Sagano Teppanyaki Lunch - Affordable Quality with a Spectacular Bay View
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
You can tell by the food you are eating when someone, somewhere cares about pleasing you with the food served. At the Sagano Japanese Restaurant, located on the second Floor of the Onward Beach Resort, that someone is Katsumi Goda, Sagano Chef.
Although I'd eaten at Sagano a few years ago, I could tell from my recent visit that a notable change for the better had occurred, and I can attribute that to Chef Goda's culinary direction and leadership. Today's teppanyaki lunch review was prompted by a tip I received from a diner who'd become disenchanted with the price increases and diminishing quality of another famous Japanese teppanyaki restaurant located in Tumon. I can understand price increases, but that should not affect quality...it should at minimum maintain it! I've eaten at most if not all of Guam's teppanyaki restaurants, past and present, and each one offers something different to distinguish itself. Sagano has an unrivalled, even breathtaking, view of Agana Bay which looks marvelous even on a gray, overcast, rainy day, like the day I visited.
I arrived late (about 1:15pm) for lunch (weekday lunch hours are from 11:30am-1:30pm), and was the sole occupant at the teppan counter, which probably seats around 16. This was so unlike the full occupancy at the other active teppanyaki eateries (a lot of that due is to low priced specials). I sat near the end and just gazed out over the bay, watching visitors frolicking on the shoreline, with some riding jet skis and others paddling small kayaks. This was a vision of paradise, rain or shine. My attendant, Mercy, had given me the lunch menu when seating me and now had asked for my drink. I had the iced tea that came with my selection, which was the Scallop and Squid & Tenderloin Steak ($15) that was under the Seafood and Beef Steak Set. The other two choices were the U.S. King Salmon and Rib Eye Steak ($18) and the Shrimp Bacon Roll and Rib Eye Steak ($15).
There were probably 20 or 25 other diners in the dining area of Sagano, and I was told that many of them prefer to sit at the tables, and have their teppan served to them there. Some don't want to have any grease pop on their clothes. I can't imagine choosing to sit at a table if there's space on the "front line" - that's where the action is...just like it is at a good sushi bar! Other items on the menu included a Steak or Chicken sets, with choices of Tenderloin with Ponzu Sauce ($18), Rib Eye with Ponzu Sauce($15) and Chicken Breast with Butter Sauce ($11). Both sets included iced tea, salad, mixed vegetables, rice, miso soup, pickles, and fruits.
The first to be delivered on my semi-circular dining tray was the salad, pickled radish strips, and two orange slices, that had been peeled, cut and then presented on the peel (nice touch). The dipping sauces were also on the tray, and my curiosity prompted me to try the dark, viscous sauce that looked like hoisin or plum paste. The other two were a peanut sauce and the regular ponzu sauce. When my teppan chef Celso Mondina was cooking my order on the grill, I asked him about this dark, intriguing paste. He said it was dark miso sauce, and that the Japanese called it "Aka Miso" (red miso) or "Miso Dari" (dark miso). It's a blend of sake, white wine, dark red miso, sesame powder, and sugar. Chef Goda later explained that this miso sauce is very popular in Nagoya, and that the brand he uses (Hatcho Miso) is the highest quality.
I watched Celso deftly slice and turn the meat and seafood. He used white wine on the scallops and squid, and brandy on the steak in the final cook-off. He said that the flare-ups were done at night since it made for a more dramatic presentation when it was darker. I waited for my entire meal to be grilled before eating (this to allow for a complete photo) and then began the process of picking and dipping with my chopsticks. The miso sauce was terrific with the scallops and the tender squid, which had been cut into bite size strips. The ponzu worked fine for the steak. The peanut sauce was flavorful, but I didn't use it much...it actually tasted like a satay sauce. I was told it was perfect for lobster, which is served at dinner time (for significantly more money!). I was also told by Chef Goda that the sunset was a sight to behold, and that a good time to view it would be between 5:30- 6pm. There aren't many restaurants with a direct sunset view.
The mix grilled vegetables really impressed me, for taste, variety, and quality. In fact, they were the best I think I've had anywhere locally. This included green onions, red bell pepper, cabbage, bean sprouts, thinly sliced white onion, and carrots. These were sauted with a butter sauce and cooked to the right doneness so that the veggies were still crisp and juicy. This would really satisfy a vegetarian. In fact, the a la carte items on the lunch menu listed Sauted Shiitake Mushrooms, Enoki Mushrooms, and Sauted Welsh Onion (all items $7 each), as well as Garlic Rice ($3). An order of the Sauted Mix Vegetables is $7.
I had my miso soup after finishing my meal, and then Chef Goda asked if I wanted dessert. I happened to have the latest Guam Food Today (which featured my English reviews for many of the restaurants), and if you show this booklet, you get a "free Uzi ice cream" (uzi meaning super premium ice cream). What I didn't know, was that Chef Goda was topping this premium vanilla ice cream with matcha (powdered green tea). This was divine, with the matcha bringing a universe of health benefits as the ice cream was only for pleasure, of course. Did you know that green tea has L-theanine, which heightens awareness and relaxes, as well as boosts your metabolic rate by 35-40%, helping you lose weight? It also has 70 times the antioxidants of orange juice, and nine times the beta carotene of spinach and four times more than carrots!
Sagano Japanese Restaurant has an extensive dinner menu and a la carte specials, including bento boxes. You can get traditional hot pot dishes like sukiyaki and shabu shabu, as well as one of Chef Goda's ramen specialties. The panko fried chicken dipped in a mouth watering sauce is also another popular item. Live lobster, though, is the teppanyaki highlight for dinner.
If you'd like to enjoy a relaxing lunch overlooking a beautiful sweeping ocean panorama, then you should come to Sagano Japanese Restaurant in the Onward Resort Guam, either for the great teppanyaki that I enjoyed, or for any of the delicious menu items created by Chef Goda! I'm sure you'll be as satisfied as I was! Call 647-7777 for reservations and information.