By IVA MAURIN
GARAPAN, Saipan — With a $250,000 investment, restaurateur Steve Jang transformed a former Japanese restaurant in Garapan, into what could be Saipan’s most visible restaurant – the Plumeria Steakhouse.
Located on a 3,000 square foot space along Beach Road, in the heart of Garapan, the new restaurant not only offers a meat-filled menu, but would be difficult to miss, with a historical landmark flying high next to it — a 1959 Beech L-23D multi-engine aircraft.
In another hint of the past, the restaurant is named after the NMI’s state flower of the Northern Mariana Islands, as a tribute to a mature tree that used to stand proudly in the area.
“There used to be a beautiful Plumeria tree right in front of where the airplane is situated. It got totally damaged from a big auto accident a few years ago, and as a remembrance, I named the restaurant Plumeria,” Jang said.
As for the aircraft, he said it was used to transport people from one island to another after World War II. Jang bought it and had it installed next to the restaurant to serve as another significant landmark on Saipan.
“It’s the only place in the world that has a historic airplane parked right next to a steak house,” he said.
Plumeria Steakhouse, which opened June 15, offers four varieties of steaks, St. Louis ribs and a wide variety of other items — such as pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and pastas.
“We have five choices of great sandwiches to choose from, which no other restaurant has in Saipan, such as our signature Philly Steak Sandwich. Our specially baked Plumeria bread sets us aside from others when it comes to the taste of the bread,” Jang said.
The restaurateur also takes pride in working with a diverse group of people among his crew of 15, including Executive Chef John Imperial, who brings to the table more than 30 years of experience in Italian cuisine.
“I would like to serve the community well — our local residents — and tourists [when things get back to normal],” Jang said. Jang is not new to the industry. He also owns and manages Eté Cafe, a popular coffee shop offering fresh ground coffee, Moringa tea, as well as cakes, which opened on March 15, 2018.
Jang says he has always been drawn to commerce. “I learned business when I was growing up in Canada, as an elementary school kid. I worked and owned cleaning businesses when I was in high school. [I also] worked for a factory warranty company fixing TVs, VCRs, and computers — that’s just a few. I learned business because I needed to survive and make ends meet,” he said. Jang also owns Saipan Photo.
And survive, he did, even when COVID-19 hit the NMI, even able to conceive and open a new restaurant.
“[It is] not an easy task. [It is] very challenging and difficult, especially nowadays, [in terms of] availability of items, logistics, timeline of getting the merchandise on time. [It is] tough,” Jang said.
“The pandemic was and is hard for all, not only me. Emotionally and economically, and in every way, it was not easy. But failure is not in my vocabulary. There are times in life when things are not perfect, when problems seem to surround you. However, having a positive attitude and keeping track of where you are headed will keep you focused in reaching that goal.”
Jang also recognized the help he received from the U.S. Small Business Administration in Saipan as a “blessing from the sky,” adding that he is forever thankful for the loan to renovate the building.
As to advice on starting a business, Jang said common sense is a must, … having patience is key, and that it is important to have a good network among one’s friends, family, and peers.
“Never forget where you come from and who helped you stand up. Sometimes, the paths we take are long and hard, but remember, those are always the ones that lead to the most beautiful views. Challenges come along inevitably, [but] how [you] respond to them determines who you are.”
Jang said his hard work paid off.
“I never gave up, never did and never will. I never lost focus on the set goals that I had. I am on a journey where I want to service our tourists who come to Saipan, and they come again. That’s my goal.”
To make reservations, contact Plumeria Steakhouse at (670) 233-5454. mbj