Dear "Guam Food Guy" Reader,
Over the past 16 years we have seen many changes in our culinary landscape. Sometimes there are places that we remember as landmarks when going places. So many restaurants have come and gone, but the legacy of some places will remain for generations. Some of the places that come to mind are the Galleon Grill, which used to be the flagship restaurant at the Hilton. The Flamboyan at the Hotel Guam Okura was another of the great fine dining restaurants, as was Le Claret at the Guam Dai Ichi Hotel, which is now the Fiesta Resort & Spa. Yes, these are among the prestigious, upper echelon dining establishments. And then there are the smaller places that may be more familiar and accessible to all people. One in particular comes to mind, and that is the Tamuning Taco Bell which recently closed its doors.
Yes, there are other Taco Bells, but this one many of us can remember eating there, or the countless times of driving thru and ordering to go, especially when trying to quell those late lunch hunger pangs! I did go to another Taco Bell to eat this past week, which was located in Sumay. I had to do a Food Guy presentation to one of the family support groups for the Frank Cable and when I ordered by regular meal (#8 - 3 hard shell tacos and beverage), one of the workers from Tamuning recognized me and I told her that I followed her down there!! Going to Taco Bell's in the Food Courts is not the same...we will miss this old Tamuning landmark. "Yo Quiero Taco Bell!"
Ken the Guam Food Guy
Tumon is changing right in front of our eyes! I just noticed today a flurry of construction activity at the sight of the Tumon Bay Mall located across from the Fiesta Resort Guam and Holiday Resort Guam spanning San Vitores about the length of two football fields. This is going to be an awesome improvement in Central Tumon and will definitely shift some of the retail dynamics of this area. As with all malls, there will probably be a Food Court with a handful of restaurants. Can't wait to see their line-up. I don't know the target date for completion but it may be as soon as this next year since the main structure had been built for some time.
You may have noticed that the Russians are gone and so is the only Russian restaurant on Guam, which was Izba! It is now the new home of the second Beachin' Shrimp location, which is on the ground floor of the Takagi Building just down the hall from Hafaloha Shave Ice. I am sure Takagi-san is pleased with this high-profile tenant (one of the highest grossing restaurants per sq. ft. in Tumon's Pleasure Island location). I don't know that they will get anywhere near the traffic exposure in this second spot, but I am sure they will be busy with the customers who will come here to get their "shrimp on"!
Legacies of Tumon and Guam Traditions
I thought it appropriate since we have broached the topics of legacies and developments to highlight some significant happenings. One has to do with acknowledging our annual Guam Food Guy tradition of dining at the Green Door (Izakaya Katsu) with Dr. Jonathon Morris, the visiting psychiatrist from Portland, Maine, who visits Guam for about two weeks (he's been doing this for more than 20 years). As all things inevitably change, we missed our Green Door rendezvous and ate at The World Cafe in the Fiesta Resort & Spa, which was just fine by us! We look forward to Dr. Jon's next visit in March 2017.
I wanted to share these legacy photos I took of some of Guam's development back in the late 80's. The first is a photo of the Guam Reef Hotel's original tower taken from across Tumon Bay. You can see the immense development along the cliff line behind the Guam Plaza Hotel.
The second photo is of the Guam Hotel Okura with just a portion of the Reef Hotel. This shows the area that used to be a community center, and if I recall correctly, it was called Sagan Dinana. This was eventually taken by the Hotel Nikko Guam.
The final photo we are sharing is a long range view of the construction of Oka Towers. It is hard to believe how much development has changed the landscape of this and the surrounding area! There was no Palace Hotel (now Sheraton) nor Santa Fe Hotel or Agana Bay Condominiums! These are big changes. Look for more legacy sharing in the future.
Fiesta Resort Guam
I had a $25 meal coupon that was due to expire in one day! It wasn't just any coupon, it was one for the Samurai restaurant, which houses the Teppanyaki restaurant as well as the Samurai Crabpot (which I have yet to try). I thought my best option was lunch since the Crabpot requires two diners and I was alone. When I arrived I was greeted by smiling hostesses who seated me and took my drink order (iced tea). The teppan counter was pretty full and diners were immersed in their conversations while eating their lunches. There were three or four teppan chefs handling this large station.
Some of the management and staff were pleased to see me as it had been some time since my last visit. I ordered from the lunch menu the ALPHA Combo ($19.95) which had Steak, Chicken, and Shrimp, which are three things I usually have when I order combinations. I also like Salmon as an alternative to beef. The comely server invited me to go to the salad bar on the other side of the wall. It must have been some time since my last visit because I didn't remember the salad bar. This was an impressive salad bar with plenty of salad ingredients including kimchi, pasta and potato salads, sushi, and a ton of karaage chicken. There was even a dessert station featuring the classic Filipino favorite, halo halo!
