Where’s the Beef? At Maru’s in Ishigaki


If you’ve ever had true Japanese beef, just watching – or even listening to a few seconds of the video above will make your mouth water! Like Pavlov’s dogs, it simply can’t be helped. The beef is every bit that good. Sure Kobe beef is a household name known around the world, but what is it about Japanese beef that makes it so expensive…and so damn tasty?

Club Med Ishigaki 2015, Maru Anniversary Dinner, tabletop feast WM

We recently had the pleasure of stuffing ourselves silly with Ishigaki beef for our 4th wedding anniversary, celebrated during a stay at Club Med on that Ryukyuan island. Taking a long and expensive taxi ride into town to a restaurant we ate at during a previous visit in 2014, Maru is a place that you can smell long before you see. Walking through the front door, we were greeted loudly by an obnoxious “mooooooooooooooooo,” broadcast in concert to the closing of the door. Checking in for our reservation, we proceeded to order a full sampling of the moo-cow’s finer cuts, with vegetables, rice and a large salad to serve as sides.

ishigaki-maru_213_1

Wagyu, as Japanese beef cattle are called, is a compound word made up of wa (“Japan”) and gyu (“cow”). Although most Americans know Kobe in terms of beef, what you may not realize is that Kobe is only one type of wagyu found throughout Japan. And most of the others are every bit as tasty, some much less expensive.

But what makes Japanese beef so dang delicious? It’s due in large part to the white marbled fat in the meat known as sashi in Japanese, the beef’s most prized aspect. In fact, cattle farmers spare no expense to help create intense patterns of fat that make the meat literally melt in your mouth. In Japan, wagyu beef is graded based almost entirely on the dispersion and amount of sashi present.

maru steak

As a point of comparison, what sets Japanese beef apart from that found in American is the amount of fat found in the meat. For example, prime beef in the United States only needs 6-8% fat to qualify for the highest USDA grade possible. In Japan, however, in order to be graded the highest quality ranking for wagyu (which is “A5”), the meat must have at least 25% marbled fat! And guess what? The sashi found in Japanese beef is primarily the monounsaturated kind, a “good” kind of fat which can actually lower “bad” levels of cholesterol in human blood. So eating Japanese beef is not just delectable, it can actually be…healthy (wink). The marbled fat results in a tenderness that, when cooked, is much like butter, resulting in an amazing flavor and mouthfeel like no other form of beef. The fat literally melts in the heat of the mouth and doesn’t linger. And even though it’s the most tender form of beef on the planet, wagyu retains a rich, meaty mouth feel.

Club Med Ishigaki 2015, Maru Anniversary Dinner, happy couple WM

We got lucky this time at Maru, at least after politely rejecting our initial waiter who was rather curt and spoke little English. Fortunately, there was another man who both spoke good English and was entirely personable, two qualities needed for an enjoyable anniversary dinner. Although the restaurant was sold out of a number of cuts and menu items, on our waiter’s recommendation, the food and beer started flowing.

Club Med Ishigaki 2015, Maru Anniversary Dinner, signage WM

Japanese cattle farmers take great care of their animals. Their cows are fed only the highest quality grains, mixed and blended with additives that each farmer holds as a close trade secret. The animals usually only drink local mineral water, all to help ensure the best quality meat results. Farmers are known to feed their cattle beer and sometimes sake to help fatten them up, and also brush and rub sake on their cows by hand in order to better distribute marbling and keep lice and ticks away.

Mura, a corner restaurant hidden away in a residential neighborhood

Mura, a corner restaurant hidden away in a residential neighborhood

Kobe beef comes from cows raised, fed, and slaughtered in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, where Kobe City is located. In America we now have “Kobe-style” beef, meat which comes from wagyu cattle transplanted and raised in the US. While much more inexpensive than that found in Japan, it is much higher in quality than say, American Angus beef, but it doesn’t even begin to compare with the real Far East thang. Why? Shortcuts are taken in American to help contain cost. As you might imagine, the cattle feed in America is of much lower quality, and the personalized attention for individual cows just doesn’t happen under corporate farming in America.

