KALDI Coffee Farm


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Located in the San A Ginowan Convention City is a small shop called the KALDI Coffee Farm. The name of this shop is slightly misleading. Originally I had thought that with a name like IMG_3760Coffee Farm coupled with the enthusiastic woman serving samples of coffee the main theme of the items in this shop would be . . . you guessed it. . . coffee but this was not the case. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was not only a place to get fresh gourmet coffee but also a variety of import goods.

There was everything from snacks to wine, noodles to marshmallows flavored like coffee and tea and so much more. 

One of the great things about this shop is that they have a variety of very specific items from America (I honestly have no idea how common the items from other parts of the world are in this shop) that you otherwise would not have the ability to find here in Okinawa. This could be your favorite type of maple syrup, arm and hammer baking soda or even fluff. These items are all priced accordingly and in my opinion are not too bad if you don’t have access to them elsewhere on the island. 

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Although this is a great place to visit it is important to keep in mind that it is small and very crowded. This makes it a place not ideal for carriages or even young children. Even a big purse can be a hassle as you try to navigate the narrow aisles and move around the other customers. 

Whether you are looking for a little taste of home or some delicious fresh coffee head over to Ginowan and check out this small shop! 

 

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Jump Station Okinawa


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If you like anime or manga you’re not going to want to miss Jump Station Okinawa located on Kokusai Street. This small shop has a variety of goods including t-shirts, postcards and other great gifts featuring some of your favorite anime and manga.

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Prices at the shop are pretty reasonable especially for the one of a kind items which feature Okinawa related things like goya, sanshin and much much more.

IMG_4436If you’re in the Kokusai area and are thinking about picking something up for the anime or manga fan in your life then stop by! You’re sure to find something you’re looking for!

 

 

 

Tonneau: The Barrel Restaurant


Tonneau (also known by many foreigners at The Barrel Restaurant) is one of the IMG_4430places that everyone hears about sooner or later through the grape vine. Why is really no surprise; it’s shaped like a huge barrel. Why it is shaped like a barrel is honestly news to me as there is no theme that continues throughout the restaurant consistent with barrels other then wood (of which the barrel is made of). It’s fun and unique though so I suppose you could say that the shape of the building is doing it’s job in catching the eye of those who want a unique experience.

The interior of the restaurant is one decorative cut of wood after another. From benches to floors to tables to the decorations throughout the interior wood is absolutely everywhere. This creative (and very thorough) use of wood creates a very warm atmosphere.

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The restaurant itself is massive on the inside allowing for a good number of tables ready to accommodate parties of any size. There are also separate floors. The second floor accommodates for larger groups where as the first floor has a bar and accommodates for smaller groups. There is also a back room which offers space that is semi-private which is where we were seated during our most recent visit. It was nice to be in one of these private cubical tables however I personally feel that it put us “out of sight, out of mind” which I will talk about a bit later.

Before we even start talking about the food we need to talk about the little asterisk IMG_4409that comes with eating at Tonneau. First and foremost the restaurant is operated like a Japanese style house which means that the shoes come off right at the front door (or genkan) and go into a cabinet. This is something that you should keep in mind if you’re visiting. Don’t wear shoes that are hard to get on or off because you might struggle a bit. The second little contractual agreement is that when you eat at Tonneau you are going to be served an appetizer of the restaurant’s choosing which you will pay for. During this particular visit the appetizer was ¥350 each which included a small salad with two small pieces of fish on top. The fish was ok, dry and the salad was mostly cabbage. This little appetizer agreement is something that is hit or miss I suppose depending on what is available at the restaurant on that particular day. Personally I am not sure how I feel about the fact that all four of us in the group had to pay for an appetizer that was just ok regardless or not if we wanted to eat it.

IMG_4411After the appetizers were out of the way it was time to check out the menu. Tonneau has a menu which features English (although the translations are not always the best) and includes a little bit of everything. There is Japanese, Chinese and American selections. There is pasta, sushi, yakitori, pizza, chicken, and much much more. Like other izakaya (pub) restaurants the food is a la carte where you order a dish and enjoy it family style. Our group had two big eaters, an average eater and a picky eater which made this style of ordering ideal. The down side to this style of menu is that the dishes come out individually meaning our picky eater who wanted to have a particular meal had to wait until the very end of the meal for her dish to arrive.

The food was subpar to say the least. Most dishes that we ordered were bland, dry and IMG_4413didn’t taste as one might think they would. The Roasted Garlic Chicken for example did not taste of garlic and was very dry as though it had been either under a heat lamp all night or in the oven too long. Another notable item we ordered was the garlic bread which was hard as a rock. It was so difficult to eat that we ended up putting it in a broth from another dish we ordered just so that we could eat it.

