Restaurants revive pre-pandemic practices—with some changes

Posted on Jul 02 2021

“Yes, we are open.”
What a big difference this four-word sentence makes amid the COVID-19 a pandemic.
“Yes, we are open to serve you.”
“Yes, we are open to satisfy your need for food or drink.”
“Yes we are open for business.”

Music to the ears for those who have seen their movements restricted for more than a year due to the pandemic. This slow progression to some form of normalcy is how it is supposed to be.

Since the COVID-19 Task Force declared CNMI under Level Green last week—which means a low risk of COVID-19 infection—many restaurants were empowered to revert back to familiar practices and service but with some small changes that still prioritizes the health and safety of every customer.

‘Same, same but different’

True blue buffet is back on weekends at the Hyatt Regency Saipan, where you can approach every food station to get dishes with your own hands—just like pre-pandemic times. The difference is, food stations are protected by plexiglass and each customer must wear disposable plastic gloves and both are in place to maintain health and safety protocols.

“It took time but with the recent developments, we were able to communicate with the authorities and got a full inspection. Now customers can self-serve, get as many or as little as they want on their plate and that is the exciting part about buffets,” said Hyatt executive sous chef Zen Tomokane.

Food service stations at the Hyatt Regency Saipan’s Giovanni’s Restaurant is covered by plexiglass to maximize health and safety of both employees and customers. (BEA CABRERA)

Expect a variety of food at the Hyatt Regency Saipan’s lunch and dinner buffets on the weekend featuring Kevin’s vegetable farm roll for health buffs that is made up of local vegetables. (BEA CABRERA)

“…It has been over a year that we missed having self-serve buffet style at the Hyatt. …We still have unlimited offerings where food was brought to customer’s table but we know buffet style is really the island style, especially when celebrating special occasions. We have always wanted to bring self-serve buffet but [to do it safely]. …After getting accreditation from the COVID-19 Task Force, [Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.], Bureau of Environmental Health, etc. we were given clearance. …We did this concept for Father’s Day. …This is all possible because of the hard work that these agencies put in to help businesses like the Hyatt,” he added.

Upon entry, customers are still asked to wear masks, log in their names, phone numbers, and body temperature, and sanitize their hands. Social distancing is still in place. That is why instead of 100% capacity, Hyatt is implementing 75%.

Every Wednesday and Thursday at Kili Cafe, the Miyako set or Japanese cuisine unlimited lunch set menu is from 11:30am to 2pm and Miyako set or Japanese cuisine unlimited dinner set menu is from 6pm to 9pm. Skipper’s Beach Bar opens from 4:30pm to 8:30pm.

For buffet weekends, plastic gloves are used one time per trip to the food stations and more are available at the start of the buffet rows. On Friday and Saturday, Kili Café/Giovanni’s Lunch Buffet is from 11:30am to 2:pm and Kili Café/Giovanni’s Dinner Buffet is from 6pm to 9pm. Skipper’s Beach Bar is open from 4:30pm to 8:30pm.

On Sundays, Kili Café/Giovanni’s Brunch with unlimited champagne awaits you from 10:30am to 2pm and Kili Café/Giovanni’s Ala Carte menu is available from 6pm to 9pm. Skipper’s Beach Bar is open from noon to 8:30pm.

Tomokane assures that the buffet and ala carte menus will always have top-notch quality because they are always served fresh. He also stressed that the menu will always be rotating and calls it an “organic menu” where they change the array of food as the seasons changes, depending on what’s fresh and what’s available. “….We will maximize use of local products and vegetables, incorporating that into our appetizers. …We are introducing a coconut green soup that has no cream…and main entrees that will represent dishes from around the world. …At the salad bar, there is a variety of protein alternatives.,…so the vegetarian and healthy options are there and we are excited to see how the market will respond to that,” he said.

“We will be introducing many new taste and flavors like our Asian-style cold turkey roast that will be available on the hunter’s table or carving station. …The pork shabu shabu and warm bread pudding will be staples at the dinner buffet. The pork shabu shabu comes with three delectable sauces that allows you to season the dish in accordance to your taste. …The bread pudding is kept warm and partnered with the Tennessee whiskey honey caramel that will make your dessert enjoyable,” he added.

Lunch and dinner buffet on Friday, Saturday and Sunday is $43 per person and $25 for Club at the Hyatt members. A set price is available for unlimited lunch and dinner set menu during Wednesday and Thursday. For more information, call (670) 234-1234 or visit their website:

Grandvrio’s Dolphin Restaurant reopens

Grandvrio Resort Saipan closed its hotel operations, including food and beverage service, on March 29 last year when the COVID-19 virus was declared a pandemic. Food and Beverage manager Hongguo Li said it was a tough journey for them. Now that conditions are getting better in the CNMI, opening Dolphin Restaurant starting today, July 2, comes at the right time.

“We were already making plans to reopen Dolphin Restaurant and the declaration last week that CNMI is now under Level Green came as a bonus. …We have three restaurants at the hotel but we are opening Dolphin Restaurant first because many of our regular customers have been asking for it. …When we have tourists back, then we will plan to open the other restaurants,” he said.

Beginning today, Dolphin Restaurant at the penthouse of Grandvrio Resort Hotel is open for lunch from 11:30am to 2pm Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. (BEA CABRERA)

Grandvrio Resort Hotel food and beverage manager Hongguo Li is excited to see regular and new customers at Dolphin Restaurant’s opening today. (BEA CABRERA)

“I have received phone calls from people asking when are we opening and some are already trying to make reservations. It is heartbreaking to tell them we are not in operation yet but now that we are opening again, we are excited to see regular and new customers,” he added.

