After Hours: Enjoy sushi galore at the Grand Mer on Okinawa
OKINAWA CITY — Strange circumstances can sometimes lead you to good eats.
Take, for example, a night out at the Shuna Restaurant on the second floor of the Tokyo Dai-ichi Hotel Okinawa Grand Mer Resort.
In the beginning, I just thought it’d be a fun place to visit with three friends whose beautiful ocean view was destroyed when the hotel was built in front of their home some 10 years ago. You know, let them see the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean they had been missing all these years.
But while the view was great, we wound up sitting instead at the sushi bar, where we marveled at chef Manabu Hentona’s preparation skills. The sushi platters we ordered were dished up elegantly and, for the most part, quickly, considering they were made from scratch. And the prices were about what you’d expect at a quality sushi restaurant.
The choices were out of this world. For 980 yen my first selection was a Rainbow Roll of tuna, salmon, avocado, squid and shrimp wrapped together with rice and cream cheese in the middle. With Okinawa’s own Orion beer to wash it down, I couldn’t think of anything better.
Until, that is I tasted the anago, freshwater eel grilled on an electric hibachi right in front of me, rolled with avocado rice and seaweed and served on a platter to look like a caterpillar — hence its name, the Caterpillar Roll.
Heavenly. Especially with some of that ice-cold Orion beer.
As he rolled an Ichiro Killer Roll, Hentona talked about his craft.
“What you must do is, with a gentle touch, put air into the sushi rice so that when you eat it the sushi will melt in your mouth,” he said, explaining that he’s been a sushi chef for 20 years, 10 of them on Okinawa.
The menu says “all the ingredients that Ichiro cannot eat are in this roll including beef marinated in sour plum and shiso.” A Japanese friend informed me that Ichiro is a ballplayer for the Seattle Mariners.
I don’t know why he would not be able to eat his namesake roll, but it’s his loss. The rolls melted in my mouth.
The toughest thing about eating at the sushi bar was it was all too good and there’s too, too much, especially for someone who’s trying to watch his weight. But then, it might just be okay for someone who’s brave enough to once in a while say: “Darn it, I put in a full week’s work. I deserve something special.”
That’s what Friday night dinner at the Grand Mer’s sushi restaurant was — something special.
To see previous After Hours reviews, go to stripes.com/afterhours.
Prices: Sushi rolls 600-1,100 yen, sushi set meals 980-3,500 yen. There are sashimi and tempura offerings 780-2,500 yen.
Hours: 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Drinks: Japanese beers starting at 400 yen. Full menu page of local awamori selections ranging from 300 yen to 700 yen per glass to 1,500 yen to 5,800 yen for bottles. Various cocktails 500 yen to 630 yen. Soft drinks 350 yen.
Food: Sushi, tempura, sashimi, Japanese and Okinawa traditional fare.
Clientele: A mix of Japanese and Americans, hotel is English friendly
Location: The Shuna Restaurant is located on the second floor of the Tokyo Dai-ichi Hotel Okinawa Grand Mer Resort. Okinawa City, follow signs from Highway 329 in Okinawa City’s Yogi district.