Okinawa’s best onigiri

Pork Tamago onigiri is known to be the soul food of Okinawa. It is spam and egg wrapped in a rice ball. The popular restaurant located right by Makishi Market, Pork Tamago Onigiri Honten, has taken the traditional rice ball and added its own gourmet touches to it. There are different onigiri combinations, but with all having the same base of spam and egg. The size is quite substantial, so one will be enough to fill you up. There is a seating area across from the restaurant. If not, just order a takeaway and have a pleasant stroll through the Makishi Market.

Each onigiri is made to order so there can be quite a wait when there’s a line. It’s difficult to predict when the restaurant will be busy. I visited the restaurant at around 9:15 a.m. on two different occasions. The first time there was a queue, and the second time there wasn’t. I would recommend going early like before 9:00 a.m. if you are aiming to have onigiri for breakfast.

I ordered the fried fish tartar and pickled Okinawa shallot (400 yen). It was delicious! The fish had a lovely golden crust, and all the flavors come together so well.

This is one of the must eat breakfast in Okinawa.

Pork Tamago Onigiri Honten

Website: http://porktamago.com/

Telephone: 98 – 867 – 9550

Opening hours:  7:00 a.m. – 17:30 p.m. (except Wednesdays)

Address: 900-0014 Okinawa Prefecture Naha-shi Matsuo 2-8-35

Gourmet doughnuts

After spending half a day at the American Village in Chatan, I made my way down to a chic little doughnut shop- Ball Donut Park, located on Kokusai’s side street, for a bit of afternoon treat. As the name implies, the doughnuts come in a bite-size ball shape. The donuts are made to order. These gourmet doughnuts come in a variety of fun flavors such as tropical, apple cinnamon, and taco … yes, I said taco, the first of its kind doughnut with meat in Japan.

I settled for the store’s bestselling flavor ‘lemon and sugar,’ and I can see why it’s the bestseller. It smelled like lemon muffins fresh out of the oven. It was light, citrusy, and sweet; it had the right amount of lemon and sugar. The doughnuts had a chewier texture than the standard donut rings, not greasy. I fell in love with these doughnuts at first bite.

Lemon and sugar
single: 420 yen (8 balls)
double: 770 yen (16 balls)

I wished I had visited this place at the beginning of my trip, then I would have had more time to go back for more.

Ball Donut Park

Website: http://www.balldonutpark.com/

Telephone: +81 98-988-9249

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 12:00 p.m. – 20:00 p.m.

Address: 1 Chome-1-39 Makishi, Naha, Okinawa Prefecture 900-0013, Japan

Lip-smacking fried chicken and waffles

CC chicken N’ waffles is a restaurant opened by an American who relocated to Okinawa with his Japanese wife. The establishment is located not too far from the American Village in Chatan. It is a tiny restaurant tucked away under an apartment building right by the seawall along the Miyagi coast.

Cody, the owner, was friendly and attentive to my needs. The bar-like atmosphere long with classic rock music playing in the background makes me feel like I’m in America. Customers can pay in dollars or yen.

The chicken gumbo was delicious. It had chicken pieces, okra, and red peppers. It was spicy (not burn your mouth spicy) with a strong taste of herbs.

When I had the first bite of the chicken, I was like, wow! The fried chicken was perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection- ultra crispy skin with tender and juicy meat. The waffle was crisp on the outside and fluffy on the inside, served with a sweet-savory syrup which complimented the waffle well.

One of the best chicken and waffles I’ve had! I highly recommend this restaurant.

CC Chicken N’ Waffles

Website: https://www.facebook.com/CRAYz-Chicken-N-Waffles-873952185963191/

Telephone: +81 98-979-9008

Opening hours: Sunday & Monday  8:00 a.m. – 17:00 p.m.

Tuesday to Thursday 8:00 a.m. – 21:00 p.m.

Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 15:00 p.m. , 17:00 p.m. – 22:00 p.m.

Address: 1−68 Miyagi, Chatan, Nakagami District, Okinawa Prefecture 904-0113, Japan

A&W

One of my fondest memories as a child was going to A&W to have waffles and the root beer float with the family. I loved the crispy golden fluffy waffles with syrup and root beer float. It has been a long time since I have had A&W waffles and I was really craving for it.

I was excited to find out that there are A&W restaurants in Okinawa. There are several branches in Naha. I went to the A&W branch on Kokusai street. It is located on the second floor of the building. When you enter the restaurant, you definitely get the A&W vibe with the orange and brown counters, chairs, and tables. I was greatly disappointed when waffles were not available, only waffle sundae. Anyhow, at least there is still the root beer float. So I ordered a root beer float and an apple pie.

To my dismay, the root beer float came in a plastic cup when it should be served in a chilled mug. Furthermore, there was too much ice cream and too little root beer. The apple pie was really sweet and the crust was too thick and over done.

Despite my disappointment, A&W is quite popular among the locals and foreigners.

 

A&W (Kokusai street)

Website: https://www.awok.co.jp/

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 22:30 p.m.