But some of the Kobe beef actually comes from Okinawa Prefecture, at least indirectly. In the southern stretches of the Ryukyu Islands lies Ishigaki Island, where Ishigaki gyu (“beef”) originates. On the island at any one time are about 35,000 head of Japanese “Black Cattle.” Ishigaki, with a year-round warm climate, provides an expansive and always lush grassland perfect for breeding and raising wagyu. Calves born and raised there are often exported throughout Japan, where they mature and become each area’s prized beef, such as that found in Kobe. In fact, only a limited amount of calves (~20%) are kept on Ishigaki to be matured, making Ishigaki beef somewhat rare and high-priced.

Club Med Ishigaki 2015, Maru Anniversary Dinner, contemporary interior WM

Maru is, from just about what everyone says, one of the best places to find Ishigaki gyu. The popular and locally famous eatery serves up delectable beef that you cook at your table yakiniku (“grilled meat”) style, with a little help from their friendly staff. Using a mini gas-fired barbeque grill in the center of the table, fresh cuts of meat and crispy vegetables are all cooked exactly to order, by you! One problem with East meets West at Maru is that the menu is not available in English, and very few of the waiters speak English.

Today's Specials!

Today’s Specials!

The prime cuts of Ishigaki beef take center stage at Maru, but there many other choices available. Since the servings are generally small, multiple items can be ordered and shared tapas style. Fillets, rib and sirloin cuts of meat top the menu in price, but diners can also sample beef tongue, beef shoulder, offal, beef sashimi, and yukke – raw beef topped with egg yolk. Maru also has a popular nabe (Japanese hotpot), a soup-like mixture of vegetables, tofu, beef broth and some meat.

Club Med Ishigaki 2015, Maru Anniversary Dinner, peaceful couple WM

Maru’s interior is eclectic, to say the least. Brightly colored art, featuring deep reds and dark blacks adorns the walls, giving the place a very contemporary feel. One of the best parts of any visit is the “Mooooooooo” cow call which greets each diner as they open the front door! Located only about a five-minute walk from downtown makes it a popular place for a meal, even if it can be hard to find. Maru is so fashionable, though, that any taxi driver will know its location.

Capture

Maru is ever bit worth a visit. Hard on your wallet but easy on your taste buds, Japanese beef must be sampled to be truly appreciated. A map to the restaurant can come in handy, and their website is available, if only in Japanese. Likewise, they have an active presence on Facebook, in Japanese as well. Find them at 26-4 Tonoshiro, Ishigaki 907-0004, Okinawa Prefecture, and ring them at +81 980-82-0030.

Maru Map

Okinawa Eats: Seaside Terrace


Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Dining Cafe Seaside Terrace

You can take a candy but they won't take your card

You can take a candy but they won’t take your card

Ambiance:  Recently opened (2012), contemporary finer-dining eatery located along Sunabe Seawall in Miyagi, Chatan-cho.

Service:  A small establishment which prides itself on fresh food perfectly cooked-to-order, which means the wait times can be, if busy, longer than what you may be accustomed to, but which is well worth the culinary adventure awaiting you when finally served.  The friendliness and personal attentiveness of the staff is superb.  The maximum group size accepted is six persons; reservations are highly encouraged for groups of 4 or more in order to ensure prompt service.

Food Quality:  Above-Average to Excellent.

Features:  Quaint eatery with conditioned indoor and shaded outdoor seating.  Romantic atmosphere, but kid- and pet-friendly.  An affable and engaging chat with Chef and Owner Taka-san is a highlight of any visit!

Cuisine:  Japanese-fusion, with a weighty European (Italian) spin.  The clearly American-influenced breakfast selections are hearty and filling, and they proudly proclaim they serve “Okinawa’s #1 Fish & Chips”!

Price/Value:  Above Average to Excellent.

