By Peter Sidell
You don't have to be vegetarian to enjoy the food at Ukishima Garden in Okinawa's capital city of Naha, but a love of fresh vegetables certainly does help. This oft-overlooked food group is the star of most of the dishes at the organic restaurant just south of Naha's Kokusai Street, with a main focus being vegetables that are grown on the island (or within the prefecture).
Come for lunch and you'll choose from offerings such as veggie taco rice and spicy curry rice, typical comfort foods with a vegetarian twist. In the warmer months (of which Okinawa has many), the cold noodles of the vegan tantan ramen set are particularly refreshing. Hungry diners can also choose to add salads, desserts and drinks to their main plate for a small additional fee.
At dinnertime, Ukishima Garden goes slightly more upscale (though not in the least bit stuffy), with good value course menus that highlight regional delicacies. Your parade of dishes may include mozuku (a vinegar seaweed dish popular on Okinawa) or the island’s famed goya (bitter melon) served up in an Italian-style pasta dish. Course menus range from ¥3800 to ¥4800 but there is also the option to order à la carte for the evening meal. The food is often served on pottery handmade by island artists, emphasizing once more the restaurant’s desire to focus on products that are locally made.
Those driving to Ukishima Garden will find several small (paid) parking lots just a short walk from the restaurant, though be aware that the roads in this section of the city are quite narrow. Those coming by public transportation from elsewhere in Naha should use the Kencho-mae monorail stop and then walk ten minutes.
For those traveling in Kyoto, it’s also worth popping into Ukishima Garden’s sister restaurant, which focuses on vegan shojin (Buddhist style) cuisine prepared with vegetables sourced from the Kansai area.
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