Japanese Restaurant Yamato
Opened less than two months on the corner of Farenholt and Gov. Carlos Camacho Road (previously known as Camp Watkins Rd), Yamato has boldly announced its presence with a bright neon sign and clean, solid metal framed exterior. Numerous people have asked me about this and one had written and told me that he’d lived in Japan and the food here is good and geared toward local tastes. Once inside, the decor is definitely Japanese, with a sushi counter/bar directly visible from the front entrance.
The place is roomy (they even have a function room that seats up to 20 people). There is one amazing aerial photo (enlarged) of the Reef Hotel and Tumon Bay in the background taken in the early 80’s, prior to the additions like the Pacific Star (Marriott), Holiday Resort, Hyatt and Outrigger. They also have NHK on a large TV...this certainly lends to the izakaya ambiance.
Yamato has fashioned itself as an Izakaya, much like Green Door (Katsu), Kai, or Ebisu, however, they have a menu that goes beyond in their effort to reach out to locals (one item in their appetizers is called the Guam Style Poki ($7). There are some eye-catching offerings such as Salted Squid Guts ($5) and Beef Guts Stew ($4), along with traditional Edamame ($3), Deep Fried Garlic ($3), and Deep Fried Squid Leg ($7.50). The menu is quite extensive and it took some effort to narrow our selection down to what would be a manageable amount of food to sample. We ordered a hot sake ($7) and a large Asahi ($8) to start.
Our server was a perky young lady named Kumiko (Kumi for short), whom I later discovered was the daughter of one of Guam’s venerable Japanese chefs, Chef Kanda (Kanda’s Corner at Tentekomai). The menu has photos of some of their offerings. I asked about the Yakitori since it looked pretty good.
We ordered the Assorted Sashimi (serving size 2-3 persons) - $16.00. Zee ordered Edamame, and wanted a Daigo Maki ($5). We also ordered the Tofu Steak ($7), BBQ Chicken (2 Yakitori sticks for $6), Fried Chicken ($7, Karaage), and a Spicy Tuna Roll ($7). After the Edamame was served, we received the Tofu Steak. It looked rather promising, sliced into 4 big cubes, smothered with bonito flakes and green onions, and sitting atop grilled onions on a sizzling platter. The tofu itself was disappointing. Once you cut through the crusty exterior, the interior was spongy, which made it difficult to eat. It literally sucked all the moisture out of your mouth. I had to dip it in some of the sauce at the bottom of the sizzling platter to moisten it. Perhaps they need to try a softer, silken tofu.
Served just after the Tofu Steak was my assorted Sashimi plate, which was beautifully presented with the three types of fish layered on perilla leaves atop shredded marinated onions and carrot on a banana leaf. This had a tropical appeal. The wasabi was the tube type. The different sashimi were Kampachi (almaco jack, from Kona, in the same family as yellowtail and amberjack), Maguro tuna, and KariKari (a white fish like hamachi). The sashimi was fresh and I found it quite good. I would have preferred a larger selection, however, this eatery is still new. Need to give them some time.
The Spicy Tuna Roll was brought next. This was also well-presented, with sesame seed, mayo, and chili sauce garnish. The spicy tuna itself was good, however, there was a bit too much rice in the roll for my liking. The Yakitori Chicken sticks were on the right track for me. They were better than many of the others I’ve had, but I would prefer a little more charring on my chicken. Zee’s Daigo Maki simply had too much rice for her. She’s used to smaller vegetarian sushi rolls that are made at Ebisu and Kai.
The Fried Chicken was another disappointment. The pieces were well-seasoned and almost looked appealing if not for the amount of grease that was visible. I had to use napkins to absorb the grease off the chicken before eating it. The cook was not cooking them at the right temperature. The oil needs to be higher. I did tell this to Kumiko and she said she’d bring it up to the cook.
Ita-dake masu! (Bon appetit!)
Ken The Guam Food Guy