It was with much trepidation that we went to this restaurant. Lots of mixed reviews. But as this restaurant is very close to where I live, it could easily be a place where we could hang out frequently. Plus, while I do not claim to know a lot about Okinawan cuisine (a very specific type of Japanese), I am of course familiar with the stories of Okinawan longevity, which they generally attribute to their special diet. So – upside potential was close, healthy, and relatively inexpensive. Worth the risk.
It was a bad omen when I called them and asked how much corkage is. They said $26. Um, I am asking about wine, not Sake. Nope, $26 for wine. Well, we planned on ordering Sake anyway.
So I perused the menu looking for unique items, especially those known to be Okinawan. We focused on a lot of off-menu specials, and the ones marked “recommended” on the menu. We decided on 7 items to start.
Sting Ray Fins: If you made squid into squid jerky, that would probably be a comparable dish. Tasted kind of fishy and was almost impossible to chew. $6.75
Spicy Black Sausage – This is very greasy Portughese sausage with shredded iceberg lettuce as an accompaniment. Husband said it needed mustard to cut the fat. $6.75
Stir Fried Cabbage, Simmered Pork, Bitter Melon: This is the dish most extolled by others. It is important to note that I love bitter melon. I order it frequently at Chinese restaurants, and even buy it and make it at home. But you do have to treat it a little bit to make it less bitter. It’s best to stew/boil it in some way. THis was pretty much just chopped up and stir fried – no sign of even a parboil. Husband picked out the pork, we could not eat this dish. $7.50
Aloe and Seaweed with Plum Sauce: I have never eaten aloe before. Applied it as lotion, grew it in the yard, but never consumed it. This was a very exciting dish for me as I have heard that Aloe has many health benefits. This dish really grew on me. THe also was cooked into a gel with the consistency of jelly fish. IT paired will with the shiso/ponzu/seaweed accompaniments. I enjoyed this dish. $5.75
Soruru Japanese Marando (Deep Fried little fish) : I think the fish were frozen/defrosted. There was a mayo dip. Not exciting. $6.75
Takoyaki – Balls made of dough and octopus pieces and then breaded/deep fried. Covered with bonito shavings and served with mayo for dipping. I have had this dish before, but the texture was always nasty and greasy. These had a really interesting gummy texture similar to a rice noodle. This was our favorite dish. $5.00
Chef’s Special Okinawan fried rice: Traditional Okinawan black rice mixed with the chef’s choice of the best meats and vegetables in the house. Ours came out with Spam, egg, scallion, and celery. Sigh. $8
At this point, we cut our losses and left without ordering anything else. Including our $30 bottle of Sake, it still came to $100. (Wound up going out for some wine then filled up on a Dove Bar.
I really tried hard to find dishes that exemplified the healthy eating of those who live in Okinawa. I know they have a diet rich in fish, fruit, steamed rice.
This is just not that kind of food. It tastes like Japanese fast food to me. The ingredients are mostly processed, frozen/defrosted, sourced from other places, etc. Everything has a large amount of fat added to cover up the low quality ingredients. I actually asked them about Exile Kiss’ claim that they buy their noodles as opposed to making their own. The waitress confirmed it, which is why we did not order that dish.
Their cocktail and beverage menu is substantial. In conjuction with the inordinately high corkage for a casual place like this, plus the greasy/salty food, it is clear what they are going for. This place is a bar first, restaurant second. This is meant to be a money making machine; keep the food margins low and the alcohol margins high.
Shin Okinawa Izakaya
1880 W. Carson Street, Suite #A
Torrance, CA 90501
Tel: (310) 618-8357
Hours: [Lunch] Mon – Fri, 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
[Dinner] 7 Days A Week, 5:30 p.m. – 12:00 Midnight