I tend to like planning more than actually doing things. It’s something I am trying to change, but for now it’s a sad but true fact. Maybe that is why I would make a great events planner or travel agent. I like engineering experiences for others to enjoy.
When my mom came to visit, I had pages of activities for us to do. From getting her help to design our sitting area, to checking out new shopping areas and of course meals out, I tried to leave little time unplanned. One of the best days was when I took a half day off of work and we went north on Okinawa to the Churaumi Aquarium.
It has been a pretty miserable winter on Okinawa. The thermometer rarely dips below 12 degrees celsuis but it always feels much colder as there is no central heating and the humidity hangs in the area like a cold wet cloth. And it is windy. BUT, the day I took off was gorgeous and we had a wonderful day.
I picked out three restaurants near the aquarium I have been wanting to check out, and they ranged in tastes so that my mom and Mike could pick the place they were most interested in. Both of them were really interested in having tempura. And I have to admit I have not been a true fan of tempura since I overdosed on it in Thailand when I was 12 years old. I just ate too much and now the batter can really turn my stomach.
But we agreed to try it and set off for Koki Tempura. It is known for its very fresh tiger shrimp tempura, which are farmed on nearby Yayagi Island.
Koki is in a great location; right on Wido Beach overlooking the East China Sea at the end of the expressway in Nago. We exited the car after a 90 minute ride and immediately ran to the sun drenched beach. Mike caught a crab, my mom touched the water and I took photos.
We walked back to the restaurant that features picture windows overlooking the beach, and found we were the only ones dining at about 2pm. In the corner sat a large kiddie pool sized tank with huge live tiger shrimp in it, and in the kitchen a very friendly server.
We all got set lunches, Mike getting a three shrimp lunch and my mom and I getting two shrimp lunch, both in the range of 1400-1600 Yen. We had no idea what we were in for. Even though we were all starving, we were defeated by our monster lunches. Even after hiking a path to view cherry blossoms and exploring the aquarium, we were still not hungry by 11pm!
Mike’s lunch had miso soup, pickled vegetables, side bowl of rice and various tempura-ized vegetables and of course the shrimp with tentsuyu dipping sauce. My mom and I got rice bowls topped with tempura, a small pot of tentsuyu sauce to pour over the tempura, miso soup and pickles. We could have used more pickles, in my opinion, but everything was great. There was just so much of it!
The vegetables included rings of goya, or bittermelon, eggplant, mixed “patties” of match sticked onion and vegetables, a delicate shiso leaf that highlighted the batter, pumpkin and green peppers. Everything was cooked but not too soft, and the shrimp was sweet and very juicy. The shrimp are farmed and it wasn’t until after that we realized we probably could have picked out the very shrimp we wanted to eat from the tank. Turns out the chef picked well anyhow.
Every area of Japan does tempura a little bit differently. On Okinawa, it tends to be very fluffy batter. I personally prefer the panko crusted style from other cities, but Koki does the batter well. It is light and flavourful without being greasy or heavy or masking the vegetables within. And of course, fresh from pan to table which is the best thing about tempura here.
Koki also does Okinawan donuts, or sata andagi, shrimp sashimi and BBQ shrimp if tempura is not up your alley. I know I have had my fill of tempura for some time thanks to Koki. Perhaps we will return the next time we head north.