Dolphin Restaurant is at the penthouse of Grandvrio Resort Hotel in Garapan, where guests can enjoy the view of the turquoise ocean and delight at the sight of huge ships stationed outside the Saipan lagoon. “For now, Dolphin Restaurant will be open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for lunch only from 11:30am to 2pm. We have been waiting for this moment for a long time and we will serve lunch only until conditions become better during the pandemic,” he said.

“We serve Japanese food and most of the items on the menu will be the same as before—the popular dishes that customers love. …The pricing is still reasonable and we didn’t want to increase our prices so much because we know the situation of the community on Saipan. Most do not have steady incomes or jobs. With our dishes still affordable, we want everyone to come and enjoy their old favorites,” he added.

For only $18, the Chef Special Lunch includes Salmon Fish and Spare Ribs and comes with salad, soup of the day, rice, and dessert. For only $15, Special Lunch Bento includes Hamburger steak and chicken teriyaki. They also have an ala carte menu that includes Beef Short Ribs set ($15), Katsu Curry set ($15), and Katsu Ju set ($13). Japanese noodles is never far way with their hot/cold udon with tempura for only $12 and shrimp and vegetables tempura set for only $15.

Li said that health and safety protocols are in place starting at the hotel lobby. “Guests of Dolphin Restaurant will be asked to log in their names, have their temperatures taken, asked to wear masks, and observe social distancing. When they go up to the 10th floor, hand sanitizing stations are available to keep their hands clean. …Originally we could sit 72 persons in the restaurant but, since we implement social distancing, we will accommodate 50 people at one time in the restaurant.

“We also accept celebrations for special occasions or company meetings. …We commend the government and COVID19 Task Force for working with us so that we can reopen. Everybody is working hard and we are ready at Dolphin Restaurant to see familiar faces and give them the service and care that they missed and they can only find at Dolphin Restaurant,” he added.

Dolphin Restaurant of Grandvrio Resort Hotel is open for lunch from 11:30am to 2pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For reservations, call (670)234-6495 or )670) 237-2527 or

Special events and celebrations are back at JC Café Tinian

JC Café on Tinian is a destination in itself. Established in 1991, it is always welcoming. Their array of dishes is a mix of Chamorro, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino menus that will satisfy your thirst for local flavor and taste.

One will never get enough of their ‘Orig’ Buttered Fried Chicken. This dish is so popular that people from Saipan and Rota order them in trays and pay for its shipment. “We have never changed. …We have always maintained a friendly, family-oriented atmosphere, always serve good food and our restaurant is also known for highlighting local artwork that tells the island’s rich history displayed on our walls . Every time you visit Tinian and come to JC Cafe, you will feel the Chamorro hospitality our island can give. Our specialties include red rice, the famous Buttered Chicken, and island dishes such as Local Beef Tinala and coco pickles. …Customers can also instruct the servers if they have special dietary requirements, “ said general manager Lot Bunao.

JC Cafe set up the special celebration of Cris and Rowena Cook’s fourth anniversary. “Now that we are at Level Green, we can do more service for JC Cafe customers,” said JC Café manager Lot Bunao. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Level Green has allowed JC Cafe to open up its services for indoor and outdoor functions complete with organizing, decorating, and catering. This was a wedding anniversary set up done at Tahogna Beach on Tinian. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

“When the pandemic hit, we closed for two weeks and, after the governor announced that establishments like us can open at reduced hours, we did that. …Even though we are now on Level Green, we are still are very careful and still follow the hygiene protocols,” Bunao added.

JC Café now accommodates indoor and outdoor special events like weddings, christenings, birthday parties, etc. “We also do event planning like wedding proposals and anniversaries, with romantic dinner set-up at the beach side. …Last week, we organized the wedding anniversary of Chris and Rowena Cook at the Tahogna Beach. …We made everything special…to achieve the perfect wedding anniversary ambiance. …Now that we are on Level Green, we are looking forward to making more special events come true,” she said.

“We are also proud to be a long-time member of the Marianas Visitor’s Authority and part of the Hafa Adai Tirow Pledge. It is really important to show that JC Cafe is always participating, supporting and promoting the CNMI cultures, history, music, tradition and, most of all, the beauty and cleanliness of our island. Our involvement to help Tinian and other islands in the CNMI will be there all the time,” she added.

For more information, call (670) 433-3413 or cellphone (670) 285-3413 or (670) 783-3413.

Eats Easy continues to conquer your hunger

Eats Easy opened business at the start of the pandemic and quickly became a welcome alternative for people who opted to stay home for safety reasons and order food. At the same time, they helped restaurants continue running and cater to customers’ needs by bringing food to them. According to company president Clint Albert, they will stick to what works, even during Level Green.

“We are not making any changes for now in terms of delivery standard operating procedures. We are sticking to our strict protocols to ensure everyone’s safety. Even though the Level Green is a sign of great things to come, it is still not a guarantee that things will be back to normal. Conditions may change in an instant but we remain hopeful and positive,” he said.

Eats Easy president Clint Albert says the company continues to provide service and ensures health and safety measures are in place when delivering food. (BEA CABRERA)

“We thank the government for doing a great job in controlling the pandemic and possible spread to the islands. We also thank the community for being united in following protocols to ensure everyone’s safety. …Even though we are at Level Green, we should remain vigilant in protecting ourselves, our family, and the people around us. At Eats Easy, we will maintain all our delivery procedures and protocols daily from 9am to 8pm for everyone’s safety,” he added.

Bea Cabrera | Correspondent
Bea Cabrera, who holds a law degree, also has a bachelor's degree in mass communications. She has been exposed to multiple aspects of mass media, doing sales, marketing, copywriting, and photography.
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