All posts tagged Okinawa

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai

Published March 1, 2020 by piggie

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai, formerly at Liang Court, have now shifted to Great World City (oh wait, I have just learned that Great World City has amended its name to ‘Great World’ as I am penning this review).

Many thanks to JPassport on the food tasting invitation for this opportunity to re-visit Nirai-Kanai at their new site, and even though I have personally visited them twice at their former premise, this time I brought along a dining partner new to Okinawan cuisines. I thought since I have reviewed them previously, let’s also hear what someone new to Okinawa cuisines has to say, along with my personal take on items that I have not tried previously.

The name Nirai-Kanai actually means the god’s world in the distance of the sea, that’s got to be a reminiscence to the location of Okinawa, which is situated in the middle of East China Sea. Despite being a part of Japan, Okinawa is very unique, even in the eyes of Japanese, not just in terms of climate, but culture and culinary too! In fact, when my friend took a look at their menu, her first comment was, “I thought this looks like a Chinese cuisine menu!”

Well, she ain’t wrong, because in history, Okinawa, or rather the former Ryukyu kingdom, had Chinese heritage. And since the WWII, even American culture has integrated into their lives. Thus, making Okinawa looks like a foreign land even to the Japanese. As such, don’t expect Okinawa cuisine to possess that meticulous presentation usually associated with Japanese cuisines, they taste significantly different too!

Alright, let’s get into the food! 🙂

Umibudo, $14++

Soon as we were seated, we were immediately served Umibudo, which literally translates into sea grapes. Sea grapes, otherwise also known as Green Caviar for its look and taste, is in fact a unique kind of seaweed with a soft and succulent texture. It is served raw and has a mild savoury taste on its own, every bite seems to release the favour of the sea! It is not unique to Okinawa though, but having it raw means that you will appreciate it coming from cleaner water, and Okinawa is known to have pristine sea. As such, Okinawa’s sea grapes are overwhelmingly regarded as the premium grade. Those who desire a more intense flavour can also dip them in the accompanied Ponzu sauce. In addition, having these here also offers us a perfect opportunity to sharpen our pathetic chopstick skills! LOL!

Okinawa Soki Soba / Soup Noodle with Simmered Pork Rib (S), $7.60++

Disregard the name ‘soba’ here, this is Okinawan-styled ramen! Japan occasionally use the term soba even for ramen, and Nirai-Kanai uses thick, flat, egg-noodle here, in fact the unevenness of the noodle suggests it’s probably handmade, and Nirai-Kanai imports them directly from Okinawa! Their noodle has a firm but chewy texture, and because of its unevenness, it makes the noodle easier to retain the light broth. As you can see, in contrast to conventional Japanese ramen, in place of the charshu is their simmered pork rib, and this is a very different flavour from conventional ramen, if I may say, it’s resembling more towards Chinese noodle with a humbling but hearty taste.

Rafute / Simmered Pork Belly (S), $9.80++

I’m sure my dining partner must be kidding when she asked, “Where’s the Kong-Bak Pau?”

While general Japanese would probably preferred having pork belly grilled, Okinawan had them simmered. And unlike our Kong-Bak Pau, the light soy sauce is less sinful and complicated than our local’s black sauce version. But let’s not be disillusioned by its presentation, the pork belly are said to have been slow-cooked in three Okinawan seasonings, namely Awamori (Okinawa distilled liquor), Okinawan brown sugar, and soy sauce, the end result is a very sophisticated flavour that massively brings out the taste of the pork belly. It is said that this was also a royal cuisine from the former Ryukyu kingdom, a must try for anyone new to Okinawan cuisine!

Chinbin with Whipped Cream / Okinawan Brown Sugar Pancakes with Whipped Cream, $9.80++

The last item in our tasting menu is my overwhelming favourite, Okinawan Brown Sugar Pancakes. Brown sugar from Okinawa is very famous for its deep, rich flavour, made from sugar canes grown in fields blessed with rich minerals. It has a wide range of health benefits, and presents widely in Okinawan cuisines, possibly one reason why Okinawan tend to live a long life expectancy.

The Brown Sugar Pancakes here comes with whipped cream, but it’s sweet enough on its own, and serves as a delightful dessert after meals.

That’s all for the tasting menu, but we have also ordered Okinawan Pancake with Leek and Red Ginger, as we don’t feel like walking away without paying anything.

Okinawan Pancake (Leek and Red Ginger), $9++

This is another of my favourites which I was eager to introduce to my dining partner. I love bonito, and thought she likes it too. But I forgot she dislikes leek, which ended up, she only took a few slices here. Nonetheless, I love to see the bonito flakes ‘dancing’ when it was served, and it goes well with or without the supplied sauce. Taste wise, it’s completely different from the Brown Sugar Pancake, the latter is sweet, while this is savoury. To me, it’s like flavour of the sea in a pancake!

Alright, I have come to the end of this review. Once again, I would like to express my thanks to J Passport and Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai for the invitation. You know what, after trying Okinawan cuisines at Nirai-Kanai, if you are lucky enough, you may get to try them in Okinawa too! In collaboration with Okinawa Prefectural Government Singapore office, Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai is having a “Dine and GO Okinanawa” campaign, offering a chance to visit Okinawa for free, with return direct flights, along with 20kg baggage pax to every diner visiting between 15 Feb – 15 Mar 2020.

Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai
1 Kim Seng Promenade #01-107/108
Great World (City)
Singapore 237994
Tel: +65 63394811

Opening Hours: 11:30 – 15:00, 18:00 – 22:00

Okinawan Restaurant Nirai-Kanai

Published November 10, 2014 by piggie

DSC00018-rI 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.

Okinawan Soup Noodle Set Meal, $15.30++

Okinawan Soup Noodle Set Meal, $15.30++

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.

Bitter Gourd with Pork, Tofu & Egg Set Meal, $15.30++

Bitter Gourd with Pork, Tofu & Egg Set Meal, $15.30++

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.

Fried Chicken soaked in Negi Sauce Set Meal, $15.30++

Fried Chicken soaked in Negi Sauce Set Meal, $15.30++

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.

Okinawan Thin Pancake with Worcester Sauce, $8.80++

Okinawan Thin Pancake with Worcester Sauce, $8.80++

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!

Simmered Pork-Belly (Reg), $13.80

Simmered Pork-Belly (Reg), $13.80++

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.

Fried Noodle (Salt-sauce), $13.60++

Fried Noodle (Salt-sauce), $13.60++

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.

Okinawan Brown Sugar Crepe-Roll, $8.80++

Okinawan Brown Sugar Crepe-Roll, $8.80++

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.

Broiled Salmon wrapped in foil set, $15.30++

Broiled Salmon wrapped in foil set meal, $15.30++

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.

Deep fried Aosa-seaweed Fritter with Salt & Sauce, $7.20++

Deep fried Aosa-seaweed Fritter with Salt & Sauce, $7.20++

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.

Deep-fried Fusilier with Ponzu, $16++

Deep-fried Fusilier with Ponzu, $16++

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
Singapore 179030
Tel: +65 63394811
Opening Hours: 12:00 – 15:00, 18:00 – 23:00

Nirai-Kanai has moved to Great World City