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Welcome

Yes, it’s hard making your way in the world today.  It can take everything you’ve got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.  Wouldn’t you like to get away?  Where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came?

Cat Friendly

Cat Friendly

If that’s you then sometimes you may want to toast “Cheers!” at Seaside Terrace!  A local restaurant with no pretenses and the friendliest staff around.  And yes, they – Taka-san and Christy both know our name there.

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, inviting atmosphere

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Chef's SpecialFinding little gems along Sunabe Seawall is a favorite pastime for me and my wife.  Walking the wall to and from these eateries not only settles our full bellies, but also negates the potential for “trouble” involving the mixing of adult beverages and automobiles.  But it is just the serenely peaceful and stunning views of the East China Sea, especially during our sea-breeze cooled, coral-colored autumnal sunsets, that makes this place so…special.  Taka-san’s Seaside Terrace sparkles in this regard, offering indoor Contemporary European-sheik seating amidst a relaxing, romantic atmosphere, outdoor garden-inspired and umbrella shaded accommodations, and although it doesn’t offer views of the ocean, it’s literally across the street from the seawall.

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Welcome

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Chai-latteOkinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, interesting accoutramentsWhen we first discovered the Seaside Terrace, Taka-san was running two eateries (the other, Seaside Café, located near Araha Beach), and was open for dinner.  However, to our sad disappointment, dinner is no longer served here.  The menu is heavily influenced by Taka-san’s classical European culinary training, especially in the Italian dishes he offers.  However, although we continue to ask him about his opening again for dinner, the bistro remains opens only for breakfast, lunch, and everything and anything in-between until 1700 (last order 1600).

Kid-Friendly Books

Kid-Friendly Too

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, contemporary seatingHowever, it is in his breakfast options where Seaside Terrace really shines, particularly in their special “desert” French toast that is, in my wife’s opinion, the only way to truly eat breakfast.  Scrumptious French toast, topped with ice cream, capped with banana, drizzled with both chocolate and caramel sauces, topped with whipped cream and then finished with frozen fresh fruit?  What’s not to like about that! The menu, however, offers a full range of lunch options, including appetizers and salads.

The only way to do breakfast...served all day!

The only way to do breakfast…served all day!

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, intimate seating

Have you heard about their Fish & Chips?!?

Have you heard about their Fish & Chips?!?

This café offers a relaxed, quaint, and welcoming dining experience.  The food is prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients, and is crafted with care and presented with the personal pride of the owner.  There is limited seating, with a maximum capacity of somewhere around 12 inside and 12 outside.  The layout provides an advantageous space for small groups of friends, family or coworkers to gather and enjoy comforting company along with a fabulous meal.  Please note, however, that there is only one chef, working a small kitchen fashioning each meal to order, so be patient.  In fact, Seaside Terrace only takes groups of 6 maximum, and if you have 4 or more, Taka-san highly encourages reservations.  The food and service are worth it; the contemporary surroundings and the soft, sensual soundtrack make any type of wait relaxing and enjoyable.  Be forewarned:  on Sundays during brunch hours and on major American holidays (like Mother’s Day), the joint can be hopping!

Their prettiest customer.

Their prettiest customer.

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, breakfast served all dayThe pasta sets are large and indulgent, and I’m told that Taka-san has perfected his very own delightful trademark sauce over the years.  Having eaten here more than a few times now, we find ourselves being friends and neighbors to the staff…of two!  The owner is friendly and proud, and he always greets and chats with us whenever he has time.  Christy, the half-Japanese, half-Filipino hostess/waitress is studying English, so be sure to chat her up.  One of the finer aspects of eating with Taka-san is the personal indulgence one feels in having a 5-star chef cook just for you.

Owner & Chef Taka-san; tell him the Kings sent you!

Owner & Chef Taka-san; tell him the Kings sent you!

