The birthday was in November. The treat was in January. And now I am finally writing about it.
For the past few years, my friend, S will give me a birthday treat (together with another friend, G whose birthday is quite close to mine). Last year, I selected Nirai Kanai Okinawan. It was quite a feat finding the right place. S is allergic to seafood, and G doesn’t fancy fried food (yah I wondered why I am friends with her). After some good old googling, I found Nirai Kanai.
Located at the basement corner of Liang Court, Nirai Kanai Okinawan is an old school styled restaurant. The décor, in my opinion, is charming and adorable. The moment you step in, it is as if you have entered into a Japanese restaurant in the 1980s. And they are very considerate too. There are hooks and hangers for you to hang your jacket, and they built shelves underneath each table where you can place your bags.
We ordered quite a lot of food as we were hungry and greedy. I wanted the crispy river shrimps as they were my favourite beer snack. Though I did not drink that night, this little titbit is salty and crunchy, and best eaten when warm. The waiter placed the plate of fried shrimps in front of me, I had to push it aside as I cannot stop eating them.
One of Okinawa’s signature dishes is goya chanpuru. It is essentially thinly sliced bitter gourd with tofu, egg and pork. Nirai Kanai version was clean and well-seasoned. I would be quite content if you give me a bowl of rice and a plate of goya chanpuru.
Another favourite of mine was cubed beef steak. There was nothing fancy about this dish – good quality beef topped with garlic chips and stir-fried beansprouts. The beef was cooked to medium which was how I like it. This dish needed to be eaten fast as it was served on a hot plate which cooked the beef.
With all these food, we needed rice to accompany them. I ordered the onigiri. Unlike the conventional rice ball where the core ingredient is stuffed in the middle, the onigiri was made up of mixed rice with mushroom, pork belly and seaweed. The rice was well-cooked and flavourful. We also ordered a pork belly dish (which I never tried but my friends said it was good), and fried chicken (which was also pretty decent but nothing extraordinary). We were pretty stuffed after this meal.
Okinawan cuisine is said to be influenced by the Chinese and South East Asian. More importantly, this particular cuisine is low in fat and salt, contributing to the longevity of the Okinawans. Though I am unsure if the dishes we ordered were low fat and low salt, they were simple and delicious.
Nirai Kanai Okinawan
177 River Valley Road, #B1-01/02,
Liang Court Shopping Centre
Opening hours: 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm (Mon-Fri), 12pm-11pm (Sat-Sun)