Okinawa’s Waryu Sushi Shuna offers a high-quality sushi experience at affordable prices
By AYA ICHIHASHI | Stars and Stripes | Published: November 8, 2018
In Japan, sitting at a sushi counter and ordering directly from the chef is considered a luxurious treat reserved for special occasions. Dinners at high-end sushi restaurants throughout the country can easily set diners back 10,000 yen (about $95) or more.
Finding quality sushi is especially challenging for anyone living on Okinawa. The island is far from Tokyo’s famous fish markets, and the warmer ocean waters around Okinawa mean that certain types of fish commonly used for sushi aren’t readily available. As a result, “budget-conscious” and “good sushi” don’t really go hand-in-hand on Okinawa — but that all changed when I found Waryu Sushi Shuna, where I now go to calm my sushi cravings.
Located inside Okinawa’s Grand Mer Resort, Waryu Sushi Shuna offers ample counter seating — which means diners can experience an authentic sushi experience by ordering directly from the chef. The restaurant’s head chef, Kazuhiro Takahashi, is friendly and relies on his experience working in Tokyo to create deliciously impressive sushi. Takahashi specializes in Edomae, or “Edo style” sushi, which focuses on presenting high-quality ingredients in a simple, no-frills style that heightens the flavors of the fish. You’ve probably had Edomae sushi without even knowing it, as the style is most commonly referred to as “nigiri” abroad.
During lunch, the restaurant only offers an all-you-can-eat buffet plan, starting at 1,980 yen (or about $17.50) for adults. For the truly authentic sushi dining experience, be sure to visit at dinner, as this is when the restaurant offers counter seating for sushi diners.
When sitting at the counter for dinner at Waryu Sushi Shuna, patrons order off an a la carte menu — but the easiest way to get your sushi fix is by ordering omakase, which translates to “I’ll leave it up to you.” This indicates that the diner trusts the expertise of the chef to prepare a meal featuring the best ingredients on offer. Diners who have allergies must alert the staff prior to the start of the meal to request any substitutions.
During my visit, I chose the 10-piece okamase set (2,280 yen). Takahashi prepared a varied spread of sushi that included my favorite fish, kanpachi, or greater amberjack. I was also served: Okinawan tuna, geoduck, steamed shrimp, Okinawan squid, mackerel, broiled salmon, fresh octopus, minced tuna with pickled daikon radish and egg. Each piece was so perfectly seasoned, there was no need to add extra soy sauce or wasabi.
After indulging in an omakase set, diners may order more sushi from the restaurant’s menu, including freshwater eel, broiled scallops, salmon roe and jumbo shrimp. A small appetizer of chawan mushi, a fish-based broth with steamed egg curd and miso soup was also served when I visited.
For a truly high-end experience, diners can try some of the slightly more expensive specialty sushi, such as New Caledonia Angel Shrimp (500 yen per piece). Other items, such as an assorted tempura plate (500 yen), can also be ordered. For dessert, a plate of local watermelon and pineapple was the perfect way to cap off a delicious meal.
Diners with children should note that the sushi counter seating is restricted to diners aged 12 and older. However, a family-friendly course is available at the many tables in the restaurant — but with a slightly different menu.
While the food at Waryu Sushi Shuna is undeniably delicious, the hospitality offered by Takahashi and his staff make it a truly enjoyably dining experience — and perhaps it will become your favorite spot on Okinawa for sushi, too.
Waryu Sushi Shuna
Location: Waryu Sushi Shuna is located inside the Okinawa Grand Mer Resort. No. 8 - 1 Yoroni Okinawa City, Okinawa Prefecture 904-2174
Hours: Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. for lunch, and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. for dinner.
Prices: Lunch buffet courses, which do not include the sushi counter seating, start at 1,980 yen (around $17.50) for adults on weekdays and 2,480 yen for adults on weekends. Child lunch plans are 980 yen for ages 12 and under. Dinner served at the sushi counter is a la carte, with a basic omakase set starting at 2,280 yen.
Directions: From Naha, take the Okinawa Expressway, continuing on the Kitanakagusuku interchange. Take a right at the first traffic light and follow Route 29 to the end. At the traffic light, take another right onto Route 81. At the Toguchi intersection, turn left onto Route 329. The Okinawa Grand Mer Resort will be on your left. Follow signs to the resort entrance.
Information: Call 098-931-1585 to make a reservation. English-speaking staff is available. Online: www.okinawa-grandmer.com/en/restaurant/shuna