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, afternoon specialOkinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, Chef's specialsIn addition to the standard (yet scrumptious) menu fare are the specials listed daily on two blackboards.  And don’t forget the bar service, although without dinner entrees the drinks offered have been somewhat reduced.  One of my and Jody’s favorite cocktails ever were enjoyed here – the Moulin Rouge – and we liked them so much we brought our own bottle of Cassis to Taka-san and had four of them made to go with our afternoon brunch!  They were delightfully surprised at our throw-back to last year’s menu; we were sensuously satisfied with the playfulness of the frozen fruit, Casis and whatever other concoctions were stirred into that brew.  Ask for the drink when you’re there; perhaps with enough demand he’ll put it back on the menu!

Okinawa Eats Nov 2014, Seaside Terrace, always a way to open a door

Taka-san has always dreamed of operating a high-end American-Japanese fusion restaurant.  And he is off to a wonderful start on achieving that goal.  He and his staff are more than willing to make sure you have a truly indulgent dining experience.

Hopefully this won't greet you in the window....

Hopefully this won’t greet you in the window….

Check it out for yourself.  And be sure to tell them your name.  Cheers!!

An open and welcoming door.

An open and welcoming door.

Directions (from Kadena Gate 1):  On Route 58 heading south make first right at the first light (Family Mart).  Travel west to the 3rd light (which is the last light before hitting the Seawall), turn left.  Head south two blocks and turn right at the signage for the Sunabe Smile Dental Clinic.  Go all the way to the seawall and turn right (the seawall road here is one-way).  Traveling one short block along the seawall, look to your right and you’ll see a large billboard for Seaside Terrace.  Although there is some parking across the side-street, it is best to park along the seawall here.

Phone: 098-936-2556

Hours:  Closed Tuesdays, open 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. weekdays and 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. weekends.  Reservations are suggested.

Payment:  Cash-only, Yen or U.S. Dollars

Website:  www.facebook.com/SeasideTerrace

Food Fit for a Scoundrel: Genghis Khan


Okinawa Eats: Genghis Khan

176796798_600aa11106_b

11811345295_6d6c9a0b60_bAmbiance: Long-standing local Mom & Pop establishment, decorated in what can only be described as the Japanese-spin on a half senile American Grandma….

Service: Self-service buffet where you select ingredients that are cooked fresh to order.  The line at the griddles can get quite long at the prime dinner hours, especially on weekends and around military paydays.

Food Quality: Above-average.

Features:  Spacious and eclectic local eatery with easily reconfigurable, family style seating

Cuisine: Mongolian BBQ consisting of frozen meats but fresh vegetables.

Price/Value: Above Average.

Like you Grandma's attic, with food.

Like you Grandma’s attic, with food.

Khan.  What a glutton.

Khan. What a glutton.

Although you may not have the fathered as many sons as Genghis Khan and your Y chromosome may not live on in around 0.5% of the male global population, you can still certainly dine as he did almost as often.

11811730864_e00e2df623_bGenghis Khan is located conveniently a few blocks from our condo, and although we could walk there, we choose to drive because the journey back home would be just too hard on a bloated belly after enjoying the deadly sin of gluttony for at least the previous sixty minutes. The Mom and Pop joint, a not-so-small hole-in-the-wall that’s been around for almost forty years now, is just minutes from Kadena AFB Gate 1.  And the food is just plain yummy:  freshly cooked, served steaming hot, which seems to expand to fill and form-fit your belly, this style of Mongolian BBQ is true comfort food, and a great way to end a long day of adventure on Okinawa.

11812064736_fa782a070a_b

Eclectic Americana...for sure.

Eclectic Americana…for sure.

