4-5 March 2016
Many Japanese come to Okinawa to have fun, as it’s their little tropical paradise. But because of its location, it’s also inundated with Chinese (especially from Taiwan), and sometimes that’s all you hear around town. But that just makes me hunt deeper for places to eat.
After that amazing dinner at Akatafu I went around to have a few drinks and maybe to snack more. Unfortunately it being a busy Saturday night, many places (including many izakaya) were packed or booked solid, and a few places were inexplicably closed (including a goat specialty place I wanted to try). I ended up at a izakaya near one of the Monorail stations called Ganaha that had a seat at the counter.
Like most young people in Naha, due to the US military presence, my server spoke excellent English. I ordered something and kept up my awamori drinking. I didn’t realise the dish was gonna be so big…
Wow…a huge tonkatsu set with local pork. It was delicious, lovely flavours and good breading. Not Butagumi good, but damn good. Because of that excellent local pork! Oh wow…but it nearly killed me, so I saundered back to my hotel and passed out…
The next day I explored the town during the day, just wandering around aimlessly on a lazy Sunday. I had trouble finding places open on Sunday during lunch hour, and I accidentally found a place called Nemasushi.
Now you’re probably wondering what kind of place would have a 24-hour horse-specialty izakaya…Naha is the kind of place! I enjoyed a beer and first up was a filling salmon belly bowl.
My goodness simple cheap bowls here are still better than anything I find in “Japanese” restaurants back home. Then next up, oh my…
I’m sorry for my readers who don’t, but I love basashi — horse sashimi. Lean and flavourful. These were almost as good as the ones in Kumamoto, where they probably originate. The lean meat sashimi was very tasty, and the tongue was fantastic. But the treat is the rib meat…the fat is like nothing you’ve ever tasted, and dare I say if there’s something better than pork belly fat it is horse fat… Just borderline orgasmic whenever I have this…
I headed out when one of the patrons lit up a really foul-smelling cigarette in the poorly-vented izakaya, thanking the staff for the excellent food. The rest of the afternoon I explored a bit more of the town and went to chill out at the hotel. I headed back out for Tamaudun, the Imperial Tombs of all the monarchs of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Nice, but too bad the chambers are off limits (so we see the photos). I rushed then to go to Shuri Castle but thanks to a ridiculous amount of Chinese tourists blocking my path, I got there too late for a ticket to get it. It closes at 1830, but apparently stops ticket sales at 1730 — which I didn’t know. Damn…so just toured the exterior.
A little frustated as I walked back to the Monorail station, so stopped at a izakaya called Shurei just in sight of the station. I went in for a beer and a few snacks. First up, after the little fish amuse, was a nice tempura plate.
Good quality veggies, some good fish too. Then some mussels in urchin sauce.
Nice, though the sauce was a little too thick. My trick? I mopped up the sauce with the tempura vegetables. Worked perfectly. I thanked them and headed out and headed to the station to get back towards the centre. I had some bad luck with places that are full/booked (again, izakaya…this town gets so busy, even on a Sunday night!), but wandered into wee place called Ouchiasobi.
I wouldn’t have stayed but the staff were so friendly and chatty. It’s a okonomiyaki place — and I don’t really like those things, even in Hiroshima when I visited, so I opted for some butter-cooked oysters…
Excellent, lovely flavours here. But the menu was rather limited and hard to read, so I finished my beer and thanked them. I like the self-service beer tap here!
Headed back to the hotel to chill out a bit before I re-emerged at about 2100 to another few places. First up was a place not far from my hotel called Yambarukuina. It’s a pork specialty izakaya so I went hard on the pork products…
First up was not pork, but just a big ol’ plate of sea grapes. Oh I love these, and they are a great drinking snack here in Okinawa. Then the pork started, first off boiled cartilage…
Now I know you think that sounds boring, but boiled in a very flavourful broth I suppose, as the flavour is just beautiful. Lots of meat still connected to the soft-but-chewy cartilage. Excellent! Then next up…
Oh my, more braised fatty pork! Oh my was this good… Damn, I am getting addicted to this local pork! I finished the food and my drink and thanked them. I had one more place to check out, and it just happens to be between this place and my hotel — Churasantei.
The last place was pork-centric this place was all about fresh seafood. So I went hard for seafood and enjoyed some awamuri. First up were some interesting clams as a snack — as this place had a cover charge. I guess this was worth it!
Tasty buggers, fresh and nice. Then all my items appeared at the same time. First up, sashimi.
This is from akamachi (ruby snapper), a local delicacy. Tasty clean fish. And also, some syakogai (giant clam)…
This is the local, small version of the giant clam. Enjoyable. And the last…
Oh my, this was the same awamori-fermented tofu like last night but with squid ink! Oh my it was good but was a total mess to eat! Drank plenty with this one!
I had a little room in my stomach to end this, and I decided to get one last dish. So many choices, so many other fish, as well as shellfish (including huge beasts that reminded me of bay bugs in Australia). But I was too full for that, so I went…pork. What else…
This is suchika, a special way of salt curing belly. And this was darn good again… Oh I’m beyond stuffed. Time to close my Naha account, go back to the hotel and collapse…
I headed out of Okinawa the next day a little sad, as it was too short to really get into it. After a last pork treat at the airport I headed back to Tokyo for the last leg of this trip… I hope to return at some point, this was a too-short eating weekend!
Naha, Okinawa, Japan