10°, two litres of beer, a cuppa hot coffee, familial stories, and a refreshing Japanese vita-power drink with Emil in front of the hotel; and, then we were off to meet his Osaka-based friends, the amusing couple, Ashley and Hiroke. They were bringing us to a ‘secret’ drink-eat-drink-all-you-can-restaurant but when we got there, five groups were on queue ahead of us, so we decided to go somewhere else and found ourselves in an authentic Okinawan resto-bar.
Shima Uta Raibu (Live) Ryūkyū
Indeed, there was a live band playing on stage that evening. Three different kinds of musical instruments (Okinawan as the resto name suggests Ryukyuan folk music) accompanied the vocalists, a lead and a second voice. We were a bit lost in translation but we could easily delve into the emotion of the melodies, which were beautifully interpreted through their flawless head tones. According to Emil, they were singing/playing Okinawan novelty songs. The ambience was just festive. We were lucky to have quickly secured a table and presumably they’re always full house on weekends. Everyone was singing and clapping to the live music and there were finger whistling, too. At some point, some diners went up the stage to join the song and dance interpretation led by the vocalist. It was ‘very cultural’ and we live for those kinds of moments.
Because we can not speak conversational Nihongo, we confidently deputed the ordering of food and drinks to Ashley, Hiro and Emil. All the dishes they carefully chose for us came one by one and each has its own unique taste and character. Everything was new to us so, everything tasted fresh to our palates. We also tried the Orion beer, Okinawa’s local brew. It tasted a bit like San Miguel Light and its mild taste perfectly blended with the food. After the beer, they felt that it’s time for us to try the Awamori, a refreshing Okinawan cocktail but we were warned about its strong kick.
Yeah, maybe we felt a little bit of the kick but not until we had more cocktails and shots of various spirits at a ‘frenzy’ place we went to after the dinner. Overall, it was an epic night at a new place, meeting new friends, trying new drinks, and tasting new dishes. The special dishes at Shima Uta Raibu (Live) Ryūkyū, which Emil helped to document were: Hechima Chanpuru, Seaweed Tenpura, Tamago-yaki, Karaage (deep-fried chicken), Raftī (pork belly), Goya Chanpuru, Beef Tofu. The next time you’d encounter an Okinawan restaurant, wherever in the world, just revisit this post and if there’s difficulty in communication, show them the photos of the dishes, take a bow, smile, open up a cold Orion and enjoy your dinner!