11812080046_f0b833598d_b11811752804_75c29f36c9_bWalking in it seems like you just might be walking into an old antique shop or possibly your overly patriotic grandmother’s house; if you like American flag hand-crocheted quilts, this place is for you! Hungry patrons are greeted at the door and directed to a table (usually of your choice), where you decide if you would like rice or bread to go with your soon-to-be consumed feast.  Then, you simply get up, grab a bowl – imprinted with Japanese and American flags – and fill it with all the meat (chicken, beef, pork and lamb) and up to ten kinds of veggies to your Mongol heart’s content.  Soba noodles are available, along with a plethora of toppings and seasonings, including a Genghis Khan original sauce, soy, olive oil, teriyaki and even sake!  For first-timers, there’s a guide posted in English about recommended spices, which is a great point of departure to start this culinary adventure.  You’ll soon be experimenting and will certainly come up with your own perfect concoction.  A cook then chops the raw ingredients and grills them under your watchful eye.  On slow nights, the owner may even assist you with what he considers best sauce combo.

0064571-1_500x374

11811320325_36664d0237_bThis buffet-style restaurant is perfect for the hungry Mongol in your life that you can’t seem to keep full. They are, however, only open for dinner.  And an insider’s hint:  be careful on payday weekends as the place is often hoppin’ full of Americans!

11811594533_17ed89fcac_b

11811743484_c73f7cfa85_bA large establishment for Okinawa, Genghis Khan can seat up to 80. In my past times living on Okinawa, because of this high-capacity, we’ve held command Hail & Farewells here to great effect.  The purse-friendly ~1,800 yen buffet style all-you-can-eat Mongolian barbecue includes free refills of a full array of soft drinks, and also comes with rice or bread.

11812070316_aace29231f_b

And really, don’t worry about fathering all those kids. With a royally stuffed belly, you’ll only have eyes for not the bedroom, but just the bed.

11812084586_e49189ae35_b

Hours: Dinner only, Sunday 4:00-10:00pm, Monday – Saturday 5:30-10:30pm

Payment: Cash only, but both Dollars and Yen acceptable

Address: 304-4 Sunabe, Chatan-Cho

Google Maps Coordinates: 26.3314702592, 127.749729032; www.google.com/maps?q=26.3315201,127.7496643&z=15&hl=en&source=embed

Directions from Kadena Gate 1: Take a left onto Hwy 58 and then a quick right at the first light (Family Mart).  Then take a right at the first street, where you will see a sign for a medical clinic in Japanese pictured with a blue person and a pink person with a heart in between.  There is actually quite a bit of street parking just past the restaurant.

Okinawa Eats: Kajinho, Pizza in the Sky


12357720085_45b16a9cb2_b

12425307123_d8a0d3f94d_bAmbiance: Local establishment situated high on a hillside in the Motobu peninsula.  With beautiful views and open-air seating on nicer days, the place is hugely popular and thus often very crowded.

Service: Although very crowded, the service during our visits has been impeccable.

Food Quality: Average-to-above-average, except for presentation.

Features: Minimal outdoor seating around the restaurant’s perimeter, with rustic bench-type seating inside.  Overflow seating in a type of circus-tent, an area that I would recommend diners attempt to avoid.

Cuisine: Pizza, one kind, house salad, and a wide array of tropical drinks and desserts.

Price/Value: Average.

12063236735_0177a82903_b

Getting to this restaurant is not easy, even with instructions, printed maps, and pins on your iPhone (make sure it is right!). Luckily for us, being a car-load of gaijin climbing the surrounding hillside roads, the locals knew where we all wanted to go, and a woman actually approached and assured us of the way…think goodness!  Finally, just over the rise of the hill and down a narrow road into a gravel parking lot stood “Pizza in the Sky,” in all its rumored glory gleaming proudly in the bright afternoon sun.

12425318033_40dedd5f74_b

Pizza in the Sky, like many other of the quaint style of eateries on Okinawa, appears to be operated within a traditional Japanese home. There is the expected indoor seating, but a really charming patio around the perimeter of the main building.  Watch out though:  as stated above, there is one seating area that I recommend diners avoid, a covered area set off to the side utilizing picnic table-like seating.

