Don't be fooled by the low price: What may be Guam's most affordable buffet in town, at $12.95 plus a 10 percent service charge, is packed with international dishes that are a feast for the stomach and the eyes.
Co-owned by a husband and wife duo, Good Neighbor, located on the first floor of the Pia Marine building in Upper Tumon, opened in September, just in time for Typhoon Mangkhut to come sweeping through the Marianas.
It put a bit of a damper on their opening, says public relations manager Lauren Teng, but business has begun to pick up in the months since.
"We see a lot more customers coming in trying food," Teng says. "Before it would just be lots of people we knew. ... Now it's actually locals from everywhere."
Decades of culinary experience
Co-owner and executive chef Khineng "Kane" Huang came to Guam earlier this year armed with more than two decades of hotel restaurant experience, mainly working in Chinese and Taiwanese hotels such as the Westin Taipei. There, Huang says he was constantly being exposed to international cuisines, as the hotels brought in visiting chefs and featured various countries' staples. It was this constant need to learn and adapt that drove him to settle on international dishes at his very own restaurant.
"That's what he likes to do," Teng says of Huang's cooking. "He doesn't want to stick to normal. ... He likes pasta, spaghetti ... Thai cold salad. ... He likes to play around with it, and we always get suggestions from people and we are trying to develop new dishes."
Over the years Huang also honed his plating skills, which Teng says became his specialty and which makes Good Neighbor dishes look far pricier than they actually are.
Beginning at 5:30 p.m., Good Neighbor transitions to an a la carte menu, with every entree under $20. Most dishes have a distinctive Asian influence, like beef donburi or curry fried rice, but you'll also find Italian staples like pasta bolognese and tomato seafood pasta.
"I would like to bring different varieties of food to all the people of Guam," Huang says.
Getting to know Guam
Before coming to Guam, Huang and his wife, Pamela Huang, took their time getting to know the island's culinary scene during several visits to the island to see their son, who was attending school here.
After several years apart and lots of time spent developing their restaurant concept, Teng says, the Huangs decided to move to Guam so they could be closer to their son.
Now, their identity as island newcomers is a large part of Good Neighbor's inspiration.
"They're new here and they don't want to feel like strangers to anyone," Teng says. "They want to serve the best dishes they can to our good neighbors."
This idea of neighborliness and inclusivity also contributed to the restaurant's menu selection.
"It's different cuisines, so that we want to include everyone," Teng continued. "It starts with food – we want to be a good neighbor to everyone."
After months of deliberation, Huang settled on dishes like Beef Donburi, a traditional Taiwanese dish with beef typically served raw, though at Good Neighbor it's closer to medium. Slices of thinly cut steak encircle a sizable scoop of steamed rice, all topped with a soft boiled egg.
The Spiced Chili Sauce Chicken has quickly become a crowd favorite, Teng says, calling it the restaurant's most "beloved" dish, which features fried chicken and steamed rice dressed with a "very important" sauce, according to Huang. The sauce in question is made with prickly ash oil, a pungent herb also known as Sichuan peppercorn.
Huang stays humble
Following decades of working for other chefs and learning how to cook – and cook well – the world's countless cuisines, Huang has now landed on Guam, and for the first time is taking center stage as he helms his own restaurant alongside his wife.
But despite this level of success and his decades of cooking experience, Huang – again in the spirit of being a good neighbor – says he still considers himself no better than any other worker (there are five total) at his restaurant.
"He doesn't want to be like a controlling boss where he's just working, working, working," Teng says, interpreting for Huang. "He wants to also find happiness in what he does, his mindset is always as a worker here who helps out, cooks food, brings dishes to people."
Even with this humble attitude, Huang's skills as a chef still shine, offering decadent and elegantly plated dishes from around the world to families with any budget.