A downhome soba deal with a French twist
Local noodle houses are virtually everywhere on island in Okinawa. But one, Hanaui Soba, has made a name for itself with especially tasty soba served up at a steal of a deal.
This well-known eatery is regularly cited in various guidebooks such as those published by Japan Travelers Bureau as a must-taste attraction. Why?
For starters, chef and owner, Norimasa Nakandakari, takes pride in ratcheting up the seasoning and flavoring of his soup broth a notch or two over the traditional Okinawan noodle dish.
“My restaurant serves traditional local noodles with a more full-flavored soup made from simmered pork bones along with various well-seasoned vegetables, seafood and local ingredients such as Okinawan fishcake,” he says. “I am sure you will not find a more unique bowl of noodles in any other restaurant.”
If Nakandakari sounds overly confident it is because he has good reason to be. Before opening his noodle house nearly three decades ago, he cut his teeth as a chef at a French restaurant in Tokyo.
“When I moved back to Okinawa, I ran a French restaurant here at first. But I saw that locals prefer noodles over French cuisine; so I changed my French restaurant into this noodle shop,” he says. “That was 27 years ago.”
While employing the skills and expertise he honed as a French chef to make a traditional Okinawan noodles with a twist, he also tries to make sure his customers get their money’s worth.
He says his most popular downhome delicacies include “uminchu” (seafood) soba for just 900 yen ($7.5) and “yasai” (vegetable) soba for only 800 yen. In addition, first-time patrons should beware of the portions – they are huge, maybe even too large for one person to finish.
“Our noodle dishes are twice as big as the normal-size portions served at other noodle houses,” Nakandakari said. “I see many customers that are not able to finish their noodles by themselves and try to share them with (accompanying) friends or family.
This perfect combo platter of quality and quantity, Nakandakari says, has made Hanaui Soba a popular stop for everyone, from Yomitan-son locals and residents of nearby U.S. Army Garrison Okinawa (aka Torii Station) to tourist groups from afar.
“Recently, groups of Korean and Taiwanese tourists have been frequenting my restaurant during lunchtime,” Nakandakari says, adding that Hanaui is also the regular haunt of many U.S. military members.
This two-storied restaurant seats 70 (30 downstairs and 40 upstairs). However, because it is so popular, be prepared to wait in line at the entrance if you show up during busy hours on weekends or holidays. There is a large parking lot that can accommodate more than 50 cars, too. However, it is also often full during peak hours.
So, whenever possible, the lunch rush on weekends and holidays to fully enjoy what Hanaui has to offer in a more relaxing atmosphere.
This restaurant is not hard to find; just look for its eye-catching purple banners and curtains bearing the name Hanaui Soba in Japanese (花織そば).
It is certainly a worthwhile stop for a bite to eat when visiting the Yomitan-son district.
Hours: Thursday - Tuesday, 11 a.m.- 10 p.m.
Address: 2418-1 Namihira, Yomitanson, Nakagami-gun (1.5 mile from Torii Station)
For more information (in Japanese), call: 098-958-4479