Ufuya: Okinawa's 100 Year Old Restaurant
During my vacation in Okinawa, I visited Ufuya, one of the most intriguing restaurants I have ever been to. Ufuya is in the middle of nowhere as it does require quite a drive to get to, but the huge parking lot and the restaurant itself is always full of cars and tour buses. This restaurant is more than a just place for a food, but also a tourist spot. The restaurant is renovated from several old houses built over a hundred years ago, maintaining their traditional interiors while welcoming hungry customers inside to experience dining under an old Okinawan roof.
The restaurant has two sets of menu: one for lunch and one for dinner. The dinner sets are more pricy with their shabu-shabu and nabe set meals, so we went around noon for lunch instead. Of course, the parking lot was full already. There were 22 tables waiting before us, so we took the time to climb its little hill behind the restaurant that watches over all the hundred-years-old houses. It was a leisure walk filled with vegetation, with small decorations like mini-water falls and garden tables. There was a surprising amount of tables inside each little house, so we were just about to be seated by the time we returned to the front of the restaurant.
The lunch menu offers 5 different sets with the two chef-recommended options being the Grilled Agu-pork on Rice lunch set and the Soki-soba (Okinawa-style noodles with pork) lunch set.
I ordered the former to fulfill my craving for meat. While the bowl of rice wasn’t huge, the amount of side dishes made up for it and filled my hungry stomach. The pork slices were wider and slightly thicker than a typical buta-don (pork on rice). There were lightly grilled with a special sauce and topped with chopped chives. I found Agu-pork more on the tough side, which balanced very well with the side dishes being soft food like seaweed salad and tofu soup. It was easily the best pork and rice I have ever had.
The Soki-soba from the other set was also nothing short of amazing. The flavour of pork bones was very vibrant in the soup, each bite into the noodles was firm and chewy, and the pork chunks with bones were soft and tasty. A bowl of soki-soba could be very simple, but this restaurant surely mastered it.
While the food was fantastic, the restaurant’s environment and atmosphere were just as much reasons to visit. We were seated at the edge of the restaurant, with no walls and right beside a little pond and greens. Although the restaurant was crowded, the noise level across the restaurant maintained comfortable throughout our meal time and helped us refresh from our packed Okinawa trip.
As aforementioned, Ufuya is more than just a restaurant. Attached to the restaurant is a pineapple vinegar factory where you can have a quick tour and understand its process and health benefits. In the shop, you can also sample various types of pineapple vinegar such as Shikuwa (Okinawan lime) and brown sugar before purchasing some as souvenirs.
Speaking of souvenirs, the pineapple cakes there are very popular too. There is a pineapple theme park nearby, and they bring some of their products to sell at Ufuya. The cakes are made with sweet and rich pineapple juice for 500yen a block, and you can shell out a little more for the version with actual pineapple bits for extra texture.
This is an example of a restaurant where you can taste the genuine local cuisines and cultures. If you would like to make a visit, more about the restaurant can be found here : http://ufuya.com/