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GINOWAN, Okinawa — The thing about Japanese restaurants is they tend to serve their food in mysterious, covered containers.

Were it not for the soulful jazz playing during lunch, I probably would have screeched after taking the lid off one such bowl and finding a fish head staring back at me.

I guess I’m too American, but I just don’t want to look my food in the eye. I passed on the miso soup.

I was more enthused about digging into the main course of my solo meal at Highway 1, a traditional Japanese joint not far from Camp Foster. I ordered the unagi don, a dish of broiled eel over rice with a slightly sweet sauce. I absolutely love unagi, so for me that’s a test of a restaurant’s culinary quality. It wasn’t the best I ever had, but I’d order it again.

I was a little disappointed, though, that despite the sign saying “sushi restaurant,” Highway 1 is not a traditional sushi place. It offers a few rolls — California, tuna — but all with the strange addition of mayonnaise. My Japanese colleague told me that is a recent fad among younger generations.

But despite some surprises, Highway 1 has a nice selection of dishes and a reasonably priced lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The lunch menu has items such as maku no uchi, a traditional Japanese picnic lunch served in a pretty lacquered box; chicken teriyaki with vegetables, soup and rice; and katsu don, a bowl of rice topped with deep-fried pork cutlet, egg and veggies. And each meal is served with a couple of slices of melt-in-your-mouth raw tuna.

With all the Americanized restaurants located near bases, this one feels distinctly Japanese. They don’t speak any English, but with the courteous service that characterizes most Japanese establishments, they’ll promptly bring you an English menu along with a cup of green tea and a hot towel.

See previous After Hours reviews here.

Highway 1

Ginowan, Okinawa

Prices: Lunch, served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., ranges from 500 to 1,000 yen. Dinner, served until 11 p.m., is more expensive, with some dishes, such as buttered lobster, costing 1,700 yen.

Specialties: Traditional Japanese dishes, such as katsu don and maku no uchi.

English menu: Yes.

Dress: Casual.

Clientele: Local crowd, almost exclusively Japanese.

Location: From Camp Foster’s Gate 5, take a left onto Highway 58 to head south toward Camp Kinser. Take a right at the second light. The restaurant is the third building on the left.

Web site: None.


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