Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Okinawa Food 2: Ashibina - Japan 2013 trip report part 12

Admittedly probably hard to tell (all of these are cell phone photos), but this is a restaurant called Ashibina, specializing in local Okinawa food. This is the kind of place Okinawans go to eat after work - nothing fancy, but completely authentic. It was right near our hotel, and it came up highly ranked in searches we did.

Here's a map. Sorry I can't be more specific, but they have no web site and they don't even pop up often on English review sites (though they are English-friendly!). Open this up for a better look.

The (wet) menu, not that you can probably see anything. I was happy that inside, they had a charmingly hand-printed English menu that had apparently been prepared using MS Word. They only had one, but it seemed to be enough - I doubt they get more westerners than that every night. But they are a restaurant near a resort hotel, so they're not unprepared.

I didn't take pictures of the overall restaurant (it seemed rude) but we thought initially that we'd have to kneel at the table - this is the kind of Japanese place that has tables right at floor level. Interestingly, though, they've dug holes in the floor where the tables are, so you actually sit there as normal, with your feet below ground. Best of both worlds!

A few of the things we ordered:

Orion beer (of course!). I really like this beer - it's like a cross between Asahi, Sapporo and Kirin. It's has no aftertaste like Kirin, but it has some real flavor like Sapporo, and a hint of dryness like Asahi. That amuse-bouche next to the beer was tofu and... well, I'm not sure what. Cucumbers, a soy sauce-based sauce, and... maybe mushrooms?

Total Okinawa - my wife's fried goya itame. It is basically tofu, egg, spam and bitter melon, fried. An acquired taste, that's for sure - I couldn't have eaten this whole plate. A bite was enough for me.

One of Okinawa's traditional noodle dishes, soki soba. Soki is a kind of pork spare rib, with the bones removed.

I was a little afraid to be too adventurous so I ordered pork katsu. There was supposed to be something uniquely Okinawan about this (the menu proclaimed "Okinawa style tonkatsu!") but we couldn't figure out what it was. Possibly something about the sauce, which I didn't even take a picture of. This was fine, but I've already written about how Katsusen at Haneda Airport has ruined both of us for tonkatsu anywhere else.

If you have a coupon, you get a free plate of Okinawa pineapple. My wife had one on her phone and they said that was good enough. She was a little disappointed in this (she said it tasted like any pineapple) but I actually thought it was very good. Very sweet.

Go ahead, get it out of your system. This is a ball sack, and yes, I laughed a little too when they handed it to me on the way out. Actually, these are sata andagi, which are Okinawan donuts. They are a specialty of the region, and you can get them almost anywhere (and we had others), but these were definitely the best I've ever had. As with donuts, freshness counts, and these were just made. They were very crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Many places seem to make these once a day and then sell them throughout, so they're soggy. Honestly, that's how I'd started to think they were supposed to be. But these were not, and because of that, they were really good. If you go to Okinawa - or anywhere that claims to sell Okinawa food - and get soggy andagi, go somewhere else!

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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