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  Al Dente
Tumon, Guam, in the Hyatt Regency Guam
Fine Dining

  Brown Bag Cafe
Tamuning, Guam, in the DFS/Shell Building
Baked Goods, California, Contemporary, Healthy Cho
Cafe, Coffee House, Take Out

  Doraku Restaurant
Tumon, Guam, in the Pia Resort

  Hava Java Cafe
Hagatna, Guam
Baked Goods, Beverages, Sandwiches, Specialty Coff
Coffee House, Deli, Take Out, Wi-Fi

  Jamaican Grill
Tumon, Guam, in the Carl Rose Tumon Plaza
Barbecue, Jamaican
Casual Dining, Outdoor Dining

  La Brasserie
Tumon, Guam, in the Holiday Resort Guam
Asian, International, Pacific Rim
Buffet, Family Friendly, Restaurant

  Sejong Traditional Korean Restaurant
Upper Tumon, Guam


Guam Food Guy's Top Ten Reviews for 2004
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
December 2004

In perusing this past year's 51 newsletters, I was amazed by the variety and diversity of restaurants I've reviewed. Trying to choose which were my personal favorites was not easy since there were some I wanted to include but couldn't because I limited myself to ten.

While one of the restaurant's reviewed closed (Island Grill), a few others featured chefs whom I felt made those reviews spectacular, but who have since moved on, thus affecting my decision to include them. These two were Caravel Restaurant chef, Yoji Akiyama, whose style and attentive detail transformed food into art, and Joe Borja, formerly of The Grille at Santa Fe, whose irrepressible culinary enthusiasm energized the kitchen and launched a defining menu. Another great chef featured in our June 18 newsletter, Jeff Hill of the SandCastle, was prematurely snatched from this world in an unfortunate diving accident in September. He'll always have a place in our hearts, in our minds, and in our kitchens.

Herewith are my Top Ten Reviews for 2004, listed in chronological order, with introductory excerpts to whet your appetites as to why they made the grade this year:

1. Old Hagatna Grill Five Years On - An All-Star Menu of Greatest Hits
(May 21st , Vol 4 Number 22 )

"There is nothing ordinary about the Old Hagatna Grill, which is one of the many reasons OHG has reached it's successful positioning among the top of Guam's best dining destinations. It's casual, laid-back ambiance relaxes guests so they feel right at home, leaving their minds open to the great food experience they've come to expect. It is a favorite hang-out for lawyers (who seem to hold an informal after hours court along OHG's sturdy polished wood bar; after all, once you've passed the Guam Bar, you're qualified to practice at OHG's "bar!"). Business types, military, and professionals from the public and private sectors are just a few of the regulars you'll find gracing OHG's tables during lunch and dinner hours. Though it's nice to rub elbows and catch up on the latest scuttlebutt, or even to get a preview of tomorrow's headlines, people come to the "Grill" (or the "Old Hag", as it is affectionately called) primarily for one thing - it's fabulous food!"

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2. Al Dente - Inspired New Chef Masters and Enlivens Italian Classics
(June 4th, Vol. 4 Number 23)

"If it's true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, then it may follow that the same applies to an appetite, and in this case, the craving for a particular cuisine - Italian, to be precise! We are pleased to report that our appetites and cravings for Italian were recently overwhelmed by the masterful creations served by Al Dente's new Chef De Cuisine, Mirko Agostini, who has arrived on Guam from the Hyatt Hotel Canberra where he was the Sous Chef. Mirko hails from Milan, Italy and previously worked in London's Hyatt Carlton Tower where he began as a Chef de Partie. Mirko has found a new home in Guam and has fashioned a phenomenal menu of Italian classics that have already received "two thumbs up approval" from local foodies."

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3. The Brown Bag Cafe - Healthy & Creative Gourmet Salads, Sandwiches and More
(June 25th, Volume 4 Number 26)

"Lory Tydingco is one determined lady who knows what she likes and is on a mission to share this with a growing number of loyal customers who can be seen running around town clutching Lory's signature brown bags. The Brown Bag Cafe is Lory's brainchild and home to Guam's largest selection of gourmet salads as well as a host of healthy sandwiches, whole wheat pizzas, wraps, unique baked goods (such as a family of muffins made with cream cheese - how does Mango, Key Lime, Banana, Blueberry, Peach and Strawberry grab you?), quality beverages like Illy espresso and China Mist Tea, and an assortment of exotic packaged food products."

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4. La Brasserie's Daily Lunch Buffets - Where Fresh Means Best!
(July 9th, Volume 4 Number 28)

"In what certainly qualifies as one of the island's "best kept secrets," the Holiday Inn Resort Guam's La Brasserie offers diners five (one for each work day!) fresh market lunch buffets, each uniquely enticing, with three of them having a build-your-own meal feature. Most amazingly, they are all value-priced at $9 plus a 10% service charge!"

"From 11am until 2pm, the weekday line-up includes: Low Carb Monday, Mongolian BBQ Tuesday, Vietnamese Wednesday, Thailand Thursday, and Filipino Friday. For the purposes of this review, I sampled the Mongolian BBQ, the Vietnamese, and Thai buffets, and based my recommendations on the exceptional quality of these all-you-can eat lunch specials, since I don't think anyone else offers diners a comparable selection of fresh vegetables and meats."

