Hyatt Regency Saipan's Sunday Extravaganza - A Culinary Fantasy Renewed
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
There's something about travelling that tends to embellish even the most mundane experiences, however, there is one dining experience that's worth travelling to as it would impress regardless of how mundane or exotic the location. I'm talking about the Sunday Brunch at the Hyatt Regency Saipan. For $31, guests are treated to a breathtaking cornucopia of culinary delights served in an elegant room bathed in natural sunlight with a scenic tropical garden view. Add to this a pianist playing both classic and contemporary melodies that sooth, inspire, and relax, compounding the pleasure of dining while sipping champagne.
The Hyatt's Sunday Brunch combines the talents and facilities of several of its outlets. The main dining area is Giovanni's, renowned for its authentic Italian fare. Teppanyaki provides the phalanx of grills that are used for cooking and serving a range of courses, including Omelettes, Belgian Waffles, Prime Rib Roast, Pancakes, Crepes, Pasta Creations, Pizzas and Whole Roast Pig. Several live cooking stations are featured here and I highly recommend taking a tour of these stations to watch and interact with the different chefs who are preparing made-to-order dishes. A highlight is the sushi station where Miyako's chefs deftly roll hand-made sushi.
I was first introduced to this culinary extravaganza back in the early '90s and I have longed to return to enjoy this legendary Sunday Brunch. I'd never been able to get back to Saipan on a Sunday since becoming the Food Guy to do a review. After all of this time, and now much better prepared to make qualitative comparisons, I returned and was able to see if the culinary fantasy I've secretly harbored inside for all this years was true or just a figment of my fevered imagination.
One of the first things that strikes you on entering is the abundance and variety of foods displayed on glass-topped tables arranged against the windows. Here you will find lox and bagels with capers and cream cheese, quiche lorraine, cheeses, Black Forest ham, salami, sliced turkey breast, Kalamata olives, chutney, pickles, Asparagus & Ham Rolls, breads, rolls, pastries, croissants, cold salads, and stuffed mussels. Then, in the center of this first entrance area is a long ice-filled boat-shaped trough that's piled with chilled seafood, including mixed sashimi, oysters, prawn, King Crab legs, and Australian Spanner crab with salsa. I forgot to mention that there are plants, cut bamboo, and flowers everywhere, highlighting and decorating the food trays, creating a tropical feeling throughout. This works on both conscious and subliminal levels, and you can't help but feel you are dining in paradise.
When I got to the sushi counter, Miyako chef, Lito, told me he'd prepare a plate for me, which he did while I finished gathering my other seafood items. I was delighted to see the simple but representative selection made for me, which included hokkai (clams), maguro (tuna), ika (squid), hodate (scallops), tamago (egg), kappa (cucumber), and a California roll covered with tobiko (flying fish roe). I blended my wasabi and soy and set to work on my "appetizer" course.
My second food excursion was to get some fresh roast pig, bone-in prime rib (the prime rib was on the grill along with sizzling garlic cloves), a pasta dish, and an omelette. I believe my eyes were bigger than my stomach, since the meat I had cut for me must have weighed two pounds! The beef was succulent, tender, and well seasoned with garlic and rosemary. I added a dollop of horseradish to go with my beef. The pasta was a penne dish blended with white sauce, mushrooms, Kalamata olives, zucchini, sun-dried tomato, bell pepper, shrimp, and parmesan cheese. I had Teppanyaki's chef de cuisine, Joe Viduya, prepare a combination omelette for me. He's quite the showman, flipping spatulas and pepper mills up in the air wowing the customers standing before him.
I'd had champagne and coffee earlier during the meal, and when I was ready for my second cup, my server brought me an entirely new fresh-brewed cup of Illy. The service at the Hyatt was attentive and courteous, and seemed to anticipate when I needed something. I noticed that they really watched their customers and were quick to accommodate every request.
Normally, this is when I would do a dessert run, however, there simply was no more space left for the incredible array of desserts awaiting me, which featured a long list of treat including Cinnamon Apple Tarts, Raspberry Bavarian, Chocolate Banana Loaf, Coconut Rice Pudding, Lychee, Tiramisu, Green Tea Rolls, Lemon Curd, Champagne Jelly, Cheesecakes (Blueberry, Strawberry, and classic), Chocolate Mousse, Mixed Nut Tarts, Fudge Brownies, Raspberry Mousse Cake, Orange Grand Marnier Creme Brulee, Kahlua Chocolate Truffles, and Caramelized Banana Chocolate Tarts. I guess I'll just have to come back for 'desserts-only' on my next visit!
Seating for Sunday Brunch also carries over into the Kili Cafe Terrace. This gives customers a few more seating options, especially if one prefers outdoor patio dining. The Sunday Brunch starts at 10:30am and runs until 2pm. Children ages 5-12 years old are half price ($15.50). It is strongly suggested that you make advance reservations by calling 1-670-234-1234 from Guam - 234-1234 for local Saipan calls.
If you are planning a Saipan visit and will be there over the weekend, I recommend you test-drive the Hyatt's Sunday Brunch at Giovanni's...while there are other great Sunday Brunches on Saipan and Guam, I believe that the Hyatt Saipan's is the premier buffet dining experience. The culinary fantasy I had harbored for years turned out to be completely true and possibly even better than I remembered!