Address: 1 Chome-1-1 Matsuo, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 900-0014, Japan

Niklāvs

Niklāvs is situated in Rīga’s Old Town in a building that once housed the studio of a well known 20th-century Latvian painter, Niklāvs Strunke, which inspired the name of the restaurant “Niklāvs.” The bright interior is enhanced with paintings of Niklāvs Strunke and of other Latvian artists.

Niklāvs serves mainly traditional Latvian cuisine, including some European dishes. The restaurant offers a breakfast buffet, brunch buffet, business lunch on weekdays, and a la carte menu. There is a featured menu every month – Head Chef’s specials – which is a selection of 4 dishes using locally grown farmers’ produce and ingredients, including wild vegetables and berries picked by the head chef herself, giving customers a taste of seasonal produce. Reservations can be made online.

There is a small pavement terrace outside for dining. It was a beautiful day, so I opted to sit outside. Their pavement terrace is connected with the restaurant and shops along that row, so non-customers can walk through, which I found distracting.

I went for the 3-course business lunch for 7.50 euros. The 2-course meal is 5.50 euros.

My waitress was a bubbly young woman. There was a liveliness to her tone of voice.

The starter was a refreshing salad with a simple yogurt dill dressing. I love the vibrant colors of the salad.

The main course had middle eastern flavors. The chicken, drizzled with a savory tomato sauce, was fall-off-the-bone tender. The bulgur had a mild buttery, nutty flavor, a delicious accompaniment with the chicken and sauce.

The dessert was caramel pudding. The texture resembles a blancmange with a sweet, creamy flavor.

I had an enjoyable lunch and would return to try more elaborate dishes on the menu.

 

Niklāvs

Website: http://www.restoransniklavs.lv/en/

Telephone: (+371) 20019156

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 7:00 a.m. – 22:00 p.m.

Address: Grēcinieku iela 2, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia

 

A harbor of tranquility

Situated near the Gauja river in the beautiful, charming historic town of Cesis, Santa villa is a classy summer cottage style hotel. The hotel is surrounded by lush, tranquil forest. The minimalist Nordic interior design of the building and rooms blends well with its natural surroundings.

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The restaurant

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The modern chic interior of the restaurant is decorated with paintings by Latvian contemporary artist Ieva Iltnere and a la mode ceiling lamps accompanied by Vienna bistro chairs and turquoise upholstered banquette bench. There is a spacious terrace with views of the forest.

Day 1 

Lunch

  • Red currant lemonade with lemon and blueberries (3 euros)
  • Burger with four week-aged grilled beef (farm Rukisi), served with fresh salad, tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, cheese, BBQ sauce, and fried potato straws (9.20 euros).

The red currant lemonade was a refreshing treat with a twang.

The highlight of the burger was the aged beef. It was so flavorful that each bite clothes your whole palette.

Dinner

Trout fillet with seasonal vegetables steamed in parchment parcel served with grapefruit and orange salad and raspberry vinaigrette (14.60 euros).

The trout was a little bland but fresh and cooked perfectly. The salad was tangy and sweet with a crunch of fresh greens and almond flakes. The presentation of the dish reminded me of the lush forest of the region.

Day 2

Breakfast

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The buffet breakfast had a simple but healthy spread. There were croissants, waffles, crepes, salads, fruits, yogurt, scrambled eggs…etc. The crepes were sensational. They were so delicious, salty, savory with a hint of sweetness. Yogurt was homemade with fresh fruits. I like the presentation of the dishes; jams, cheese, and herring in individual tiny glass jars; and whipped butter and yogurt in individual bowls. Coffee is self-served from an automatic coffee machine.

The breakfast was the same throughout the whole duration I was there. It was not a problem for me because I was only there for three days. The spread could be more diverse especially for guests who will be there for a longer duration.

Day 3

Lunch

  • slow-cooked chicken breast with birch-sap rhubarb reduction, baby asparagus and avocado salad, and hempseed-caviar sauce (10.70 euros)
  • beef meatball soup with seasonal vegetables, fresh herbs, and sour cream (5.40 euros)

It was a chilly day, and the hearty meatball soup was a fabulous warming soup. The chicken was tender and juicy. The rhubarb reduction accentuated the flavor of the chicken with a lovely sweetish sourish taste.

I love that fresh and local ingredients especially fruit-based sauces and dressings were incorporated into the dishes. I had a really relaxing time here and enjoyed every moment basking in nature.

Santa Villa

Website: http://www.villasanta.lv/en

Telephone: +371 64 177 177

Address: Gaujas iela 88, Cēsis, Cēsu pilsēta, LV-4101, Latvia

Contemporary fine dining

Muusu is a fine dining restaurant located in a three-story townhouse near St. Peter’s Church serving contemporary European cuisine. The restaurant uses fresh and seasonal local ingredients. Their head chef, Kaspars Jansons, is claimed to be one of the best chefs in the city.

I was escorted to a room at the back of the house. The interior has a strong Nordic style -raw brick wall, natural light, wooden furniture with simple silhouettes, neutral color and accents, wood flooring, sheepskin draped over the chairs, and potted plants hanging from the skylight. There is attention to detail, from the table settings to the placement of furniture. Although the decor may seem simple, it is aesthetically pleasing with a rustic elegance. There are a certain warmth and coziness to the place. 