12063541233_3894c296b5_b

There are some really fine touches at Pizza in the sky. Their simple and short menu is printed on beautiful Asian fans.  What you will find is exactly what you’ve heard:  two sizes of pizza (and only one kind), salad, and various drinks.  Note that there is no choice in the pizza, rather, everyone gets the pizza of the day at Kajinho!

12064118976_1ec10b778c_b

12357997233_839c53d102_b12425295503_b4daa3aee2_bThe pizza is not bad, and the salad was quite nice. The pizza crust is thicker than what I prefer, and takes a bit of chew to get through easily.  The cheese is not exactly what I would call “Italian,” but the chefs are not shy with it!  The salad is served in a large bowl easily enough for two, and is topped with a Japanese-inspired tangy vinaigrette.  The fresh juices, while delicious, are quite expensive.  It seems that their menu draws mixed reviews from the American public.  The real star, edibly speaking, was the tea that most of us at our large table ordered. Kajinho serves theirs with a bouquet of flowers and in rustically Okinawan pottery.  Regardless of what you think about the food, the fantastic views of the East China Sea are always satisfying.

12425612954_15c9341a38_b

Although the food is not to die for, in my opinion neither is the ambiance. Contrary to the urban legend of mythical proportions that has arisen around Pizza in the Sky, the mass of crowds that can share this hilltop location with you are enough to cancel out any romantic or rustic notion of dining here.  Crowds seem to crush at lunch, combining trips to the Aquarium or Butterfly Garden with a stop for a bite to eat.  I have heard that the dinner wait is much, much shorter, but watch the clock:  they close early with last order at 1830.

12063244165_92e21afcb5_b

Beware there are a lot of bugs here, especially at night or near sunset. The staff does provide some bug-repellent coils to burn at your outdoor tables, but just be prepared for mosquitos and no-see-ums.  And come prepared:  Yen only!!

12063232705_8a68db7b2c_b

Hours: Open 12:00 – 19:00 (Last Order 18:30), closed Tuesday & Wednesday

Address:  1153-2 Yamazato, Motobu-cho

Phone: 098-047-5537

Okinawa Eats: Kupu Kupu Pancake Factory


I'm not sure what dwarves have to do with pancakes....

I’m not sure what dwarves have to do with pancakes….

Ambiance:  Local establishment on the southern end of Sunabe Seawall, set with a very casual atmosphere and terrific 2nd story eat-in balcony overlooking Chatan’s marina with American Village as a distant backdrop.  As is always the case along Sunabe, there is very limited parking.

Service:  The service here can be oddly slow, at least for Japanese standards.  It seems they get quite overwhelmed with just more than a few of their tables filled; be forewarned!  But while you wait you can enjoy the fabulous views, especially if the weather is nice and you are seated outdoors.

Food Quality:  Average, except for Jody’s exceptional dessert main course dish over the Christmas holidays in 2013!  It’s no longer offered.

Features:  Basic bench-type outdoor seating along their balcony and tables inside large picture-glass viewing windows.  The inside is decorated in an American-vintage style, which I find overwhelmingly appealing.  The place is kid-friendly (for sure), and an English menu is available.  Dollars and Yen are both okay.

Cuisine:  Breakfast pancakes and, it seems, more and more standard (and pedestrian) Japanese lunch-fare.

Price/Value:  Average to below average.  The Facebook review average of 4.4 is based on dated reviews; many of the more recent reviews offer some rather harsh criticism since changing ownership.

Okinawa Eats April 2014, Kupu Kupu, counter decorations

What appears to be a small family operation located at the southern extreme of the Sunabe Seawall supposedly specializes in pancakes.  And although that seemed to be the case in 2013, they have rather dramatically changed their menu with a change of management, much to the chagrin of many of their customers.  So, please be weary of older (and better) reviews of this eatery.

Jody was IN LOVE with this no-longer-offered dish....

Jody was IN LOVE with this no-longer-offered dish….

