Casa Urashima 'a must-do dining experience'

by Ken Stuart
The Guam Food Guy

Dear Guam Food Guy readers,

Casa Urashima offers one of the best dining experiences of your life! How's that for a rave review? I had to apologize to Casa Urashima's owner, Osamu Taniguchi, for not dining here sooner. Truth of the matter was I didn't know where it was and didn't have the opportunity (or compulsion) to go until now! The apology should have gone to myself since it was truly my loss from foregoing what had been one of my most sensational dinners in years! I was (and still am) truly impressed!

Casa Urashima is a restaurant converted from a house, with every room having its own ambiance and special intimacy. The main dining room is where the bar is situated (it's not a drinking bar), but a working service bar which seems to be the control center for the restaurant. Above the bar is Osamu's personal CD collection of world music along with jazz and other genres of instrumental music that reflects the good taste and genius of Osamu – for me it was like the soundtrack to my life, as music permeated the atmosphere like surround sound, yet it was not intrusive. It elevated and heightened my senses and mood, perhaps enhancing my appetite as well.

I didn't have a reservation (please remember to call in advance!) and was relieved to find a seat in the waiting area where a reading table became my dinner table. Casa Urashima's menu is difficult to limit to any cuisine type, as they have varying treatments for appetizers, salads, seafood, meat and pasta, ranging from Italian and French to Asian and Japanese fusion. The one thing I all the dishes have in common is that everything is wonderfully fresh. I decided to order a variety of appetizers, pairing the first few with a Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc.

First to come was the Avocado & Yellowfin Tuna Wasabi Cream ($8), described in the menu as a "palate teaser." This was my first taste of Casa Urashima and it amounted to a home run! The avocado was fresh, the wasabi cream was a dream marriage of flavors, and the sliced tuna sashimi was covered in fresh chopped basil and garlic with olive oil in the style of a carpaccio. Everything worked in tandem and I reached a state of gustatory bliss!

My next appetizer was the Tuna Tartare Korean Style made with a spicy “kochujan” (red pepper paste) sauce with oba (perilla aka shiso) leaves ($8). This was a perfect follow up to the first treat and took me to another level and country, Korea, in the process. WOW! The tartare was so packed with spiced flavor and toasted sesame seeds that when I picked up the oba leaf containing the tartare like a taco and put it in my mouth, I was again overcome with pleasure. Yummy, and what a presentation!

My next treat was a refreshing spinach and shrimp salad ($11) crafted from sauted shrimp with spinach leaves, arugula, radish and celery tossed in a Thai fish sauce

dressing. This was another amazing creation and I noted its freshness in the color and texture of the spinach leaves and arugula with sliced radish and celery interspersed with a generous amount of meaty sauted shrimp.

The Thai fish sauce has a quenching effect on one's taste buds. The Sauvignon Blanc complemented the dish particularly well. I also refreshed myself with San Pellegrino Sparkling Water.

When I decided to order from the appetizer menu, I was unaware that the portions are quite substantial, so at this point I had two more dishes coming and had to shift my appetite gears into over drive! I was then delivered Casa Urashima's "Half & Half" Combination Pizza ($11). This was on an 8" crispy crust with extra cheese featuring Margherita, the famed fresh basil and tomato pizza, on one half with the other half offering bacon and mushroom. It was presented on a round platter with a ring of holes around the perimeter. The photo of this wondrous pizza is beautiful but can't possibly convey the sheer perfection of the fresh ingredient combinations that made this pizza so doggoned good! I truly regretted not having anyone to share this amazing meal with though I did have a Mondavi Cabernet so I didn't feel too lonely.

Finally, my last "appetizer" was brought out. It was a classic French creation, Escargot Bourgogne Butter ($8) served with thin sliced toast. Not everyone likes snails, however, the French have elevated the slow slug to the culinary status of "delicacy" so that's what they are now. The escargot were served sans shell and cooked in a ramekin with lots of garlic and parsley. I ate all of my snails carefully placing them on each piece of crispy thin toast. I finished!

I asked Osamu about the chef making all of this magic and he introduced me to Taro-san, who is obviously an amazingly talented chef. I promised to come back and work my way through the menu reinforced by some other company. I highly recommend Saipan's Casa Urashima as a must-do dining experience you won't forget!

Bon Appetit!

Ken The Guam Food Guy

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