Muusu offers a short but creative menu with interesting and intriguing combinations of ingredients such as yogurt goat-cheese mousse and honeyed carrots pumpkin-seed pesto. The chef added a personalized touch to the menu by having his signature at the bottom of the page.

Other than the A la carte menu, business lunch menu is available as well. Customers can also make special dietary requests.

The service was good, the waitress was polite and attentive. After taking my order, the waitress brought over a tray of three different kinds of bread. The bread had a lovely aroma, and one can tell that it is homemade. It would have been better if the bread was accompanied by butter or some sort of spread.

I ordered Earl Grey tea. The Earl Grey was served in an elegant white porcelain teapot by Dammann Frères, the oldest tea company in France. I love the black and white contrast.

For the main course, I had the butter-fried trout fillet with roasted vegetable salsa, mozzarella pearl-barley croquette, and roasted-tomato purée sauce (18 euros). The contrasting color and artistic presentation immediately captured my attention. The trout is lightly seasoned, allowing the natural flavors to stand out. The coquette had a lovely crust and was wonderfully flavored with a balance of ingredients.

As a closing note to my meal, I had the Michel Cluizel chocolate-cream cake with raspberry, chili threads, and vanilla bean sauce (8 euros). Michel Cluizel is a French chocolate manufacturer since 1948.

A beautiful architectural dish with many layers of flavors and textures. The chocolate cream cake was decadent. The raspberry sorbet on top was refreshing, but I feel that something sweeter would complement the cake better.

Overall, I had a wonderful meal. There was creativity and emotion in the food.

 

Muusu

Website: http://www.muusu.lv/muusu/en/about-us

Telephone: +371 25772552

Opening hours: Tuesday 17:00 p.m. – 22:30 p.m.

Wednesday to Friday 12:30 p.m. – 22:30 p.m.

                          Saturday 12:00 p.m. – 22:30 p.m.

Sunday and Monday closed

Address: Skārņu iela 6, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1050, Latvia

Index Café

Art Nouveau District

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My initial plan for the day was to have breakfast at Rocket Bean Roastery before heading to the art nouveau district. When I got to Rocket Bean Roastery, it was closed. I had forgotten to check to see if it was open. So I google-searched the area for a cafe that is open at that hour, and Index café came up. Index café is a coffee chain that is ideally located in the art nouveau district.

The interior was somewhat dim with yellowish lighting but had a calm and quiet ambiance. The café offers a variety of seating – bay window seats, banquette seatings, and high-top tables with stools. Service was mediocre. The staff doesn’t seem to show any ownership of the establishment.

I ordered the French breakfast which consists of croissant, brie cheese, butter, orange marmalade, seasonal fruits (€ 5.50), and a cappuccino (€3). The cappuccino did not look nor tasted like a cappuccino, the milk foam was underdone. The French breakfast was a letdown. The croissant tasted like store-bought, and the baguette slices were hard (should not have put it through a sandwich press).

Other than being located in a beautiful part of the town, I am not impressed with this café.

 

Index Café

Website: http://www.indexcafe.lv/

Telephone: +371 67 806 409

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. – 19:00 p.m.

Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 19:00 p.m.

Sunday 9:00 a.m. – 18:00 p.m.

Address: Antonijas iela 12, Centra rajons, Rīga, LV-1010, Latvia

 

Café by Ķīšezers lake

Cabo café is located on the shores of the beautiful Ķīšezers lake. This laid-back café is open all year round with a huge terrace overlooking the lake. It is a popular surfer hangout spot in the summer. The restaurant also offers a sports academy providing classes on various water sports activities.

I cycled from Riga’s old town, and it took about 45 minutes. It was a delightful bike ride. I got to see the suburbs of Riga and stunning European-style houses in the wealthy Mežaparks residential area.

Customer service was pretty much non-existent. I entered the café, and no one greeted me. Two staff walked past me and completely ignored me. I did not feel welcomed. The restaurant uses a paging system, whereby customers are given a digital coaster after placing an order. When the food is ready, the coaster will beep, and the customer is to take the coaster to the counter and pick up their food.

I got the creamy tomato soup with basil-pesto sauce and croutons for lunch. The soups have a half or full portion option. I went with the half portion for the creamy tomato soup for 2.90 euros. The Pasta Carbonara was 6.20 euros. The soup tasted like a cream of tomato soup. The croutons were lightly sautéed, so it became very soggy in the soup. The carbonara was a substantial portion. It was very rich and overbearingly creamy. I ate about 1/3 of the pasta and could not take another bite.

It was not an exciting meal experience.

If I were not in the area, I would not make a special trip to this café – terrible service and average food.

Cabo Café

Websitehttp://www.cabo.lv/

Telephone: +371 28 639 556

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 11:00 a.m. – 22:00 p.m.

Address: Roberta Feldmaņa iela 8A, Ziemeļu rajons, Rīga, LV-1014, Latvia