Unfortunately, since changing management, the food at Kupu Kupu has gone downhill.  Quite honestly, after taking a friend back earlier in the year and being underwhelmed (again), there’s no good reason for us to return except maybe for having some coffee on their balcony.

Okinawa Eats April 2014, Kupu Kupu, Elvis has not left this building

But, I have to caveat all of this by saying this:  I’m not really a big fan of breakfast.  Actually, I’m harbor a complete lack of fondness for most any typical morning meals offered before the more respectable lunch time of 1030-1100.  Yes, yes, I know the whole “most important meal of the day” schtick, but I’m simply not a morning person.  Just ask my wife….  I’m not hungry in the morning, and extra sleep conserves calories anyway.

Okinawa Eats April 2014, Kupu Kupu, picture windows

Okinawa Eats 2031, Kupu Kupu, The Battleship pancake stack for twoOkinawa Eats 2031, Kupu Kupu, Love Boat pancake stackBut for many, breakfast offers maybe a favorite dish or two, and if you fall within this camp, Kupu Kupu does offer pancakes and French toast that can be hard to find on the Okinawan economy, and better yet, they serve them up all day long.  However, if you go here expecting prototypical “Western” pancakes, you may find yourself disappointed with the Japanese spin on an American breakfast staple.  It seems, given the new management, that many more Japanese and Okinawan-inspired dishes are being offered, most of which have nothing to do with being a factory…which makes pancakes.  In other words, they really shouldn’t expect a whole lot of Americans to go there for their garlic steak….  They did, however, offer at one time two signature dishes for the hardcore breakfast-ophiles:  The Love Boat and The Battleship!

Kupu-Kupu-menu-2

Okinawa Eats April 2014, Kupu Kupu, 1950s decorOkinawa Eats April 2014, Kupu Kupu, open under new managementMy wife and I happened upon this eatery quite by accident.  Even when we saw the sign on the street, it still took us a bit to figure out exactly how to get to and in Kupu Kupu.  It is located upstairs, and the stairs themselves are in an alleyway between two buildings.  The actual entrance to the restaurant is oddly located on the backside of the building, and from the street it’s hard to tell there’s a restaurant there at all.

Okinawa Eats April 2014, Kupu Kupu, american-style retro tabletop games

Okinawa Eats 2031, Kupu Kupu, relatively hidden entranceOkinawa Eats April 2014, Kupu Kupu, scarlet letter Grade AKupu Kupu’s interior is a mix of American retro 50s swing, with a healthy dose of nautical adornments and vintage American military-related items from our long occupation here.  The feel is casual and comfortable, with bright and happy colors splashed throughout.  The staff, although slow, was beyond reproach, and English is spoken easily here.  However, although initially very impressed with Kupu Kupu during the fall of 2013, our visits in 2014 have been far below our expectations.  I simply can’t recommend this establishment…and least not right now.

Okinawa Eats 2031, Kupu Kupu, inside interesting decor

Phone: 080-3229-7352

Address:  15-58 Mnato Chatan Yomitan-son Nakagami-gun

Hours: Daily 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Closed on Tuesdays

Payment: Yen and U.S. dollars are accepted.

Website: Kupu Kupu Facebook Page

Directions:  find the Pancake Factory near Sushi Zen and right around the corner from Sea Garden, on the seawall where it turns east towards Chatan-cho’s marina.  There is good signage on the sidewalk, and there is parking lot around the block which is even more challenging to find.  Kupu Kupu is located on the second floor.

safe_image

The ’80s called; they want their McDonald’s American Vintage Campaign back….


“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.” ~Peter De Vries

“Too much has been forgotten in the name of memory.” ~Don DeLillo, Americana

 

Mullets are seldom out of style.  The hair coloring, however....

Mullets are seldom out of style. The hair coloring, however….

Okinawa Eats Feb 2014, McDonalds American Vintage, coke classicMcDonald’s in the Far East continued flirting with all-things Americana with their “final” phase of their “American Vintage Campaign.” In a phrase, McDonald’s Japan is attempting to take the nostalgia that many in the East have for most things West, and cram it into sandwiches which neither resonate with our prototypical ideal of American vintage, nor with the food of American’s tasteful past.

