Jack’s steak house

Jack’s steak house is a long-established restaurant in Naha opened since 1953. It used to be an “A-sign” restaurant that was an approved establishment for the US military personnel when Okinawa was still under American rule. The restaurant has maintained its retro old American diner decor. There are no reservations available; however, service is fast, and you won’t have to wait long for a seat.

I arrived at the restaurant around 6 pm and it was already packed. There are three kinds of steak on the menu – tenderloin steak, New York steak, and hamburger steak. The tenderloin steak is available in three sizes; small, medium, large, while the New York steak and hamburger steak comes in two sizes; large and small. All steaks come with a side of potato wedges and onions, soup, two toasted buttered buns, and salad. I opted for the medium tenderloin steak.

The soup was bland. It was a very light cream of corn soup. The steak was well done but I was not impressed with the flavor. It was good but not outstanding. It lacked that rich smokey beef flavor.

 

Tenderloin steak (medium) ¥ 2,500

 

Jack’s steakhouse

Website: https://www.steak.co.jp/

Opening hours: Daily 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m (except for the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month)

Telephone: (098)868-2408

Address: 1-7-3 Nishi, Naha City

A humble Shokudo and Teishoku restaurant

 

I visited Tokashiki island in December. As it was not a peak tourist period, many shops and restaurants were closed. I took a taxi from the Tokashiki port to Aharen beach. The taxi lady was kind to show me the restaurants that were open.

After a lovely soak in the sun and sea, I headed to a family-run Shokudo and Teishoku restaurant that the taxi lady recommended for lunch. Teishoku are restaurants serving set menus and Shokudo are restaurants that serve a variety of inexpensive Japanese dishes. The interior of the restaurant was basic with wooden tables and benches.

 

I ordered a stir fry vegetables on Okinawa soba (700 yen). I opted to sit outside as it was a beautiful day with cool weather. The dish tasted homecooked. The broth was flavorful. It was a simple yet satisfying meal.

 

喰呑屋バラック

Telephone: +81 98-987-3108

Opening hours:  Open daily from 11:00 a.m. – 13:30 p.m. , 17:30p.m. – 20:00 p.m.

Address: 145ー1 Aharen, Tokashiki, Shimajiri District, Okinawa 901-3502, Japan

Okinawa soba in a 150 year old house

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When one thinks of soba noodles, the first thing that comes to mind is the thin buckwheat noodles served with a dipping sauce. Okinawa soba is entirely different. Okinawa soba noodles are thicker resembling the Chinese ramen noodles and are served in a hot broth.

Udunyama is a soba noodle house located in a 150-year-old house surrounded by lush greens on top of a hill in the Shuri district. There are two other branches in Naha and one in Fukuchi.

I rented an electric bike from a bike shop a few feet away from the Shuri station. As the area is quite hilly, I’m glad I rented an electrically assisted bicycle. It would have been taxing trying to cycle up the slope on a conventional bike. The bike ride was less than 10 minutes, I followed google map’s directions, it was not hard to find.

You have to take your shoes off before entering the restaurant. The restaurant has a homey feel, serene and relaxing. This is probably the most peaceful noodle house I have been to. Occasionally, there was a gentle breeze. There are tatami style seatings indoors and a few tables and benches outdoors.

The waitress who served me was friendly. She told me how to eat the soba noodles in the Okinawan way, which is to eat the noodles with pickled ginger.

The restaurant serves four kinds of toppings for the soba. There is the Okinawa soba (soba with two slices of pork belly and fish cake), Nankotsu Soki Soba (Soba with pork cartilage sparerib), Yasai soba (vegetable soba), and Yushi tofu soba (soba with local fluffy tofu). There is also the special set meal: the Udunyama set, which consists of Okinawa soba, Okinawan rice, Okinawan pork rib, and a small dish (which changes seasonally).

There are two choices of noodles – white noodles or wheat noodles. Both noodles are made using the Banyan tree ash water. I read that it is a troublesome process to make this ash water, and this goes to show Uduyama’s dedication to making a good bowl of soba.

I went for the Udunyama set, which cost 1580 yen. The noodles had a nice chew and springiness to it, with a delicious umami broth. The pork belly was tender and flavorful. The pickled ginger further elevated the flavors of the soup. The fried rice was lightly seasoned, allowing each component to stand out on their own.

This was one of the memorable places I have eaten at in Naha – Great location and ambiance, delicious food, and excellent service.

Udunyama

Website: http://udunyama.com/

Opening hours: Everyday except Monday – 11:30 a.m. to 16:30 p.m.

Telephone: +81 98-885-5498

Address: 1-121-2 Shuri Ishibuchicho, Naha City

 

Miso with a history

Tamanaha has been making miso since the Ryukyu Kingdom period. This miso warehouse is less than a 10 minutes walk from the Gibo station. The warehouse has an old exterior with a white sign “味噌醤油” (miso soy sauce) on the door. The miso here is produced through natural fermentation without additives. They sell four kinds of miso, and the information is available on their website.

I was greeted by a sweet old lady. I told her that I wanted to buy miso, and she pointed to a glass display case located on the left-hand side of the entrance. There were four types of miso on display. The descriptions were all in Japanese, so I asked if she could tell me the difference between the four. She could not speak English, so she took me to a room at the back of the building filled with barrels of miso with two other ladies packaging miso.

