Servers at Hotel Nikko Guam's Magellan restaurant bustled through tables and around a lengthy buffet, putting the finishing touches on that night's all-you-can-eat fare as a musical duo tuned their instruments. On the other side of the restaurant's large glass doors, guests had already begun to line up for dinner.
The line outside formed early, and no surprise: Saturday night is Magellan's Prime Rib Roast and Seafood Buffet.
That means unlimited prime rib, snow crab and all-you-can-drink draft beer for just $38, plus a 10 percent service charge. Keep in mind, however, that the local rate is even lower, and kids eat for $15.
Prime rib night happens twice a week, kicking off at 6 p.m. every Friday and Saturday.
Flavorful, juicy and tender, the prime rib is accompanied by bright, green wasabi and a more subtle miso sauce. Rather than overwhelming heat, the wasabi offers a punch of flavor, similar to enjoying prime rib with horseradish.
An interesting note: According to foodie magazine Epicurious, wasabi and horseradish come from the same plant family, along with mustard and Brussels sprouts. One is from a white root and the other from a green stem. You can probably guess which is which.
Wasabi is also extremely difficult to grow outside Japan, making it pricey. Oftentimes, the wasabi you get with your sushi is simply horseradish dyed green.
This stuff, however, appeared to be the real deal – so load up while you can.
Wasabi aside, the best course of action at Magellan is very careful pacing: The restaurant offers a truly dizzying array of dishes, including a ramen bar, curry bar, seafood bar and dessert bar. On the other side of the buffet, you'll find an assortment of meaty dishes sandwiched between the huge prime rib roast and a stack of ribs.
"I wanted to create as many dishes as I could so that ... same guest won't get bored, you know, (with) that same menu every day," said Magellan executive chef Tatsuhito Shiraishi.
Something for everyone
If a heaping plate of steak and seafood isn't for you, just come back any other night of the week: Magellan features a global, rotating buffet schedule, including Italian, French and Mexican cuisines. On any given night, you might find butterflied shrimp stuffed with herb-laden breadcrumbs and a pile of spaghetti laced with seafood, or a hefty plate of nachos ready for the eating.
On that particular Saturday, the restaurant was buzzing with guests eager to chow down on slow-roasted prime rib, cooked for hours in a bath of red wine.
But Shiraishi said it hasn't always been that way.
After studying in Paris for two years, where he worked as a teppanyaki chef and learned French technique, Shiraishi returned to his homeland of Japan before being offered a job on Guam three years ago.
"When I get here," he recalled, "I wanted to serve the French cuisine to the local people. But it was not that popular at that time."
Hotel Nikko Guam grand chef Kunihiko Temma remembers those days, too.
"I thought French cuisine we are making will be accepted by Guam people," Temma said. "It was not that accepted. So we didn't have much guests at the time, at the beginning."
Learning the local palate
Shiraishi admits that, being from Japan, he didn't really know what locals wanted when he first came to the island.
"I didn't have any idea what local food is, right?" he said. "So I went around ... (dining) out and study myself."
Since then, Shiraishi has benefited from attending many a local fiesta, and Temma says now when locals come, "they keep on coming back."
For a truly local experience, make sure to stop by on a Sunday night, when the buffet features a fiesta-inspired CHamoru night.
Today, the restaurant brings in as many as 80 guests each night, and Shiraishi lives and breathes Magellan, arriving before the day's first guests arrive for breakfast and leaving long after their dinner guests have had their fill.