As far as service goes Tonneau left a whole lot to be desired. We started off our meal with one server who took our order and then at some point in the middle of our meal the servers changed. This would not have been anything worth noting if the new server had picked up with the original server left off which was unfortunately not the case. After a 45 minute lull without any food having been served we tried to called a staff member on the provided phone not once but twice before one arrived. When she did she brought the check which included the 3 dishes that we ordered but had not received. After much confusion and trying to explain what the situation was our original IMG_4426server finally came around and explained that the cook forgot about our remaining dishes. We then had to wait for the dishes to arrive. When this whole situation rolled out I first thought that maybe it was the amount of other people in the restaurant which might have caused the delay but on our way out it was clear that we were one of only two small groups who were in the entire restaurant so I am not sure where the breakdown of communication happened. All I know is that I would not want to be in the restaurant on a day where there are a lot of people if they could not manage only two tables.

Price point is the final topic for discussion and unfortunately it was not much better then the other topics that we discussed today. Each item was easily double what we would have (and often do) pay at other restaurants around the island and in this particular area. Four of us came to over ¥10,000 which was very steep considering only one of us had a beer and we honestly didn’t order much food at all. (In fact the next night we went to another restaurant that I have reviewed in the past called HUB and enjoyed more food then we did at this restaurant and more of us drank and had dessert and paid over ¥3,000 less). The price coupled with the food and service makes this a restaurant I will not be visiting again. It is a shame because it was at one time a “go to” place of mine but clearly the quality has gone down quite a bit.

 

Ramen Linya: Kyoto Style Ramen


IMG_4398Only a hop skip and a jump away from Camp Foster in Central Okinawa is a ramen shop which is not to be missed. Ramen Linya is not a large restaurant but don’t let that fool you because they serve up some huge flavor. Their specialty? Kyoto Style Ramen which is known for having a big, distinct, amazingly delicious flavor. There are also other flavors of ramen available to include your common favorites. Toppings include meat, veggies and spices which can be added or taken out to build a bowl of ramen that makes your taste buds tingle. You’re not limited to a lonely bowl of ramen either (oh no). Check out the set menu to see all the delicious sets that they offer to include sides of fish, chicken, fried rice and gyoza.

If you’re not really into ramen but being dragged into the restaurant because, for example, your husband can’t get enough of it there are some options for you as well. As an alternative to ramen IMG_4396Ramen Linya offers curry dishes with a variety of toppings to include sausage, fish, chicken and more. The curry is spicy but very delicious. If you’re still not satisfied there are a variety of side dishes which could be ordered to fill your belly to include gyoza, fish, fries and much much more. Then there is the fried chicken. I have chosen to include this on it’s own separate from every other side dish because in my opinion it is clearly superior. It is perfectly crisp, not too greasy and has flavor . . . . . to die for. There are also spices that can be added to the chicken including a salty spice and a curry spice. (Note: If you’re not sure what to sprinkle on your chicken go with the curry powder. AMAZING!)

With food out of the way it’s time to talk about atmosphere. The restaurant is not a large one with only about 4 or 5 tables (Note: These tables are Japanese style tables which require you to sit on the “floor”. You will have to take your shoes off which is something you will want to prepare for if you visit) and a bar where individuals and small groups can sit and enjoy a meal. The seating is hit or miss in my opinion. I am not a huge fan of the seating at this restaurant mainly because I am often sitting just with my husband so we end up at the bar. With larger groups, however, the tables become available which is more enjoyable because conversation becomes more organic. In other words this at the bottom of my list for a date night location. Seating may also not be ideal for everyone.

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The staff at Ramen Linya is also great. They are friendly, helpful and eager to please. Ordering was a synch both because of the clearly labeled English menu as well as the comprehension level of the staff who came to take our order. Our order also came quickly and without any errors (something I am noticing is not as common anymore unfortunately).

IMG_4392Although the food was delicious the one disappointment that I experienced with this meal was the Lady’s Set. This set which offers a half size ramen, half size side and a small sweet for desert has been my go to dish for years since Ramen Linya opened. It has always been a half order of their Kyoto Style Ramen which I have always very much enjoyed although this time it was a different, lighter and relatively tasteless ramen. At first I was disappointed that the ramen had changed but after trying some of my husband’s standard ramen it was clear that only the Lady’s Set has changed. Maybe next time I need to be clear about the type of ramen is served with my Lady’s Set?

Pricing is not bad, the selection is great and the food is pretty good to making Ramen Linya a great place to grab lunch or dinner, especially if you’re a fan of ramen, chicken or curry. Also as a final note they do in fact have TAKE OUT, they also have the ability to take CREDIT CARDS and DOLLARS. They also have a point card!!!! What are you waiting for!? Get out there and get some ramen before the summer comes back around and it gets too hot!

