Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
This month we celebrate Chamorro Month! Biba Chamoru! Biba Guahan! I don't think there's any better way to celebrate being on this island than to eat what's grown on this island - fresh produce! I am always impressed by what our local farmers have been able to produce on this small island in the middle of the ocean. Do you make a conscious effort to purchase local produce when you go to the grocery stores? Do you stop at fruit and vegetable stands in your neighborhood to pick up fresh vegetables for dinner? I like the Farm to Table model, which offers residents a subscription service to get a baskets of selected produce freshly harvested. They provide local produce to popular restaurants like Pika's Cafe, Kitchen Lingo, and Meskla. Check out http://farmtotableguam.org/ for more information on Farm to Table! It's a great way to enjoy the island's natural bounty!
I recently came across this caricature of me created by Romeo Carlos. It really localizes me and I think he did a really good job of capturing my personality. I don't know what year that was created or what article this highlighted. I've been doing this for nearly 16 years and I have really enjoyed "breaking and sharing my bread" with you. There are some exciting things in the works for us at Guamdiner. We will keep you posted on these developments in due course. In the meantime, eat well and make each day count!
Ken the Guam Food Guy
Hava Java's Chicken Salad Sandwich
Hava Java Cafe
Agana (next to the Post Office and across from Bank Pacific)
Every so often I get this craving for a very special sandwich. I've written about this several times over the years . My last write up really captured my sentiments. Thought I'd share it with you:
"I can't remember the exact day when I first had my first Chicken Salad Sandwich on a toasted baguette at Hava Java Cafe. It could have been sometime after owner Carol Ragan introduced her "Make Me A Sandwich" menu in the Spring of 2001. I do know that it is one of my all time favorite sandwiches and what I consider a comfort lunch. I've tried other chicken salad sandwiches, but no one has ever been able to match this sandwiches' full depth and scope of flavors and tastes, especially when you have it fully loaded (the Pika Mayo's a must have) and for me, the Hot English Mustard. I have Provolone Cheese and get the sprouts, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and the side of Hava Java's delicious cole slaw. The meal includes China Mist iced tea or iced coffee and will set you back just over $8.00. This sandwich is not just my favorite sandwich, there are many others who have the same affection for Carol's creation. Thank you Carol for bringing this special joy to my world and to others as well!"
Ebisu Dinner with Mark Oku
Sushi Ebisu Japanese Restaurant
2F Royal Orchid Hotel
I was quite pleased a few weeks ago to have the chance to dine at one of my favorite restaurants, Sushi Ebisu, with a long time friend Mark Oku. Oku-san has been a fixture on the Guam hospitality scene for decades, and had worked with the Hilton in the very early days.
Ebisu is located on the 2nd floor of the Royal Orchid, in a space occupied previously by Singapura. I am still surprised when I meet someone who thinks Ebisu has closed since they are no longer in their old location on San Vitores Road across from the Bank of Guam. The new location offers panoramic views of Tumon's night lights which can be seen from virtually every table. If you haven't been to the new Ebisu location, you will certainly be impressed by the spacious interior offering both booth and table seating. There is a small counter at the sushi bar so you can watch the chef directly. There is also a much larger bar counter that lets you watch Japanese TV on a big screen.
The menu at Ebisu is extensive, however, for this night time rendezvous with my old friend, we ordered a few appetizers (he selected these). The wonderful thing about his selections is that these are items I hadn't yet tried here during the countless meals I've enjoyed at Ebisu.
First was a Maguro Stick Katsu ($7.95 - Deep Fried Breaded Tuna). Although this sounds pretty normal for an appetizer (and someone who may prefer cooked instead of raw fish), Mark had requested this be cooked medium rare, which piqued my curiosity. When it was served, I was pleasantly surprised at his reasoning. This was a fabulous way to enjoy the best of two worlds. As you can see from the photo where we opened up a stick, the tuna was pink and juicy with cooked edges. There was a little ponzu sauce and tartar sauce, and lemon to squeeze, and yes, the tuna was surprisingly delicious with the crunchy golden-brown panko crust giving way to warm luscious tuna melting on your palate. Now this semi-rare treat may not be for everyone (especially those who are squeamish about rare fish), but I was impressed by the simplicity and ease with how a relatively cheap appetizer would ascend to a higher value experience.
