I had walked by Okinawan Restaurant Nirai-Kanai many times over the years but never had the opportunity to try their cuisine, however it’s the only Okinawan restaurant I knew in Singapore until I won a $100 dining voucher from Be.Okinawa’s September contest. I was able to select from a small range of Okinawan restaurants in Singapore, but it didn’t take me long to decide on Nirai-Kanai amidst a sea of other restaurants under the En Group franchise.
I simply love Nirai-Kanai’s down to earth decor, as their massive use of seasoned planks genuinely depict Okinawa’s laid back ambience. People coming over any Okinawa restaurant expecting conventional Japanese cuisine may be left disappointed, because Okinawa is very different from mainland Japan. It has a rich influx of Chinese and American fusion in its cuisine, and one doesn’t usually expect to find sushi, sashimi, kaiseki ryori in a Okinawan restaurant. A good Okinawan restaurant usually pride themselves for ingredients such as pork, bitter gourd, and yaki soba (fried soba), and so my visit today basically targets cuisines with these ingredients.
For some domestic reason, I was bringing the old folks here for a very late lunch, and we were informed to have our last order as soon as we were placing our order. Can’t blame the crews though, even if they refused us entrance at the late hour of 3pm, I would have to respect their decision. We ordered a set meal each, as well as other main and side dishes, just to make up to the voucher value.
I had an Okinawan Soup Noodle Set Meal, which came with a bowl of Okinawan seasoned rice, a vinegared vega dish, Fried meat miso, and a Peanut Bean Curd. My noodle was thick and flatten type, the broth was rich and sweet, though not as complex as conventional Japanese ramen. There was one piece of tender pork belly and another piece of pork, along with radish slices and spring onions. The noodle was quite firm, and I felt this is the perfect set meal to appreciate Okinawan ramen and pork belly in one bowl. I was tempted to try their Okinawan seasoned rice, but eventually I found that its seasoned taste was not meant for my taste bud, it tasted like yam rice but minus the fragrance. The old folks weren’t impressed too. Good grief, I almost ordered Okinawan seasoned rice ball separately, lucky I didn’t. The fried meat miso was a delight, lesser of the conventional saltiness, but quite flavourful. I have to say I was most impressed by the Peanut Bean Curd, though I didn’t sense the presence of peanut, this bean curd was fantastic. It’s soft, and I would have mistaken it for tau hwey if not for its blend taste! For $15.30++, their set meals are actually quite worth it.
Mum had the rice set with bitter gourd. Okinawa’s bitter gourd is special, it’s not as bitter as what we normally have in this region, and it’s slightly more crunchy. Stir-fried with pork and tofu, this might seem a bit lite for a set meal, but we have common consensus, that we would share the dishes and also order a few main as well as side dishes. Apart from a bowl of plain rice, a Vinegared Vege dish, Fried Meat Miso, Peanut Bean Curd, there was also a bowl of Aosa-seaweed soup.
Dad had a Fried Chicken soaked in Negi Sauce Set Meal, which was very similar to the bitter gourd set meal except the main course. It’s nice, but somehow I felt it lacked Okinawan characteristics.
And now, the (main) sides…
This pancake was actually the first dish served, it’s thin, and came with ingredients such as bonito flakes, radish, seaweed, and veggie. Overall, it was very appetising, but because I couldn’t finish all the food before the restaurant closing, I had to wrap it up for takeaway. It still tastes great the next day!
I initially pondered between ordering a regular size (4 pcs) of their Simmered Pork-Belly or their smaller size (2 pcs), but eventually settled for regular because I thought everyone could have minimum a piece each. Served with veggies, these pork bellies were chewy, not as fat as I had imagined. This is one of the most recommended dishes in Nirai-Kanai, but for $13.80++, looks a little pricey.
I have read about Okinawa’s Yaki Soba and knew it’s one of the popular dish in the former Ryukyu kingdom. So, on a rare visit to an Okinawan restaurant, I couldn’t give this cuisine a miss. Using the same thick, flat noodle, it was fried with pork and veggie, along with a moist egg. I won’t say the taste is as rich as okonomi-yaki, but overall, it offers a moderate taste and not excessively oily.
This dessert was served quite late that I almost thought they forgot about it totally. I was about to cancel the order as I was almost full before it was served. Good thing I didn’t, I actually quite enjoyed it! The brown sugar crepe roll was spongy, but the best part was definitely the cream! It’s sweet, but not too overwhelming, and even though I was pretty filled, I thought I could still finish a few more of these yet won’t get sick of it!
We left the restaurant fully satisfied, although a bit embarrassed that we overshot their closing hour yet the staffs still wore a positive attitude. This restaurant has been in Liang Court for many years and they rarely do publicity, while its location is in a terrible corner, I won’t have notice it if not for my toilet break at Liang Court’s basement. But I understand over weekend meal period, the queue can be rather frustrating. I suppose that tells the quality! And by now, it’s no secret that Liang Court houses a great varieties of genuine Japanese cuisines one can think of!
On my 2nd visit in Feb 2015 (Yup, I got another voucher from Be.Okinawa), I carefully avoid ordering filling food, but nevertheless, it’s still 3 set meals plus some light side dishes.
Since this is my 2nd visit, I have my work cut out for me here, I’ll skip the set but solely focus on the broiled salmon. I still feel salmon tastes best grilled or raw, having it broiled seems a bit wastes in its texture, but the enclosed miso paste and lime are much welcome in bringing up its taste a little.
These are like seaweed pancake, deep fried, and offered a very crispy texture. Though I find nothing special about these, but perhaps it’s meant for tempura lovers.
Another order meant for tempura lovers, this Deep-fried Fusilier was rather soft in texture and rather blend if not for the lime and sauce provided, but apparently the chef spent some effort in presentation.
We also ordered two other set meals and two more sides similar to our previous visit, I shall not elaborate further on those.
Okinawan Restaurant Nirai-Kanai
177 River Valley Road #B1-01/02
Liang court Shopping Centre
Tel: +65 63394811
Opening Hours: 12:00 – 15:00, 18:00 – 23:00