixed fruit/liquor combinations($6.95).
One special drink they have is a classic in Jamaica--Ginger Beer. It is made with ginger root and fermented in brewer's yeast. It's refreshing and like a ginger ale soda on steroids! Be sure to try this excellent, non-alcoholic beverage.
From the appetizer menu, I sampled the "Jerk" Chicken Keleguen( $6.95). This classic Chamorro dish has chicken tossed with red & green onions, marinated chili peppers, blended jerk seasoning, and freshly squeezed lemon, along with warm, freshly grilled flour tortillas. I truly believe this will be a hit among the locals....they've created a well-flavored version that stands on its own. Really delicious....fresh tasting, and pika! I also had some of the Spicy Calypso Steak Chesa ($9.95), which is an 8 oz. New York Strip that's marinated in spicy jerk seasoning and sauteed with fresh garlic, green peppers, sweet onions, vine ripened tomatoes, green onions, and chili peppers. It's then finished simmering in a honey ginger Worcestershire sauce. Ummmmmm, good! Kind of like a stir fried steak, only with a Jamaican twist.
Linda was enjoying the Jamaican rice and even the Chamorro Red Rice, which was cooked without bacon (much healthier). She was also eating some Grilled Eggplant, Bell Peppers, Tomato, Sweet Onion, and Pineapple(theser from the Freshly Grilled Vegetable Plate( $7.95). I tasted the local eggplant...wow,was it good! It was firm, and the flavors were intense, but not overwhelming. The Grilled Pineapple was unique. A fruit salad was placed in front of her. It was a cornucopia of fruit & veggies, with melons, watermelon, cucumber, onions,carrots, and crisp romaine lettuce. Their salad dressing complimented it nicely(a fruit based house dressing. They also have Vinaigrette and Caribbean Ranch).
Back to the meats! Next I had a plate with Irie Pork Chop(which was a lean, thick, and seasoned piece of grilled pork that was good; a few Boston Beach Ribs, a Kingston BBQ "Jerk" Chicken drumstick, some Marinated Beef Short Ribs, and both red and Jamaican rice. I noted that the chicken was better than I remember it being...just tasted fresher---that's because they've improved their cooking process. They also have some capable cooks in the kitchen--Kurt from Hawaii and Francis from Guam. The Beef Rib was comparably tougher than the chicken and other meats, but it was flavored nicely. Beef short rib can take more effort to bite, and certain marinades will tenderize them.
I was brought a piece of one of the fresh catches - Mahi. It was just brought in by a fisherman. It was indescribably tender, moist, seasoned, and just "darned" great! Covered by that combination fruit salsa, this Mahi was one for the records and would compete in world competitions. I hardly used the finadene that accompanied it.
I had a skewer of the Island Shrimp. These were plump, meaty shrimp pieces that were grilled. The Honey-Ginger Dipping Sauce made this another extraordinary taste experience. That ginger and honey were reduced to make a thick, flavorful creation that turned those shrimp on!!!
We had an ice cream dish--not just any ice cream, but Dreyer's, with fresh fruit. That was a nice way to end a full meal...cool and refreshing. We both were sated by tonight's feast.
Tim almost forgot to bring out something he wanted us to try---Jamaican Fruit Chutney($2.50) as a side. It does come as an accompaniment for the Pork Chops. This is yet another one of their signature creations...you will have to try this. The fruit(melons) has been reduced with onions, peppers, ginger, and vinegar. It is so intensely good that you think of a lot of food you'd like to eat this chutney with, and then you find yourself eating it alone! Great stuff!
Jamaican Grill is not a fine dining restaurant...it is casual, laid back, and friendly. In an open air environment, the tables are wooden and your food is served on plastic disposable plates with plastic forks/knives or chopsticks. Eating here is not about presentation..it's about good, healthy food in a fun, unique, natural environment. A wonderful selection of Jamaican/Reggae music plays in the background while you eat. We listened to one of Tim's favorite artists, Gregory Isaac. His music is refreshingly mellow, with a sophisticated rhythm, allowing for conversation while tapping your feet! On Sunday around sunset, you can listen to the live DJ sounds of Ja-Son Kool from 6-10.
Jamaican Grill's new menu allows for more Combos than ever, more family platter selections, more sides, and even Sandwiches(including a Jerk Burger and Chicken Sandwich). There will have to be more trips to this little eatery in Hagatna by the marina, where the Jerk's Jammin' with NEW Serious Food Sensations! "Ya Mon"! There's something "Irie" for everyone at Jamaican Grill!