Guam Diner Bytes: 9th Street Rotary
It took me two attempts to find this place. Don’t get discouraged; it’s worth the adventure and trauma. Once you get here you’ll never get lost again! They could put a sign board on the sidewalk that you could see while driving around. Someone told me to get a GPS. Whatever!
9th Street Rotary has only been open for a few months and they’ve got a following that’s growing daily. You have to have an open mind when eating here because nothing adheres to traditional cuisines as we know them. Pan-Asian-fusion squared, which kind of gives you an idea.
Once you get into their space and orbit, then you should have no problem navigating through the menu or trying one of the revolving dishes circling atop the track. You can either sit at the counter next to the track or find a table in the outer perimeter, against the front windows or along a back wall. There’s space a plenty!
Owned by Chef Mark Duenas who has teamed up with Executive Chef Ivan Mendiola (both of Proa fame), 9th Street Rotary has created a culinary space with amazing interpretations. They’ve taken a solid Japanese structure (sushi) and re-engineered it with local ingredients.
The Lalalu’ (Angry) tuna hand roll ($5) has coconut dinanche, cucumber, kaiware (sprouted daikon radish seeds), avocado and wasabi tobiko. I liked the combinations, but felt there was a bit too much maguro. It would have been tastier with less.
The food is playful and imaginative, with play-on-words names such as Kalbithereforyou – one of their donburi (rice bowl) creations. I had one of their salads, the Thai Poki Salad ($12), which is made with salmon poki with Indonesian chili honey and lime vinaigrette. This majestic tall cone made with shredded purple and yellow cabbage interspersed with carrots and greens had crispy salmon skin pieces adorning the top. The pile was surrounded by a ring of marinated salmon chunks. The melding of flavors was a sensation on the palate – with some tastes competing for dominance. This is a very large salad that could be a meal in itself or definitely shared with others.
One of my rice bowls came next, the “Ohmisohoney” (the small version is $9, the large is $18) - I had the $9. This is the misoyaki salmon, with charred miso which is a typical Hawaiian preparation for black cod and halibut. The glaze is sweet and works wonders with the salmon. I could have had mine a little rarer.
It’s also a very generous portion of salmon for a donburi. These rice bowls come with a choice of sides, among which are Asian Salad, Mac Salad, or Fresh Kimchi. I had the Asian Salad, which is excellent.
My next delivery was the Baked Salmon Hand Roll ($5), which came with a spicy sauce, cucumber, kaiware, avocado, and yuzu tobiko. The yuzu (an Asian citrus fruit) imparted a citrus flavor and yellowish color to the tobiko (flying fish roe). The spicy sauce was generously applied, lubricating the salmon. I can understand why this is one of their more popular rolls. Certainly a hearty portion in this tasty roll.
My spicy #KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) donburi came with my choice of mac salad (the $7 version). This was one of my favorite dishes (I like Korean chicken – the spicy flavor and taste is unique and excites my palate). The side of the bowl is brushed with the spicy sweet sauce that’s poured over the fried chicken. The mac salad was a good pairing for this, cooling my mouth. I also like the colorful presentation of their dish creations; everything I was served had a visual appeal unique to its elements.
The final dish brought before me was the Lil’ Kim Chi Wraps ($9), which are bulgogi marinated chicken thighs served with rice noodles and topped with kimchi puree. What a fun and refreshing way to celebrate the Korean tradition of flavored ingredient lettuce wraps. The Rice noodles were different for me (I still liked them) and the kimchi puree was just genius!
One thing I’ll have to try on my next visit is one of the their “bao” rolls (bao is a steamed artisan bun). There were some on the Rack. I also will try the Dagoodset ($20), which had rib eye kalbi, salmon belly tempura, and Spam served with steamed rice, mac salad, and fresh kimchi. Now if this doesn’t sound like one of those L&L Hawaiian BBQ Combo Lunch Plates what does?
It is still early in the lifecycle of 9th Street Rotary. They will be updating and upgrading their menu (they do offer a wine, beer, sake and other beverage selections). Being inspired to play on ingredients (Asian Cajun Ahi) gives Chef Ivan and Chef Mark plenty of room to experiment in flavor combining. This is something their customers really enjoy. It’s like dining with a passport in your mouth! Expect more great foods from 9th Street Rotary!
Ken “The Guam Food Guy” Stewart