 

 

American Village and Depot Island


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American Village and Deport Island is an entertainment, shopping and restaurant hub conveniently located in the central part of Okinawa. A favorite of tourists and US service members alike there is something for everyone within the area also affectionately known as Mihama. 

There are two main sections as I mentioned above the first is American Village. This area is the home to a large department store known as AEON (formerly JUSCO). Inside this shopping center are home goods, clothes, shoes, and even a grocery store. Just a short walk from AEON is a movie theater called Mihama 7Plex which not only plays Japanese films but also American films in English (with Japanese subtitles).

Just across from the Mihama 7Plex is a boardwalk-like area. The area has a familiar boardwalk IMG_4063area with restaurants lining either side of a waterway. Creative architecture and art brings this area to life especially at night. Lights, music and street performers draw crowds and are a favorite among passersby.

Not far from where all the performances take place is Carnival Park an area filled with shopping, games, restaurants and of course the entrance to the ferris wheel. From the ferris wheel you can get a fantastic view of the entire area. This is also the home of Party Land  a build-your-own frozen yogurt place.

Once you’ve seen all that there is to see in American Village head over to Depot Island. This area broke onto the scene in 2010 bringing an amazing themed shipping center and night life district. The amount of restaurants, shops and night clubs available in the area is . . . . IMG_4073well let’s just say I have no idea exactly how many area in the area. All I know is that every corner you turn is something that you probably didn’t see the first time around. Many favorites from other parts of the island have opened up in the area as well as some new up and coming shops.

The best time to enjoy the colorful walls and stroll through the halls of Deport Island is the morning before shops have opened. At this time of day there aren’t a lot of people and that means that there are many more opportunities to leisurely stroll through and see what shops you might want to revisit in the future. An early morning visit also means many more photo opportunities.

Another great characteristic of the American Village and Depot Island area is the hotels in the immediate area. These hotels both are only seconds away from beaches, city life and of course all the amazing offerings of the two areas I mentioned. With all that excitement it’s a great place to stay, wine, dine and enjoy a stroll.

We want to know what your favorite part of American Village and/or Depot Island is. Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

C1 Gourmet Battle: Get your food on!


Everyone eats which is why I love events like the C1 Gourmet Battle. Regardless your world views, cultural backgrounds or political affiliations everyone can appreciate a good meal.

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The history of the C1 Gourmet Battle is not a long one. . . . . at least not yet. This year (2013) is the event’s 4th year offering restaurants from all around the Chatan area to battle for the title as “best in Chatan”. Restaurants bring their best dish and serve it up to guests who vote for what they like best. The winner is announced at the end of the two day event.

The event is still in it’s infancy and so there are a lot of kinks to work out before it becomes the well oiled machine that other local events become, however they are doing a great job serving up entertainment and competition.

Here’s how it works:

IMG_4092Guests participate in the event by purchasing tickets (¥1000 for 3 tickets). These tickets can be used to “purchase” dishes from each booth. Some booths have dishes that require only one ticket, others require two. With the purchase of tickets you also receive a special pair of “voting chopsticks” which are then used to. . . . you guessed it: vote. You can then try the dishes you’re most interested in, vote and enjoy the food.

When I first was made aware of the cost I was a little apprehensive. I became even more IMG_4107apprehensive when I got to the event and discovered that some booths required two tickets. Walking around the event I was paying close attention to the size of the portions to see just what we were looking at. What I discovered is that the portions were close to what is often described here as “Lady” size or “Half” size. It was not too large of a portion that you couldn’t enjoy the other offerings from booths at the event and not too small that you didn’t get your money’s worth.

Once we did a walk around of the entire area we decided on what we were going to try and cashed in our tickets. Both offerings we chose were from places we had not tried before. It was actually a great way to try out IMG_4108some new restaurants without having to commit to an entire meal.

We tried Jetta Burger’s soft shell crab tacos and another dish from a place called Hang Loose. Both were absolutely delicious but the soft shell crab was absolutely amazing (and got our vote).

The event (at least this year) started from 11AM and continued until 530PM.

If you’re thinking of attending this event here are some things you should know and/or take into consideration. First and foremost the cost of the drinks being sold at booths in the event are outrageously expensive. The same drinks that you could purchase at a vending machine down the street for ¥100 were being sold for ¥200 here. On top of that the vending machines in the immediate area were covered to promote sales inside the event. I recommend bringing a water bottle or drink of your own before going into the event to avoid paying the high prices. Also consider arriving early for the best parking spaces. Mihama is a crowded place to be during the weekend. This is even more true during events like the C1 Gourmet Battle. Getting there slightly early is a great way to get parking without having to struggle for a spot a mile away.

The C1 Gourmet Battle is a lot of fun and a great way to find new restaurants to visit. If you have the chance to attend check it out!