Guam Diner Bytes: The Grill Haiku Fusion Restaurant

by Ken Stewart
The Guam Food Guy

In the past year an ultra-modern, futuristic white building was constructed next to the Fire Station and near the American Memorial Park in Garapan. This anomalous structure with the sleek dark glass windows has a sign above with the letters “HAIKU” in bold metal. What a first impression! I had been tipped off to try this place by businessman Johnny Fong and I said I would on my next visit to Saipan.

I did decide to drop in to check this brand new restaurant and as I was alone, I would have to limit my selections. The owners made a significant investment in this restaurant, with the interior as stark and modern as the exterior. It is clean and the furnishings are pleasing. There is a small sit-down counter for sushi and teppanyaki.

This is a fusion restaurant. The term has become a bit over-used and whenever I hear it I think the operators aren’t quite sure what they are serving. In the case of The Grill Haiku, the owners wanted to serve everything under the sun, so you can get Japanese food, Hawaiian poke, baked mussels, spicy calamari, New York steaks, salmon teriyaki, t-bone steaks, American style sushi rolls, teppan yaki, sashimi, pasta (salmon alfredo, pasta carbonara, scampi), and noodles (udon and yakisoba). Just as I said, they seem to have almost everything! You can get beers, sake, “soju” spirits, wine and soft drinks. I had hot green tea.

I sampled only a few things, starting out with a bowl of “edamame” soybeans ($5.95), which is available as lightly salted or tossed in garlic. I also ordered (from the appetizer menu) the Combination Shrimp & Vegetable Tempura ($7.95). The owners definitely are image conscious, and the table and dishware have their name/logo on the table, on plates, on napkins, and on chopsticks. The edamame had a tad too much salt, but they were hot and still quite good. The tempura was passable, with a portion that was reasonable for one person.

There was too much “fusion” on the menu for me to decide on any main course and I decided on a sushi roll, but wait, there is a special sushi menu section titled Haiku Special Roll, and this is where I believe they nailed it. Yes, if I were a marketing person for a Japanese restaurant and wanted to appeal to locals and please visitors, I would go the way of “destination ining”; that’s exactly what they playfully achieved by giving their special sushi rolls names of local landmarks.

I ordered one of the seven menu items that was called Banzai Cliff ($12.95), which has spicy crab, cucumber, salmon and pepper. I wasn’t quite sure of what the “pepper” would be but found out that it was a thin slice of green pepper that had a little heat but loads of flavor. The roll had a drop of chili sauce on top, too.

Actually, it was a pretty decent sushi roll with a nominal amount of rice. There was a yellow aioli sauce that decorated the plate. I just used wasabi and soy sauce. I’m not one for all the sauces being added to sushi. Other local-named sushi rolls include the Managaha Island, Sugar King, Coral Ocean Point, Lao Lao Bay, Bird Island, and the Mt. Tapochau, which is a deep fried item. These prices are a few dollars more than the other sushi rolls; that shows you the value of a name!

I’ll have to return to Grill Haiku with a small group so we can eat a variety of offerings! Definitely looking forward to trying their teppanyaki. I’ll pass on the pasta.

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