My teppan chef deftly prepared the ingredients and grilled a ton of garlic chips. He used potato in lieu of eggplant and cooked my steak to the perfect medium rare. I noticed that the portions for the chicken and beef were large. I did get a generous amount of grilled veggies, but I found myself staring at my rice bowl trying to figure out how anyone could eat all of this food. For the money, this has to be the best value on the island. They should be able to guarantee that no customer will ever leave hungry. For my next teppan visit here I will probably order the 5 oz Tenderloin ($28.95) or the 8 oz Ribeye ($27.95). if I have beef. These more expensive cuts should be easier to chew. I can always order a side of shrimp or chicken if I want. The other option is to fill up on the salad bar and have your teppan meal packed up to go! One thing I also would prefer on my next visit is to have some company since everyone around me was engaged in conversation, which is part of the culture of teppanyaki dining.
I also want to commend the Samurai's wait staff for being so amazingly on top of things! They were setting places, clearing dishes, refilling iced tea glasses, and checking on the customers. This was impressive and I was surprised no one drowned from all of the iced tea refills I watched them pour. Can't wait to stop by Samurai again...next time for the Crab Pot!
VietBowl Authentic Vietnamese Restaurant
Yigo Market Place (Near Pay-Less)
Hours: 10:00 a.m. - 9:30 p.m. Tuesday - Sunday, Closed MONDAY
I have to give a nod to MBJ for a small feature on developments in Yigo, with new establishments like Cafe Panadero, KFC, and VietBowl, which really caught my eye since there was a mention of a certain Vietnamese delicacy, Banh Mi (the Vietnamese Sandwich). This French-influenced creation when done right will launch you to a state of culinary nirvana! As I was alone, I could only order a few things (in addition to the Vietnamese Sandwich - $7.00).
These other items would be the Pho Dac Biet (Sliced Beef, Oxtail, Tripe, and Meatballs) for $10.00, and the Chicken Lemongrass ($9.00). I also wanted to have a Vietnamese Iced Coffee ($3.50). Before you get too excited about the prospect of eating, you better check your wallet for cash as they don't have their credit card machine installed (there is an ATM in the Pay-Less down the hall). This is a brand new restaurant, folks, only open for maybe three or four weeks. You will notice on entering that they have a fast food display station - they do serve one and two choice menu items in the morning and for lunch, as well as a la carte (there are 61 items on their menu). Along with some really fabulous Vietnamese artwork featuring people, carvings, and paintings, there are some humorous graphics. The place is brightly lit with ample seating and there is a TV on (that night had "The Voice" on).
I noticed a few tables were just getting some of their dishes and asked to take a few pictures of their dishes. One was the Deep Fried Pork Chops ($9) and another was the Fried Lumpia (five pieces for $8). The servers working that night were very friendly and were eager to take care of me. I think they tag-teamed me to make sure I had what I needed. My LemonGrass Chicken came out first. Wow! This was definitely a plate full of food and more than I'd expected. The sauce was thick and viscuous, with bits of pounded lemongrass and garlic throughout. The yellow onions were sauteed and gave up a sweetness with each bite. I would have this later.
My Banh Mi came out and I felt a surge of excited anticipation when I saw it. The toasted baguette was slit open to reveal a bellyful of every key traditional ingredient that comprises these bad boys - the pate, pickled daikon, carrots, cilantro, pork, cucumber slice and mayonnaise. Before slicing my rather large sandwich in half, I had a sip of my Vietnamese Iced Coffee, which was another superbly blended surprise. Someone in that kitchen was getting it right. When I did bite that Banh Mi I was totally engaged in the full gastronomic experience - all my senses were activated as I chewed through the perfectly crisp and doughy baguette, which held its integrity and never crumbled nor got soggy. Another appreciative sip of the coffee...something about how sipping this enhanced the rich and silky taste and flavor of this brewed creamy delight, which iced the coffee without diluting it.
My last dish came out and I watched the big bowl giving up wafts of aromatic steam! I was already succumbing to this soup's allure. It had everything and a lot of it when it came to the beef ingredients. I saw lettuce and bean sprouts but no basil, which I did request. Unfortunately they were running a little low, so I made do with what few sprigs of basil I got. I added some Hoisin sauce, some Sriracha, and some chili paste. I blended it all together and started working on transporting spoonfuls and chopsticks full of food into my mouth. This heady broth was just about where I needed it (I do like a lot of basil).
Of course I couldn't eat all of this after devouring my Banh Mi! I had the soup and Lemongrass Chicken packed to go. I did spend time talking to the owner, Hung Van Vo, who has been in the catering trade here for over 20 years. He had operated the little cafe on the GCC campus for a long time. He told me he liked to cook for his own tastes, so his food is prepared for his own pleasure and satisfaction. I like to tell chefs to taste their food before serving it to customers. That way they should be able to ascertain if the food tastes good enough to serve or if it needs a little enhancement.
I think Mr. Vo will do just fine. He is giving himself a day off on Mondays and is not opening too early for breakfast. He has a manageable menu and already has a few regular customers. I will definitely make it a point to drive all the way up to Yigo to try some of Mr. Vo's other dishes. If you are in the vicinity, I suggest you try it too!