Food: Asia and japan21 Dec 2010 09:15 pm

Haebaru is pretty well equipped. We have more than a few great restaurants, which makes it easy to decide where to eat when we do not feel like cooking. Here’s a mini tour of some of them…

The hand hewn wooden keys for lockers used to store your shoes

One of our favourite go-tos is about 20 minutes walk from our door, and it is an izakaya called Anzuya.

Anzuya is owned by a larger group that runs a few izakayas, yakiniku joints and various other restaurants around Okinawa. Although the yakiniku place (Jack’s) is alright, we definitely prefer Anzuya.

Like many izakayas, it is popular with groups and fills up quickly. We prefer to sit at the counter so this normally does not bother us, but we have even had to wait for that once or twice.

Unfortunately, Anzuya has a mostly non-pictorial menu. This made ordering a challenge the first few times, but now with rudimentary literacy and an idea of what is good, we can shape together a good meal. Sometimes we go out on a limb and are shocked by what we get, like the huge cauldron of soup we once got at the very end of our meal, or a heaping serving of Korean bibimbap rice.

Cabbetsu! Salt and dressing and cabbage. It is so addictive.

It’s not an izakaya without beer.

Yaki udon…or soba. I can’t quite tell.

Delicious pork and pork innards salad

Yakitori

Bacon wrapped quail eggs are always a favourite

Some favourite dishes include yaki udon, fu champuru, cabbage with sesame dressing, yakitori and, of course, their drinks. We ate there for my birthday recently and were very pleased to see they were now offering 100 Yen drinks between 5 and 8pm. What a birthday present!

Another great restaurant I have yet to visit with Mike is Kachaya Bambino. It is a lunch spot only, so it makes it difficult to get there with him, as I prefer to stay at work for lunches.

I went on my very first full day of work with my supervisor back in August and was very relieved to find a decent restaurant a stone’s throw from our place. Happily, other restaurants have joined the list, but in the early days it took very little to please me.

The salads available


Several kinds of tea and ice coffee (we visited in August, when it was hotter than Hades on Okinawa)

The pastas available that particular day were a chicken carbonara, some tomato sauce based pasta and then the “Popeye” dish. The ladies I did lunch with described it as Popeye, which I took to mean it contained spinach. It was, and I definitely made the right decision. It was swimming in vegetables.

Salad plate with potato salad, Japanese kabocha pumpkin, various other greens with ice coffee and vegetable soup

Kachaya Bambino does what could be affectionately be called “Japanese pasta.” That means it can be very soupy, and is usually served as a set. So for our meal, we got access to a salad bar, a cup of soup, a choice of various teas and coffees, three main dishes to pick from and then a piece of house-made cake to close out the meal. It is extraordinary value, and you really get the full meal deal.

This style of restaurant is widely known as a ladies restaurant, due to the number of women who attend for the healthier, weight maintaining offerings of salad and pre-sized set menu portions. At first I thought that was kind of sexist, but then I realized that Japanese women from age 25-40 typically know the best restaurants in town since they work a lot and like to have good lunches.

Then again, maybe it is not truly a ladies restaurant if they sell such delicious cakes…

Beautiful housemade cakes

Tenma is our bread and butter. For Mike’s “Welcome to Okinawa” party, my supervisor asked us to meet her at Tenma. It is a yakitori izakaya, and is really delicious. It is a very popular restaurant with the Haebaru town staff and teachers due to its location, which is very closer to the town hall, and the schools.

We are slowly working our way through the menu with the help of the ever patient staff. Every time we go we are pleased by the awesome classic and 80s rock music (giving us more than a few songs to bank for our next karaoke session) and surprised by our “service” dishes. We often get some free dish whenever we go, with the explanation: “SERVICE!” which means free in Japanese restaurant culture. Who are we to complain? If tipping was acceptable we certainly would.

We normally go once a week, and would go more if they were open on nights other than Wednesday through Saturday.

Demolished fish

Cassis orange cocktail. Their Moscow mules are better.

“Service” item of some local veg made into tempura

Chicken skin, hearts, livers, meatballs … it is all good here.

Beer, bell and piman, or bacon wrapped miniature hot peppers with cheese. God, the salt and the crunch and the spiciness and… these are amazing.

Yakitori stick catcher, available at all yakitori restaurants

Tenma salad, another service item.

Bonchiri, or chicken butt

Yaki soba

Back in the days when we did not have any internet, Mike and I hung around an area of Naha where the nearest internet cafe was. It also happened to be where there is a high concentration of small bars and non-chain izakayas. These “indie” izakayas have a special name: akachōchin

One sign that enchanted us was the one for a place called Commune. It also hosted a rather uncommon feature for Japanese restaurants: an outdoor eating area. It was enough to catch our attention and we cautiously entered one night.

The kitchen seemed to be run by two guys who alternately shared cooking, taking orders, making drinks and making small talk with the bar patrons.

They had a wide ranging wine and cocktail menu and offered up many kinds of awamori I have not seen elsewhere.

Beautiful wooden bar

Locally harvested agu pork and sweet potatoes

Apple, brie and honey pizza with ice cream

Sardine in olive oil, herbs and peppercorns

Again, they helped us through the menu, but the item we were most pleased by came out of the fully visible cooler case, and we just pointed at it. It was some kind of sardine, prepared in a very Spanish tapas style, with olive oil, pink peppercorns and herbs. We also had a small apple, brie and honey dessert pizza cooked in their pizza oven served with ice cream, and a dish made from locally harvested agu pork loin and roasted sweet potatoes.

I really wish we lived a stone’s throw from Commune, but sadly it is about 20 minutes away on the bus and now that we have internet at home we do not get up to that neighbourhood as often as we used to.

There is more to come in this series including a soba restaurant hidden in a residential home and beautiful garden less than 2 minutes walk from our front door, a yakiniku place and our favourite cheap sushi joint.

Anzuya (Ichinichibashi location in Haebaru)
那覇市上間270
Map
(there are locations all over Okinawa)
Sunday through Thursday, 17:00 – 02:00
Friday and Saturday, 17:00 – 05:00

Kachaya Bambino
near to 沖縄県島尻郡南風原町字兼城686番地
Haebaru, Okinawa
Map
11:30 – 14:30 for lunch only, Monday – Saturday
Closed Sundays

Tenma Yakitori
near to 沖縄県島尻郡南風原町字兼城686番地
Haebaru, Okinawa
Map
17:00 – 02:00, Wednesday through Saturday

Commune
沖縄県那覇市古波蔵 2-24-22
Map
Naha, Okinawa
18:00 to 02:00, closed every 4th Sunday

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