Chicken House finger lickin' good on Okinawa

Chicken House finger lickin' good on Okinawa

by Christopher Dong
Stripes Okinawa

For over 20 years, childhood friends Hideki Sakumoto and Takuji Tamashiro led successful careers as wildly popular DJs. Originally from Okinawa, the two followed their music and work to Tokyo, before packing it up and returning to their home island, where they decided to partner and become arguably two of the foremost chicken roasters on island. Chicken House, the pair’s Naha shop, is equal parts flavorful cuisine and classic style, featuring tasty, juicy poultry that surpasses the Colonel’s own.

When asked why a venture into roasted chicken, Hideki grinned widely and hinted at a return to roots. “It’s Okinawan!” he proudly exclaimed, “and this island is famous for its chicken!” (Hideki is a triple threat, rounding off his talents in music and cuisine with professional stints in BMX trick riding -- much of our lively conversation was traded in exclamations).

Chicken House locally sources its birds from Yanbaru, organically raised, delivered fresh daily, never frozen. It takes an entire day’s preparation to serve the most succulent and well-dressed lunch plate, beginning with hours of marinating. “We herb and spice the birds, then give them a good rub down,” says Takuji, “letting the flavor set in before roasting.” The chicken is slow-cooked in a fire truck red roaster, the contraption special ordered and imported from France.

Their specialty comes in quarter, half, and whole portions, served with a side of rice, veggies, or bread. The delicious chicken can also be served atop rice bowls or salads. The lunch plate was a masterpiece, impeccably flavored chicken, topped with a refreshingly tangy “Brazil sauce” of pickled onions, lemons, and garlic, perfect for a hot summer’s day.

The steady click clack of the turning roaster tongs kept time with off-beat sizzles of the chickens’ rendered juices and oils, self basting, filling the shop with heavenly aromas. As Hideki and Takuji refine their new craft, it is quite apparent that they haven’t quit their day jobs; DJs of the senses, their cooking and preparations mixed to the rhythm of our noisily growling stomachs.

The bird was tender, perfumed with a bouquet of rosemary, oregano, thyme, and basil, a touch of smoke lent from good olive oil, salt, and pepper. Preferences toward dark or white meat were moot, as every cut proved equally savory and satisfying.

Chicken House’s interior is clean-cut retro, classically white-walled, unfussy furniture, with neon glowing “enjoy! chicken” scrawled across the back. “Our clean yet stylish approach is very important,” says Takuji, who also owns a fashionable women’s boutique just down the street. The hole in the wall concept works for many, but Chicken House manages to deliver great taste without the greasy, sticky elbows. And while simplicity frames this shop’s design, the heart of the matter is found in the food, presentation, and always righteous soundtrack.

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