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5. Sabai Dee Thai Restaurant - Superb Thai Classics Cooked with Passion
(July 15th, Volume 4 Number 29)

"At the wok making all this culinary magic is our good friend Tim Palacios, whom we introduced over a year ago at the Time Out Sports Lounge, where she launched an awesome Thai Lunch Buffet. In this new location, she and her partner, Rose Wood, have combined their talents and resources to create what I hope to be a lasting legacy for Thai food so we can all "bookmark" in it our favorites! I find Tim's food simply mesmerizing, and to give you an idea of it's effect, I've heard several ardent Binh Minh devotees relate that they easily overcame their disappointment after they had a taste of Tim's home-style Thai cooking."

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6. Doraku Restaurant - New Izakaya Offers Exceptional Japanese Cuisine
(August 27th, Volume 4, Number 35)

"Of the many blessings for which I am grateful and truly appreciate is having "foodie" friends tell me about new places I've not tried before. When Keiko N. asked if had I been to one of her favorites, Doraku, I replied I hadn't and then embarked on a strategy to seek out this hidden treasure with someone "in the know" who could help me navigate through the Japanese menu...Then things began to get dramatic...the Assorted Sashimi ($20 & up) was delivered...and took my breath away! Stunningly-beautiful, the presentation included Saba (mackerel) Rolled Ika (squid, with seaweed inside), Maguro (tuna), the much-prized Toro (fatty tuna underbelly), Kaibashira (large scallops), Tako (octopus), Hamachi (yellow tail), and Sake (salmon, slightly seared). This was a divine, ritualistic eating experience, where true reverence and enjoyment of and for each bite, flavor, texture, and taste are appreciated."

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7. Hava Java Cafe - Simply the Best!
(September 3rd, Volume 4, Number 36)

"If Guam ever held an Olympics for Coffee Shops, then Hava Java Cafe would get the Gold medal. Hava Java sells Lavazza, Italy's #1 coffee, and brews their espressos properly; they offer a "Make Me A Sandwich" Menu with more quality meats, cheeses, dressings, veggies, breads than anyone else; the interior features colorful murals and an intriguing collection of art deco coffee-themed & Torani syrup posters; and they have a prime location in the center of Hagatna next to the Post Office. It's these attributes and many more which differentiate Hava Java Cafe from the rest of the coffee spots that have perked up over the past decade."

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8. Sejong Korean Restaurant - Traditional Taste & Exceptional Quality
(November 5th, Volume 4 Number 45)

"If you like Korean cuisine, then you'll love Sejong Korean Restaurant. Located behind the Boy Scout Center in Tamuning (you have to turn right just before the Guam Girl Scout Center to access Sejong), the Sejong Korean Restaurant has just made my "A" list for Korean eateries, period. Immaculately clean, beautifully furnished with seating to accommodate traditional Korean dining (on cushions at low tables) and Western-style seating at tables with chairs, Sejong would be an ideal place for novices to become acquainted with Korean food, especially at lunch time when specials for residents run between $7 - $8. Not only that, but Sejong's proactive management team is offering a free Sejong Discount Card for residents, which gives 10% off on food and drinks."

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9. Jamaican Grill Tumon - Where Good Just Got Seriously Better! Ya Mon!
(November 26th, Volume 4 Number 48)

"Located in the 2nd floor of the Carl Rose Building, across San Vitores from the Pacific Island Club, the Jamaican Grill has done everything to draw attention to itself, with outrageous colors and bold signage - try to imagine what a visitor would make of the words "Serious Food"! Once you get into the spirit and personality of this charming, carefree eaterie, you'll begin to spout off phrases like "Ya Mon" and "Irie", and you'll find yourself bopping along to the Jamaican rhythms and tunes popularized by the legendary performer, Bob Marley. What still amazes me is how both Murphy and Kenney have captivated the local taste buds, introducing a completely new and different cuisine to Guam, giving them a virtual franchise on jerk-seasoned meats. They are the only game in town for Jamaican food, period, amen!"

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10. The New Uncle Bob's - The Place for All Things Beef and More!
(December 17th, Volume 4, Number 51)

"The new Uncle Bob's, which is located in Anigua next to Siam Cuisine, has expanded its menu to offer a range of smoked meats that'll take your taste buds to the heart of Texas, St. Louis, and Kentucky. A true-life encounter with brisket I ate in Texas proved that point, since Uncle Bob's beef brisket was far more tender, succulent, and flavorful. (I should add that Bob Dalziel, Uncle Bob's owner, had spent months and many dollars working to perfect this brisket). We enjoyed the brisket as part of the BBQ Combo Platter ($20) which also included BBQ Baby Back Ribs and BBQ Chicken. These ribs will create a new category for people who love ribs since they don't need a sauce even though the platter offers both tangy and sweet sauces. What's nice about Uncle Bob's ribs is that the flavor is not "boiled" out of get to taste the pork, and it's smoked, not grilled. The chicken redefined tender roast...maybe we'll just call it "tender smoked", since that's how it felt and tasted."

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Bon Appetit & Happy New Year!!!!