Saipan Highlights - Miyako, Wild Bill's & Aqua Resort Lunch Beach BBQ
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
If you are travelling to Saipan for the first time, you may be surprised by the culinary diversity available to our smaller neighbor to the north. Interestingly enough, there are many residents from both Guam and Saipan who claim that they have better dining experiences in Saipan than on Guam. I don't know if it's a fact that's ever been objectively determined. I have had wonderful and exciting meals in both places, and yes, there are some things that are done better on Guam and there are other things that are done better in Saipan, so let's just say that it's a draw and not worry about who's better - let's just appreciate both places! Isn't that a diplomatic solution?
Though I've been to many places during my trips to Saipan, my most recent travels have afforded me an opportunity to explore some new dining experiences. The three that I'd like to share with you are the Miyako Lunch Buffet at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, Wild Bill's Thai Cuisine, and the new Lunch Beach BBQ at the Aqua Resort Club, one of Saipan's best kept secret hideaways.
Miyako Lunch Buffet
I don't know why I'd not dined at Miyako Japanese Restaurant during all of my prior visits to Saipan. I'd frequented the Hyatt a lot over the years, spending more time at Kili Terrace and Giovanni's. I am glad that I did finally indulge in the Miyako experience, and believe it or not, the special Japanese Lunch Buffet offers diners a sampling of Miyako's best cuisine. For $22 (plus service charge), you get an all-you-can-eat selection of Sushi, Sashimi, Tempura, Noodles, Soup, and more. There are no windows in Miyako, so it has an inherent dimness that makes it seem that you are always having dinner in an exclusive Japanese enclave. The atmosphere is intimate and the luncheon is so popular that you should seriously consider making reservations by calling (670) 233-1234.
The food stations are laid out in several areas so it's possible to start at either the sashimi, cold salad section or at the soup station. One particularly interesting station had salmon and saba pieces slow-grilling over hot coals. This was a nice feature, since seafood grilling while you watch adds the extra cache of fresh-off-the-grill authenticity to the meal. I also loaded up on several different sushi types and sashimi, only to find out later that the chef was already making me a special sushi selection so I had to eat two different sushi collections. Did I mind? Not at all! The quality was superb. I also treated myself to udon, vegetable stew, tempura, salad, vegetables, stewed eggplant, tofu, chawanmushi, and grilled chicken. I didn't think I'd had room, but I even managed a few pieces of fruit and green tea cake.
Miyako's a la carte lunch menu includes the Unajyu Set (Broiled Sea Eel, $22), Futami Set (Appetizer, Udon and Tuna Roll, $18), Ebi Tendon (Rice topped with Deep Fried Prawns, $15), and Tori Kuwayaki Don( Rice topped with Grilled Chicken, $11). A bowl of Chasoba (Cold Green Tea Noodles) is $11, and Tempura Udon or Soba is $15.50.
I have to make it a point to return for dinner at Miyako, or perhaps just sit at the sushi counter and sip sake while eating the chef's special sushi and sashimi preparations. Doesn't that sound like marvelous fun?
Wild Bill's Bar & Grill
Another worthwhile spot in Saipan is the relatively new pub and restaurant called Wild Bill's Bar & Grill, which is located in Garapan about a block away from Thai House. I was told about this place by several people, but it wasn't until I ran into Bill Curry and his wife Somjai on Guam that they told me I needed to get to their new place and try out their Thai food. Wild Bill's boasts a diverse menu selection, including a variety of hot sandwiches from Roast Beef ($6.25) to burgers such as the Bacon Cheeseburger ($5), Country Fried Steak ($7), Fried Chicken ($6.50), Steaks, Seafood Entrees, Combinations, and more. They also have a Thai food section on their menu, which is what I came to eat this time.
I ordered the Gai Kra Praow (Chicken with Sweet Basil $7 ), Pad Thai ($7), and was given a sample of their signature fresh rolls (Summer Rolls, $7,) which were mixed bean thread noodles and vegetables with shrimp, served with peanut sauce. The rolls were awesome...not just great tasting, especially when dipped in the hot, as in warmed, spicy peanut sauce with generous chopped nuts floating atop, but also great in stature and number. There were eight halves that each seemed to be about as big as the regular-sized ones I'm used to getting. I ate what I could, and brought the rest to the staff at my hotel.
The Pad Thai was pretty good, too, and I portioned half for take-out. I really enjoyed the Gai Kra Praow. I had this dish Thai Style, with the fried egg on top. It was as good as I've had at my favorite Guam Thai restaurants, with nice red bell peppers and fragrant basil infused throughout. It has to be one of my favorite Thai dishes...certainly an aromatic delight for me!
Wild Bill's is open for breakfast, too, and serves Omelettes, Pork Chops, Chamorro Breakfasts, Beef Tapa, Breakfast Steaks, Pancakes, French Toast, Hash Browns,and Fried Rice. Their phone number is (670) 233-3372 for take-out and they are open from 7am-10pm.
Aqua Resort Lunch Beach BBQ
For those of you who fantasize about living the lifestyle of the rich and famous, I've got good news for you! You can do it for real at the Aqua Resort Club, where you can enjoy a BBQ Lunch at a canopied table just feet away from the rolling surf. The recently introduced Lunch BBQ is a spin-off of their popular Sunset BBQ dinner. Lunch is only $18for adults and $9 for children, and is available Monday-Friday from 11am-2pm.
All you do is choose your meats (marinated chicken, top sirloin, short ribs, tuna, parrotfish) that are then taken by the cook to a bbq grill. You also get ears of corn to bbq, and you can choose either white or red rice or a baked potato with all the toppings. A salad and steamed vegetables are also offered. For a beverage, we were treated to fresh coconut juice over ice.
What a tropical dream meal this was! The view is absolutely fantastic, with beautiful white sandy beaches stretching south and north, no buildings blocking or intruding on the scenic vista. The aquamarine sea was mesmerizing, and sitting at the table eating the hot just-barbecued meats and dipping pieces in finadene to localize the experience made this a luncheon you don't want to leave. It's like a private and exclusive picnic on the beach with your own personal chef! Moreover, if you have the time and are not a hotel guest, you can still avail yourself of the pool at no charge and even receive a free beach towel, so you can just relax and soak up the sun after sating your hunger. You can also get 20% off on all marine activities, which include windsurfing, snorkeling, and kayaking.
I can't think of a better way to enjoy lunch in paradise than to spend it there at the remote and ultra-relaxing Aqua Resort. I may even put my swimming trunks in my briefcase on my next business visit there! Better yet, plan on spending the weekend after your Friday BBQ Beach Lunch at the Aqua Resort Club, so you can enjoy Raraina for fine dining and the Costa Terrace for lavish buffet spreads. Call Aqua Resort at (670) 322-1234
Now doesn't a Saipan visit sound appealing?