Everyone that has been to Okinawa for sightseeing has definitely stopped by Okinawa's business district, Kokusaidori (Kokusai Street). It runs around 1.6km from the Prefectural Hall North Entrance Intersection (Kenchou Kitaguchi Kousaten) to Asato Three-way Junction (Asato Sansaro). Here are five recommended restaurants within the limits of Kokusaidori.
SAM'S SAILOR INN Kokusaidori is a teppanyaki place (often called "hibachi grill" overseas) where you can enjoy a chef cooking your food on a flat grill right before your eyes. The store interior is decorated like a large cruise ship, and you can try their teppanyaki course (starting at 2,400 JPY (excl. tax)) that offers top-class sirloin steak and fresh seafood accompanied by east Indian-style curry soup or an unusual salad made with Okinawan delicacy sata andagi (fried treats similar to doughnut holes). On the main grill you don't just watch your chef grill the food to perfection, but he also performs some acrobatic tricks, so the restaurant bursts with happy voices and applause. The garlic rice kazanyaki (700 JPY (excl. tax) but comes included with some courses) that has large flames coming out of it like a volcano when during cooking is delicious as well as a sight to behold, so it's definitely recommended! This is a restaurant for people who want to have a great, exciting time.
Heki is a fashionable restaurant where you can enjoy teppanyaki courses. You can enjoy plenty of foods here, including steaks made from Australian or Okinawan Kuroge wagyu beef, Kumejima kuruma prawns, or lobster as main dishes. As side dishes, they have various Okinawan meals such as goya chanpuru (stir fry with bitter melon, only available during the summer) and dishes using Okinawan ingredients like shima tofu (Okinawan tofu that is bigger and harder than regular tofu) and beni-imo (purple yam). The bread that's baked in-store is also popular. The freshly baked bread is bottomless, which is great!
Since the chef cooks right before you on the grill at the table, you can enjoy the sizzling sound of the food as you eat. Teppanyaki meals go great with wine, so please enjoy them together. It would be good to make reservations in advance.
The Australian beef course starts at 4,104 JPY (incl. tax), while the Okinawan Kuroge wagyu beef course starts at 5,184 JPY (incl. tax).
*Photo is for illustration purposes. (At the Makishi branch, rice does not come included.)
2. Teppanyaki Steak Restaurant Heki Kokusaidori Makishi Branch
At The Golden Swallow you can enjoy Chinese food prepared with Okinawan ingredients. This restaurant is the sister restaurant to high-class Chinese restaurant Yangkyofan, also in Okinawa. In this wide, open restaurant, you can enjoy reasonably-priced genuine Chinese food, making it beloved with locals and tourists alike. The food has great reviews, and some of their most popular dishes are the grilled gyoza dumplings (500 JPY (incl. tax) for 6), sweet marinated shrimp (480 JPY (incl. tax), and the grilled char siu pork they're proud of (780 JPY (incl. tax) for a regular size). Out of all of their great dishes the most recommended is the Chongqing chicken with chilies (980 JPY (incl. tax)). This dish is made by stir-frying fried chicken with a huge number of spicy red chilies, and it's perfect with liquor! The moment you eat it you'll feel your eyes open from the spiciness, but it's a delicious dish that you should try with a beer with one hand!
*Photo is for illustration purposes.
3. The Golden Swallow
Okinawa Dining Hateruma is an izakaya (drinking establishment with food) where you can enjoy Okinawan food along with live shimauta sanshin performances. Shimauta is the traditional folk songs of the Nansei islands in southwestern Japan, and the sanshin is the traditional Okinawan stringed instrument. This is a perfect place for people that want to immerse themselves in an Okinawan atmosphere.
For lunch you can try their sets featuring Okinawan soba or chanpuru with jushi (Okinawan steamed rice with mixed vegetables) or Okinawan appetizers for around 900 JPY, so it's very reasonable and popular. For dinner they offer goya chanpuru (730 JPY (excl. tax) or rafute, pork rib stewed in awamori (800 JPY (excl. tax)) that is so soft you'll be surprised. For people who want to eat Okinawan food as it is traditionally made should get the Churaumi Course (3,150 JPY (excl. tax)). Everything is delicious so you can order as the wind takes you! Every day there's a shimauta sanshin live performance on the 2nd floor that will definitely give you the best feeling of being on vacation, so please enjoy it!
*Shimauta sanshin live performance happens 3 times a day at 6:30 pm, 8:00 pm, and 9:00 pm. Costs 500 JPY (excl. tax).
*Photo is for illustration purposes.
BACAR OKINAWA is a restaurant where it wouldn't be too much to say that it's the best place in Okinawa for real Napolitano pizza! The owner studied at a famous restaurant, so the pizza is made using dough fermented to match that day's temperature and humidity levels, stretched right before it's baked, topped with ingredients, and then baked in an oven at high temperatures. The hot, thin pizza is both crunchy and fluffy, and it's so delicious that you'll grow addicted with one bite. The most recommended dishes are the marinara pizza (1,620 JPY (incl. tax)) made with a perfect balance of tomato, garlic, and oregano, or the margherita pizza (1,620 JPY (incl. tax)), a simple pizza made with melted mozzarella cheese directly imported from Italy.
On the menu there's also appetizers, homemade pasta (available only Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday as long as they aren't holidays), and desserts. Something you should try ordering is the superb homemade Okinawan ham platter made with Okinawan beef, pork, and duck (1,600 JPY (incl. tax).
5. BACAR OKINAWA
Kokusaidori is fun to just wander around, and there are many restaurants of all sorts of genres from Japanese food to Italian and more. If there are any restaurants on this list that strike your fancy, definitely head in that direction!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.