Joinus Teppanyaki - $10.99 Lunch Special Satisfies All
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
It was deja vu. Yes, I'd not been here for a review since December 2001 and though there have been a few changes to the menu (such as a price increase, from $9.99 to $10.99), everything else about the Joinus Teppanyaki lunch experience was close to identical, as though I'd not been away at all. Located in the Tumon Sands Plaza, Joinus Teppanyaki is the oldest teppan restaurant on Guam. I recall that they were serving incredible dinners back in the mid-seventies, so they've probably got a 30-year legacy going for them.
I arrived just after 11:30am (I wanted to get there early to beat the rush and secure a seat at the teppan counter). As soon as I was seated by my hostess, Linda, in one of the two remaining seats, I knew that I was in the right place at the right time. Interestingly, Ed Cruz, one of the senior teppan cooks, saw me and said, "Welcome back, Mr. Food Guy!" He remembered me and I'd not been back in over 3 years! In front of me (I had a corner view), the contiguous griddles spanned about 20 feet, and seated in front of them were mostly airmen in Air National Guard uniforms. Their orders were arranged in sequence on the griddles in different stages of preparedness. It was exciting to watch the deft slicing of onions, steak, chicken, and shrimp as the pieces sizzled on the ultra hot metal surface. The garlic slices (pre-cooked then added into the mixed meats and vegetables) gave off that heady aroma which never fails to leave me salivating. The Joinus Lunch Special is served Monday-Friday, from 11:30am-1:45pm, and offers diners the following choice of four menu entree combinations:
A. Beef Top Sirloin Steak, Spring Chicken, and Shrimp w/Bacon
B. Beef Top Sirloin Steak, Salmon, and Shrimp w/Bacon
C. Spring Chicken, Salmon, and Shrimp w/Bacon
D. Salmon, Scallops, and Shrimp
These are all served with Carrots, Onions, Green Bell Peppers, Tofu, and Bean Sprouts. Diners also get a fresh Green Salad with a choice of dressings (I opted for Japanese Dressing). Miso Soup and steamed White Rice are also offered, however, you can specify Garlic Fried Rice instead, which the cooks will make for you on the spot. As I watched my neighbors eat, I noticed something in their manner which seems universal. It's an innate love for the teppanyaki dining experience. My first memories of teppanyaki were in 1973 at the old Kurumaya in the Dai Ichi (this later evolved into the fabled Kurumaya Seahorse on the beach, as well as into the Shimbashi (currently under reconstruction).While you can still get terrific teppanyaki in Saipan at the Saipan Beach Dai Ichi's Shimbashi Restaurant, as well as at the Hyatt's Miyako, and the Nikko's Benkay, Guam's Teppanyaki offerings have diminished over the past 3 years. Niji at the Hyatt and the Okura's Yamazato offer grilled teppan at night and Issin at the Westin has teppan as well. The Genji at Roy's is ok, but not like the real deal it could be (and will be once it re-opens.) There's nothing like the "thrill of the grill" whenever teppan's served, especially when the flames flare up from the splash of brandy.
The salad at Joinus has not changed. They are still pre-made and wheeled around on a cart. The garbanzo beans are a mainstay, and the crisp green lettuce and red tomato seemed to be chilled just right. Ed asked how I wanted my steak cooked (medium rare) as I munched down the salad. I then watched him turn the chicken and bacon-wrapped shrimp that he was grilling for me. The beauty of teppanyaki is how one can become absorbed in watching all the food ingredients cook. The use of olive oil and butter to lubricate and flavor, along with the garlic, and a little sake on the vegetables, all did a lot to enhance the flavors of the food. Ed did manage to flare my combined ingredients into a bright yellow-orange flame. It's as exciting as watching fireworks, only better 'cause you get to eat the burning stuff with teppanyaki!
I was amazed at my patience as Ed systematically placed the separate cooked elements on the platter before me. I had to wait for everything to arrive to get the final photo. I then was able to enjoy a leisurely teppan dining experience, one bite at a time, occasionally dipping my beef and chicken into the ponzu sauce provided. The servers do offer diners a finedene alternative (they add marinated chopped onions to the ponzu, making in effect a finedene.) The bacon-wrapped shrimp was among my favorites. I actually must have had a subconscious desire for this uniquely-flavored shrimp creation. It's the kind of food that engages your imagination since bacon is such a powerful influencer. Look at what it does to filet mignon!
Linda later told me that on Saturday and Sunday, the lunch special was limited to Choice A, at the same $10.99 price. However, lunch starts at 11am on Sundays and ends at 1:45pm. If you are unable to get a seat at the teppan counter, Joinus has about 8 or 9 large booths that allow for guests to share a table. The booth is designed with a griddle in the middle so that the cook can fix food for the different guests seated. Ideally, having a group lunch or dinner would be the best, since all of the food can be cooked simultaneously. Joinus's dinner menu has many more options, including live Lobster and Lobster Tail with higher grade steaks, such as Tenderloin, Filet, and New York. Of course, the prices will easily triple the price of this popular lunch special. Dinner hours are from 6-9:30pm, and the meals are among Guam's best.
There is no service charge for the Joinus lunch special. I suggest you make reservations by calling 646-4807 when you are dining with a group. It's important that everybody shows up when they are supposed to since the group won't be seated until everyone's arrived. I highly recommend the Joinus Teppanyaki lunch special for an authentic teppan experience, at a price you'll never see in Tokyo!
Ita dake masu!