Food: Asia and japan03 Jan 2011 10:36 am

Hana is a special yakiniku place. You see yakiniku joints are a dime a dozen in Japan. Some are low end all you can jam down your throat places, others are a little more upscale, and some are the cream of the crop.

This is definitely one of my favourite meals on Okinawa so far. It wasn’t cheap, but the service was good and the food was fabulous. I know some people will automatically be saying “I cannot believe you paid that much to cook your own meat,” but if you have any inkling about what you like your meat to taste like and have a rough idea of how to cook it, you will love it. Ultimate control over your umami.

While you can order by the piece, we both got a different set menu. We thought this would be the best way to sample as many items as possible, and avoid complications on what to order.

The meat they use is amazing. Everyone has heard about Kobe beef from Wagyu cattle by now. The meat they use at Hana is actually Ishigaki beef, which comes from an island close to Okinawa. It is another kind of Wagyu cattle.

I have had Kobe beef and other kinds of Wagyu (and Wagyu-style beef), but Ishigaki is my favourite so far. I have found other kinds to be really REALLY rich; the intense fat almost overpowering the delicate beef flavours. Ishigaki is still rich, just not as stomach turning as I find too much of the other breeds can be.

They also use another local product, Okinawan aguni salt, as well as a sun dried rock salt from another Japanese island.

We enjoyed some local liquor: awamori. It came in a charming Ryukyu glass decanter with matching pitcher and tumblers.

Wonderful accompaniments; kimchi, namul (bean sprout salad), spicy daikon, and other Korean pickled salads.

Various “horumon” or innards, organs and offal. Crunchy, chewy and savoury. They really weird people out, but I think many people would enjoy them if they tried them.

Sirloin steak?

Gyuniku sashimi, or Japanese beef tartare. Raw meat with apple matchsticks, sesame and a quail egg. We received a mix of items meant to grill and some meant to eat raw. The staff was gracious enough to make sure we understood what to do with each course.

Salted Ishigaki beef tongue (tan) and diaphragm or harami, at the back.

We were also given some local Agu pork to try. I think the cut was karubi, or short ribs.

The table was PACKED. We got various salads, sauces, cabbage, laver or nori seaweed, meats, soups and special Koshihikari rice from Niigata prefecture in Japan, widely considered one of the finest rices available. The service is quite fast – I recommend pacing yourself here, and allowing atleast 2.5 hours for a set course dinner if you go that route.

One can expect flare ups when grilling such rich meat. The intense built in ventilation takes care of any flames and most of the smoke though. I am certain they use a particular kind of charcoal, but I could find no information on it. Restaurants are sometimes quite protective over their charcoal choice, believing that it gives them the edge over other yakiniku restaurants for providing a certain flavour.

We ended with a small dessert of yuzu sherbert. Just sweet enough to close the meal, but not too sweet or heavy.

Hana will run you a pretty penny, but I think it is a must do if you come to Okinawa, for the ability to eat so many fine local products. The atmosphere is refined and private, and yet very comfortable. Highly recommended.

Preset courses run 5800 Yen – 15000 Yen. A la carte service available.

Yakiniku Hana
1st floor, 那覇市松山1-12-5 パステル八重洲
Map
Monday to Saturday 17:30-24:00, Sundays and Holidays 17:30-23:00

** There is a limited English menu.

Yakiniku Hana may be a bit difficult to find parking for. I recommend the monorail then traveling on foot or in taxi from the nearest station.

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