Around the northern part of Okinawa, Ishinagu is a hidden gem at the top of a hill. It was an impromptu visit, because the restaurant that we originally planned to go was closed, so I had to do a quick search to see what’s near by, and found this place! It’s the least touristy restaurant that we’ve been to. Only restaurant without a foreign language menu, but the staffs and chefs were friendly, and the food and experiences made it one of the best meals we had.
The GPS led us to an ascending twisty driveway, which made us extremely skeptical about whether we are intruding private area or not. It was like a mini hill with very steep slope. Once we reached the top, an antique Okinawan house came into sight.
Customers have to take off their shoes before entering the restaurant, just like any typical home-styled restaurant in Japan, which also means that sitting on the floor (not tatami here…). The menu was only available in Japanese. Once the waitress found out that we don’t speak Japanese, she went into the kitchen immediately. Guess who she brought out? The chef. He was the only one who could speak a little bit of English! He tried to explain the menu and made some recommendations.
Lunch is served in the form of “te i sho ku”, which is a type of Japanese set that consists of a main course and a variety of small side dishes served in a tray. My mom had the udon. The broth was flavorful, not just shoyu, but I could tasted the bonito and kombu. The udon was springy yet can be easily break apart by just pressing the tongue against it.
My dad had the tonkatsu set, which was recommended by the chef. The deep-fried foods in Japan also fascinate me. When it’s served, it’s always golden orange (not brown), crisp coating, and most importantly, not greasy at all! As Okinawa is known for its Agu pork, this pork cutlet was tender and juicy!
My brother and I had the “石なぐ御膳”, which is their classic set. It included most of the Okinawa specialities on a tray! My favorite was the one behind the rice, which was a gooey tofu, with a subtle peanut flavor, and a bit like mochi! The blue bowl next to it is a taro ball (sorry, not pictured well) with chestnut wrapped in the middle as filling.
Our set also came with tempura, which there were a shrimp, bitter melon (an Okinawa specialty!), pumpkin, and beans. I love how the coating isn’t too thick, and I can tell what food is it before I take a bite.
As I’ve mentioned above, “te i sho ku” consists of various small side dishes, and this sashimi plate is one of them. All of us had one. The sashimi was quite thin, but they were fresh!
The meal ended with a cup of complimentary coffee, which was perfect for us!!! The coffee was freshly brewed, and not as bitter as those typical Japanese dark roast coffee.