This was the Garden of Eden that the folks in downtown Naha forgot, let alone those in the far away capital of Tokyo. Perched on an steep hill above the beaches of north-west Okinawa, there are stunning and uninterrupted views out to what appear to be the magical mountain of Ie Island, Mount Gusuku.
Everything here looked like it came from another era, one that was distinctively pre-industrial, with handmade and one of a kind items. My first impression was of the wood panelled holiday house, with red Okinawan roof tiles and exposed pine beams that took the owners a few years to build.
Once you step inside Cafe Kokuu, you can’t help but notice the wooden spoons and pottery that graced the entrance while you take off your shoes to walk on the smooth wood floors, making it clean enough for toddlers to crawl on the floor, and this they do in pairs, such is the popularity of this cafe with young families and sea changers escaping from Tokyo and other big cities on the mainland.
The menu here feature locally sourced vegetarian dishes and while there are only half a dozen choices, most come in sets consisting of five or so different plates in a tasting menu sized serving. I had the mini set with coffee for 1200 yen.
While you wait for the slow food to arrive, you can glance at the well thought out selection of intelligent magazines on the bookshelf to read, or better still, drift away with the views of the coast beyond the short yet wild bushes, unless you want to distract yourself with the aforementioned pairs of toddlers wandering on the low tabled room next door.
Soon the persimmon and tofu lees salad arrives, the sweet persimmon having a light texture which complemented the more fibrous texture of the tofu lees. The sliced apple and radish salad on the other hand added crunch without being overwhelming.
At the end, it was the yellow chickpea lentils that took my heart, being pure comfort food for a slightly wind chilled winter's afternoon. Looking at the heart warming lentils that only a loving mother would cook, the inviting swirls of steam and aroma, as well as the sturdy one of a kind earthenware that I can wrap my hands around on this sea swept afternoon, made me think of Jacob’s brother Esau, who sold his birthright for a bowl of lentils. Maybe it was this kind of lentils that took his better judgement. Wow, even though I had not intended to have a vegetarian lunch, it was exactly what I needed, not too heavy, easy to digest, and filling without overloading.
The food here looks so raw, so undressed, yet so wholesome. It was like nature’s art work, straight from the garden. There was no need to trim off the rough edges, no attempt to make the carrots perfectly formed. Everything here almost had a tribal element, yet it was the tribe that I would like to be invited in.
We were satisfied after a healthy yet thoroughly tasty meal that brought out all the natural flavours of every vegetable without overpowering it with spices or seasoning. If you are very hungry a larger serving is available as well.
It was then the perfect time to have a brewed coffee with had hints of nuttiness yet with no bitter aftertaste.