Clowns, except for the fish, are ALWAYS creepy

Clowns, except for the fish, are ALWAYS creepy

Try finding Micky-D's on Beta

Try finding Micky-D’s on Beta

Okinawa Eats Feb 2014, McDonalds American Vintage, the fashion isn't good!Now McDonald’s this time around has gotten the print ads just about right – the fashion, icons of the era, and the look and feel of 1980’s Americana. However, here in Japan, they continue to do the food…wrong. Again, the signature items remain centered on two sandwiches, both BBQ-based. I have searched back in my mind for a connection between the 1980s and barbeque, and can find…none. And I can rightly claim the 80s as my generation’s decade! At least this time around they haven’t molested the BBQ chicken and beef, adding only those things we would 1) recognize and 2) expect, such as lettuce, BBQ sauce, cheese, mustard and pickles.

Okinawa Eats Feb 2014, McDonalds American Vintage, final 80s

Pacman wouldn't even eat this....

Pacman wouldn’t even eat this….

This deal probably lasted about 60 seconds....

This deal probably lasted about 60 seconds….

While the menu choices offered may be interesting to see and try, it’s highly doubtful that such items ever existed on the Mickey D’s menu, let alone in the 1980s. However, Micky D’s is not alone in such experiments; other Japanese branches of notable fast food chains are known for their own culinary foray flirtations in the Far East, especially during targeted promotional campaigns. McDonald’s here has tried a “60-second service” service, where the customer gets a free burger if their order isn’t fulfilled in 60 seconds or less, as well as a home-delivery service. This past winter season, they unveiled a “Gracoro Burger,” complete with a fried patty of macaroni, shrimp, and a white “fish” sauce. Yummy.

The infamous "Graco Burger"

The infamous “Gracoro Burger”

Burger King Japan in the fall offers the “BK Pumpkin,” a hamburger topped with pumpkin slices. It even has a “Kuro Burger,” made with black buns and a black-ink squid sauce. Also, for its 5th birthday (in Japan), BK unveiled a special “B’i King” buffet deal promotion where for specified sandwich meals the food was all-you-can-eat for thirty minutes!

Nothing says appetizing like BLACK

Nothing says appetizing like BLACK bread

Kentucky Fried Chicken is pretty popular in Japan as well. It has a partnership with Japan Airlines during winter season on certain flights to the US or Europe, and during Christmas, KFC Japan is the staple main course in Japanese homes (see my blog about that here). The KFC restaurant at Shimokitazawa Station (Tokyo) has a special third floor called “ROUTE 25,” KFC’s first ever whiskey bar. Now we’re talkin’!!

An upscale KFC eatery?  A sure sign of End of Days.

An upscale KFC eatery? A sure sign of End of Days.

You know you can't trust ginger kids!

You know you can’t trust ginger kids!

Boom Boxes and BBQ

Boom Boxes and BBQ

McDonald’s in Japan this time around has been cleverer than ever in their vintage-themed décor. They have reproduced some classically delightful Americana posters and prints. And while I stopped in to snap a few photos here and there and grab a fountain soda (which are nearly impossible to find in Japan), I can’t say that I’ve tried these menu items. And my heart and arteries thank me for, daily.

Okinawa Eats Feb 2014, McDonalds American Vintage, Mcdonald's!

This is the finale phase of the American vintage campaign. Although I’m disappointed that I missed the middle phase,“1970s Soul Food,” I’m glad I swung by to see this take on my generation’s decade back home.

Demotivational-Posters-McDonalds-5

I hope you’ve enjoyed these delicious developments as much as I have. Stay tuned for follow-on flirtations with Far Eastern fast-food. I can already smell the humor, and can taste the fun!

Conquering Japan, one crappy burger at a time....

Conquering Japan, one crappy burger at a time….