I thought she was going to get someone who could speak English to cater to me, but instead, she handed me a leaflet with information of the miso; took a scoop of miso from one of the barrels for me to taste and pointed to the corresponding miso on the leaflet. I went on to taste the remaining three miso.

The miso was mild and umami with depth to the flavor.

I bought the uchimiso (540 yen) and dynasty miso (860 yen). The two are similar in taste, however, the dynasty miso is richer in flavor.

I definitely recommend this miso!

 

 

 

 

 

Tamanaha miso

Website: http://www.tamanahamiso.co.jp/index.html (only in Japanese)

Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9:00 a.m. – 17:30 p.m.

Telephone: +81 98-884-1972

Address: 1-chōme-41 Shuriōnakachō, Naha, Okinawa 903-0823, Japan

 

Bacar, Italian style pizza

Bacar is a pizzeria less than 5 minutes walk from the Prefectural Office Station. It is in a dark alley, but with its bright neon yellow sign, you can’t miss it. Both interior and exterior had a rustic European bistro feel.

I read that this place can get quite packed, so I got there right after it opened. True enough, 40 minutes later, the restaurant started to fill up.

The restaurant offers a simple menu of two kinds of pizzas (Yes, only Margherita and Marinara), appetizers, drinks, and desserts. I ordered a salad, pizza, and dessert.

I started with a green salad with thinly sliced Okinawan pork roast ham. The ham was savory with a mild smokey flavor; it enveloped each bite with a lovely umami flavor. The waiter informed me that they will start making the pizza once I finished my salad.

The pizza was cooked in a wood-fired oven. Watching the pizzaiolo make pizza was like watching an artist work on a painting. The waiter who showed me to my seat waited next to the oven, grabbed the dish as soon as the pizza hit the plate, and sprinted across the room to deliver the pizza. The Margherita pizza had a perfect balance of tomato and mozzarella cheese (flown in from Italy). There was quite a bit of olive oil on the pizza, I could see it glistening under the light. The pizza had characteristics of a Neopolitan pizza crust – smokey, crispy, tender, and chewy. Each bite a mouthful of goodness!

I had the crema Catalina for dessert. Bacar added its own twist to this Spanish dessert by freezing it. The texture is harder, dense, and cold. The taste is similar to Crème brûlée. It was not very sweet, creamy without the heaviness with a hint of bitterness from the burnt brown sugar topping, I loved it!

The total cost of the meal was ¥2720. This is a good place to come if you are looking for Italian style pizza.

 

Bacar

Website: http://bacar.jp/

Telephone: 098-863-5678

Opening hours: 18:00 p.m. – 23:00 p.m. (Closed on Tuesdays)

Address: 3 Chome-16-15 Kumoji, Naha-shi, Okinawa-ken 900-0015, Japan

 

 

 

 

 

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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

Odakyu Hotel de Yama, Hakone

I was very fortunate that two out the three days I was at Lake Ashi, the weather was clear and beautiful, which allowed me to bask in the beauty of the lake and its surrounding including the view of Mt. Fuji.

This villa turned hotel resort has a 70-year history. I love how the hotel has maintained its charm and history. The hotel has two restaurants and a café. Vert Bois serves up French cuisine, Tsutsuji no Chaya serves Japanese kaiseki cuisine and Salon de Thé Rosage is a dessert restaurant with a premium shop located by the lake.

When you check in, you are asked to choose what cuisine you would like for each day of your stay and time. I decided on having French on my first night and Japanese Kaiseki on the second.

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I enjoyed my meal at Vert Bois. The table was beautifully set up. All waitresses were well dressed and mannered. There was a harmony between the waitresses that set a calm atmosphere to the restaurant.

I liked that each table had a menu. I personally like to know the name of each dish I’m having. Sometimes it is hard to make out what the waiter said especially if English is not their first language.

As I don’t like eating raw fish, they replaced the marinated tuna with abocado’s tartare with a Paté dish. All the dishes served were delicious. My favorite would be the fish of the day. It was really fresh and cooked to perfection. The fish was accompanied by a sweet red wine sauce, just the right amount that it didn’t overpower the natural flavor of the fish. The dishes were served at a good pace, I didn’t have to wait too long between each dish.

 

Tsutsuji no Chaya has a calm and soft environment with a violet-colored carpeted floor, wooden tables, and chairs, with soft lighting and neutral walls.

Sadly, I had to skip the kaiseki dinner as I felt quite sick after two cable car rides earlier that day. I am highly susceptible to motion sickness and it was quite windy that day. As I was looking forward to the kaiseki meal, when I felt a bit better, I made my way down to the restaurant. Shortly after having the first appetizer, I felt nauseous. So I told the waiter to just serve me rice and miso soup.

The menu was pretty impressive. As you can see from the picture on the right (excuse the blurriness), there is quite a variety.

For breakfast, there is the option of an American breakfast or Japanese breakfast. The American breakfast is served at Vert Bois and it includes a juice, coffee or tea, croissant, pickled vegetables, sausages with toast, salad, and your choice of eggs. It was so relaxing and serene to have breakfast with the stunning view of the lake. A great start to the day.

Odakyu Hotel De Yama

Website: http://www.hakone-hoteldeyama.jp/en/

Telephone: +81 460836321

Address: 80 Moto-Hakone, Hakone-machi, Ashigarashimo-gun,
Kanagawa Prefecture 250-0522

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