Meet me at Mi-Dahm

IN THE MIX: Bibimbap ($16), a dish comprised of sauteed vegetables, sliced meat and various chili pastes atop white rice, is garnished with a raw egg before being served to guests in a very hot stone bowl. The diner then mixes everything together prior to eating the dish. Norman M. Taruc/The Guam Daily Post

An unassuming restaurant in Upper Tumon, Mi-Dahm is certainly more than meets the eye. Walk through its doors and you'll be greeted by friendly staff, a spacious dining area and sweeping views of bustling Tumon Bay below. And that's all before sitting down.

Owner and chef S.C. John Jang was raised in Seoul, where he spent more than two decades in the restaurant business, working his way up "step by step" from dishwasher to restaurant owner before moving to Guam 15 years ago to work in the hotel food scene.

Jang's restaurant, opened just four years ago, offers up more than 50 dishes that include Korean favorites such as bibimbap – veggies topped with a raw egg and cooked together in a hot bowl – and kalbi, or short ribs. Jang said if he were still in Seoul, he'd likely focus on just a few dishes, but on a small island, a varied menu is essential. And at Mi-Dahm, every dish is Jang's own homestyle recipe.

While Korean food is known for being health conscious, Jang's style takes it a step further, using even less salt and sugar than you might find in traditional Korean cooking. But his dishes are still bursting with flavor.

Favorites including the seafood pancake delight the senses with flavorful shrimp and octopus tossed with green onion and fried in a pancake batter to your desired crispiness. The secret, Jang said, is cooking the seafood before frying it in batter, which he said adds even more flavor. And while the concept might sound like an odd one, it's a must try for calamari fans looking for a fresh take on battered seafood.

The Korean barbecue platters pack a big punch, though the heat level can be tempered to your liking – just skip the jalapeño or add some rice, Jang said. Customers are given a platter of lettuce leaves to load up with barbecued beef and add toppings such as garlic cloves and bean paste sauce.

While Mi-Dahm honors the traditions of Korean cooking and sticks to a made-from-scratch menu, Jang isn't afraid to experiment, and said he changes the contents of that menu regularly with rotating side dishes such as fish cake and kabocha squash.

His potato salad, another side option, is steamed rather than boiled and served in one small scoop with a subtly sweet flavor. His bean paste, on the other hand, gets a little extra citrusy sweetness from Sprite.

All of the restaurant's kimchi – a side dish made from fermented veggies such as cabbage and known for its health benefits – is made in house, with Chinese cabbage flown in from Korea. The process is long, beginning with a half-day brine, then brushed with kimchi paste made from chilis, green onion, ginger, Korean anchovy paste and red pepper powder, and left out for several hours to ferment.

A visit to Mi-Dahm, however, isn't complete without some tabletop barbecue, something you aren't likely to overlook with a grill top installed in every table and ready for action. Choose from the A, B or C courses, which range from $50 to $70 and include a platter full of as many as five different cuts of beef, including prime rib and beef brisket, alongside noodles and salad.

With its pristine view, shareable dishes and central location, Mi-Dahm is a perfect spot for foodies, families and couples looking for a fun date night, giving you a taste of Seoul right in Tumon Bay's backyard.


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