Tumon Bay Lobster Bar & Grill - Big Taste, Great Flavors at Revitalized Eatery
Restaurant Review by Ken Stewart, The Guam Food Guy
Tumon Bay Lobster Bar & Grill is a dining experience you don't want to miss, that is, if you like seafood, steak, & ribs. Housed in the same 2nd floor location in Isla Plaza next to Subway and VIP Seafood that was formerly known as Giant Lobster and Steak. Open for dinner nightly from 5-10 p.m., the restaurant can be easily spotted by the burning tiki torches that run the perimeter of an expansive balcony filled with large, verdant potted plants, making it a veritable garden. You have a choice of dining in the large, air-conditioned dining room with white table cloths draping the tables or out on the balcony deck, which is often the preferred choice of tourists who want to enjoy the tropical ambiance while listening to the music performed by solo artists (individual members of the popular local band Kaya) who play for a few hours every night.
We decided to dine inside and were joined by owner, Niko Yu, who took over the management of the restaurant from his father, Charlie Yu, last year. Niko has done more than chang the name - he's changed the perceptions and the realities of the restaurant - by revamping the menu with the assistance and inspiration of Chef Joe Borja, who made his big Guam splash at the Grille at Santa Fe, as well as by making a few cosmetic changes and improved facilities such as an outdoor bar, and new kitchen equipment. He has retained veteran Chef Manong Jun, who is also General Manager, and along with Joe Borja, he's added a talented Pastry chef, Carmen Davis, who's worked at Sam Choy's and other places. Davis, a culinary school graduate, returned to Guam and is working part-time while taking care of her father.
Although Niko has held back from advertising his restaurant until he's comfortable with the product and service, I told him that even with some of the rough edges that still need a little polishing - amenities like tableware and napkins - he's got something the people of Guam have been craving for a long time - darned good food, seafood in particular, at reasonable prices.
The proof is in the food. We started out with a series of the most popular appetizers. First to arrive was the Shrimp Kelaguen ($8.95), served in a slightly bigger portion than the regular size. It was fresh, with the right amount of lemon and cut in larger pieces than usually found elsewhere, with plentiful diced onions giving it a persistent crunch with each tart, savory bite. The only thing that would improve this would be adding titiyas, which they're working on sourcing.
Our comely, energetic server Erika, then delivered another crowd-pleasing appetizer, the Sauteed Crab Legs in Garlic Herb Butter ($15.95). Don't let the price deter you...just look at the picture...this is not ordinary crab legs...these are Alaskan King Crab Legs, cooked perfectly with a special herb butter. The big white chunks of crab meat are a delight to eat, and the herb butter gives a different taste than just traditional drawn butter. The serving is more than adequate for two. One memorable item served with our meal was a fresh-baked Parker House Roll, which when loaded with melted butter brought flashbacks from Mama's kitchen!
A new twist on one of the former appetizers was the BBQ St. Louis Ribs with Cherry BBQ Sauce (4 ribs $11.95, 8 ribs $18.95). Again, don't let price comparisons mislead you...it's what you get for your money, and these happen to be among the most tender, meatiest, and tastiest ribs on island, and better yet, they come with cherries on top. The sauce is thick, smoky, and not overly sweet...it dresses up these ribs in ways that'll have you licking your fingers and searching for more. We had a sampler of three just to get the taste and, as I said, I was "searching for more"!
For dinner, we ordered three entrees. The Fresh Catch of the Day happened to be a deep fried Onaga Filet with Sweet Chili Sauce ($18.95). Niko proudly stated that he was one of the few (if not the only) operators in Tumon and probably Guam that was able to serve Onaga (which is a red snapper found only in deep waters) on a nightly basis. I went for one of the Combos, opting for Tenderloin Steak & Lobster Tail ($39.95). The third entree was a Stuffed Lobster Tail ($29.95).
Though I sampled Zee's fabulous Onaga and Niko's Stuffed Lobster featuring a really palatable stuffing -obviously prepared by a pro - I was ecstatic with the quality and quantity of the Steak & Lobster combo. The Tenderloin was Certified Angus Beef and cooked to a perfect medium rare...the meat sliced like butter and melted in my mouth. It was a six-ounce portion, but was enough. I enhanced it a bit with a little finedene, declining the use of A1 which I felt would be too heavy and mask the exceptional flavor of the beef. The lobster tail seemed bigger than the six-ounce it purported to be, and was as succulent as advertised. Char-broiled to perfection, it was sweet and meaty with the ideal lobster consistency. Dipping pieces of it in the lemon butter was just putting "icing" on an already terrific choice! The baked potato was cooked right (you can order steamed rice or steak fries instead of baked potato if you prefer) and accompanied by a condiment caddy with sour cream, bacon bits, and butter packs. I didn't think of it at the time, but fresh chives would have been a final touch of glory to this potato.
Though we didn't have room to try it, there is a salad bar. Steamed vegetables accompany the main entrees, so I did get my veggies in! Other new items on the menu include appetizers like Nachos ($7.95), Coconut Shrimp ($7.95) Chicken Wings ($6.95, with a Cherry BBQ sauce), and Clams Casino ($9.95), clams on a half shell filled with bacon and bell pepper stuffing. Other kelaguens include Beef, which uses premium steak chunks, Chicken, and Fish. A favorite carry-over appetizer are the oysters (four large pieces, steamed or char-broiled $10.95). For those who've been looking, Tumon Bay Lobster & Grill has resurrected the Seafood Chowder Bread Bowl for $6.95!
There are steaks like the 12 oz. T-bone ($23.95) and the 9 oz. New York ($24.95) that are all Certified Angus Beef. There are other steaks, combos, and seafood entrees, that including Jumbo Shrimp, Mahi-Mahi, Fish & Chips, Dungeness Crab, Whole Maine Lobster. Chef's Recommendations feature Grilled Prime Rib (10 oz. $22.95, 12 oz. $24.95). Kids can get a 4 oz. NY Junior Steak with fries or rice ($9.95), Chicken Fingers ($6.95), or a Corn Dog ($4.95). We didn't have room for dessert which is either ice cream or the dessert of the week ($4.95), but we'll be sure to save room next time!.
Tumon Bay Lobster & Grill carries a decent selection of premium California and Australian wines, a modest collection of beers, and makes a lot of fun Tropical Drinks and popular specialty mixed drinks, along with juices, sodas, and water. From what I recall about the previous restaurant, Tumon Bay Lobster & Grill has made some major strides upward and forward, and once they've been tested by time and traffic, I'm sure most of you'll walk away impressed and looking forward to your next visit - the ribs and King Crab legs are way awesome!! Call 646-9898 for more information and to make reservations for large parties or groups. I hope you're as pleased as I was.