Two other items Mark ordered were the Tuna Maki ($4.75) Sushi Roll and the California Roll ($7.95), which are two items I've never had at Ebisu either. I am usually eating the other more elaborate rolls (the Rainbow, the Alaska, The Crunchy, The Spider Roll, and a few others). I must confess that both the Maki and the California Roll did not disappoint. You have to understand that Ebisu's owner, Fumiya Nakamura, insists on high quality ingredients and freshness. The California Roll has crab, avocado, and masago, which is a less expensive roe than Tobiko. It was still quite good though I have been cutting down on sushi rolls because of my need to limit my rice consumption. Another thing you can appreciate at Ebisu is the wasabi, which they make fresh. This makes an appreciable difference in taste.
One course I always enjoy at Ebisu is the Sashimi Mori (Small - 2-3 persons, for $19.95). A sashimi sampler allows you to enjoy a selection of choice sashimi cuts, with each offering unique visual, textural, and taste outcomes. My preferences have matured over time and I can now eat and enjoy that oily fishy taste that mackerel has, dipped in wasabi-laced shoyu of course! Other seafood fare on the plate included smoked salmon (Ebisu has the best smoked salmon), Maguro tuna, squid rolled around perilla leaf, and yellow tail. All of this is great...and there is no rice...just protein!!
The last thing we had (or I should say I had since Mark was done for the night and wasn't able to eat any of my glorious sashimi) was the Hamachi Kamayaki- Grilled Yellow tail Neck - $15.95. I just call this Hamachi Kama . If you go into an Izakaya, you can ask the chef "Hamachi Kama - arimaska?", which translated means do you have any Hamachi Kama. This is also an oily bit of fish with a distinct flavor and taste you can learn to appreciate. This fish neck/collar is grilled under high temperature flame and the outer skin gets scorched and caramelizes. The fish meat is basted in miso. There is a lemon slice and a pile of grated radish. I usually squeeze the lemon over the fish and pour shoyu on the pile and stir it up. Then I break off chunks of steamy white fish and mix with the lemon/shoyu/radish sauce. It is interesting to see how small a pile of bones remain once you have eaten your way through this.
If you've not gone to Sushi Ebisu, you can go there for both lunch and dinner. Check out their lunch specials at Guamdiner.com
Lunch hours are from 11:30 - 2 pm. With dinner service from 5:30 p.m - 10:00 p.m. daily. You can order take-out as well (call 646-3735). Come and support Chef Fumi-san with his small restaurant offering big tastes and flavors.
Fumiya Nakamura (Ebisu Owner) GFG, and Mark Oku (right)
Giovanni's Sunday Brunch
Hyatt Regency Saipan
Hours: 10:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
$47.00 adults; child (6-12) $23.50
CATH benefits apply
I have been travelling to Saipan on a monthly frequency for the past year and a half. This past January I had the pleasure of revisiting what I've always considered to be the best Sunday Brunch in the Marianas. Time has been generous to this escape from the trials and tribulations encountered in our daily grind. Consider what I wrote about this fabulous dining experience in a review we did in 2006:
"...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 classical 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."
"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."
While there have been slight changes in the menu selections since this last big review, there are also noticeable changes in the employee and server composition. There are more local workers working as servers and cooks than ever before. Also, you will note that there are a lot more younger workers, too. This is one of the opportunities that the Hyatt had cultivated years ago - hiring locals (many quite young with little to no experience) and then training them. Hyatt has been in the forefront of the local labor force development initiative and the results have been astounding, especially in the culinary arts. So when I sat at my corner table overlooking the idyllic garden and sipping my iLLY cappuccino, I was able to reconnect with my years of being satisfied by the diligent and tireless efforts of Executive Chef Gabriele Colombo and his kitchen team.
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 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!"