YOMITAN, Okinawa — Rakuza is easily one of the best small restaurants on Okinawa.

And if you don’t believe me, here’s what my dinner companions said after a relaxed evening meal at this food lover’s haven overlooking the East China Sea:

“These are absolutely the best spring rolls I’ve ever had — crisp, spicy, with a Thai sauce that’s just out of this world,” Matthew said, dipping the last piece into the sauce.

“No, the salmon sashimi was the best,” Ruth Ellen chimed in. “It tasted extraordinary. The texture was soft, but not mushy, and the marinade was light, not overpowering, complementing the fish. It was just right.”

But she changed her mind when the carbonara came — pasta with an Italian sauce of cream, eggs, Parmesan cheese, pancetta (Italian bacon), pepper and garlic.

“You know, this has to be some of the best food I’ve had on Okinawa in years,” she said.

Ayano, on the other hand, loved the dinner-plate sized bacon pizza and the avocado and potato salad with a smooth sesame dressing.

“Oishi, very good,” she said.

And me? I liked it all. And there was plenty.

Rakuza has a limited menu, but what they lack in choice is made up in quality. For 2,600 yen (about $20), we chose one of four multiple-course meals advertised to be enough to feed three people. We had four people, and there was still plenty of food.

Rakuza means “a fun, music, place,” and it lived up to its name. Located in the Nagahama district of Yomitan, the restaurant has proved so popular that reservations are recommended for weekend nights.

It’s a small place, just nine tables and 10 seats at a long bar, and decorated with original paintings and pottery. There’s an English menu, but I’d recommend dining with a friend who speaks Japanese and can benefit from the more detailed Japanese menu.

See previous After Hours reviews here.


Hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch and 6 p.m. to midnight for dinner.

Prices: Individual salads, noodle, rice or fried dishes cost in the 650-680 yen range. Bacon, salami, anchovy, or taco pizza cost 700-750 yen. There are two kinds of draft beer, the local Orion for 430 yen or Asahi for 450 yen. A glass of local awamori is 600 yen. Soft drinks and coffee range from 300 yen to 350 yen. Cocktails are 600 yen and bottles of wine cost 1,800 yen to 3,750 yen.

Specialties: Everything. Really. The sashimi was unbelievable and the spring rolls were to die for. English menu: Yes, but not as extensive as the Japanese menu.

Dress: Casual.

Clientele: Mix of Okinawans and Americans, with a smattering of tourists.

Location: In Yomitan. Take Highway 6 from Highway 58 and drive past the entrance to Torii Station toward Cape Zanpa. You’ll see small signs directing you to Rakuza along the roads. Go through old Yomitan village to the stoplight just before the sign directing you to Zanpa. Turn right at the light (between a garage and a gas station) and then left at the second street (there’s a small Rakuza sign on the corner) and go down the hill.

Phone Number: 098-958-7166.

Web site: None.

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