Salsa’s authentic Peruvian menu brings a taste of Latin America to Okinawa
By CARLOS M. VAZQUEZ II | Stars and Stripes | Published: November 20, 2018
One beauty of life is learning about different cultures through food — but in Okinawa, one of the smallest prefectures in Japan, finding authentic versions of dishes from around the world can sometimes be a bit difficult. Luckily, a small neighborhood restaurant on the island offers diners the chance to sample a type of Latin American cuisine that’s a rare find even outside of the Land of the Rising Sun: Peruvian food.
If you are looking to experience something new (or want to revisit the flavors of Peru), Salsa will not disappoint. I discovered Salsa by accident, after getting lost during an attempt to familiarize myself with the major highways of the island. I happened to be hungry, my stomach grumbling during the drive — and that’s when a sign featuring the words “Peruvian Food” caught my eye.
Once inside, the restaurant’s Peruvian-inspired decor — along with the two sisters who own Salsa — provided me with a warm welcome. Although born and raised in Peru, the owners were inspired by their Okinawan grandparents to bring Peruvian cuisine to the island.
For those unfamiliar with Peruvian food, Salsa’s menu, which is available in both English and Japanese, features photos of each dish to help make ordering a bit easier. I was pleased with the restaurant’s variety of well-known Peruvian staples — which includes everything from arroz con pollo (1,000 yen, or about $8.90), a chicken and rice dish common in Latin American cuisine, to estofado de carne (1,200 yen), a traditional Peruvian beef stew. Salsa is particularly well-known for its roasted chicken plates (900 yen for a quarter chicken and 1,300 for a half chicken), which are made with locally raised chicken and are accompanied by a variety of side dishes.
For less-adventurous eaters, Salsa also offers a wide selection of specialty pizzas, such as a classic margherita pizza (starting at 1,000 yen), a seafood pizza (starting at 1,200 yen) and a German potato pizza (starting at 1,100 yen), which the restaurant claims is popular with children. While the pizzas looked appetizing, I had come to Salsa to satisfy my Peruvian food cravings — so I opted to save the pizzas for another visit.
For my meal, I chose the lomo saltado (1,300 yen) — a popular Peruvian dish featuring sauteed lean beef, onions, tomatoes and french fries. The dish also comes with rice and a side of soup. The soup, a fusion of Japanese miso and Spanish chicken noodle, was the surprise of the meal.
After ordering, I was a bit worried I had selected a dish that had the potential to be greasy and a bit unhealthy. But once my food arrived, my fears were put to rest. The lomo saltado was an evenly balanced dish, with the strips of tender, moist steak accented by the unique Latin flavors that define Peru’s cuisine.
To add some spice to your dish, the restaurant’s aji sauce — a classic Peruvian condiment containing mayonnaise, cheese, cilantro, peppers, garlic and lime — gives an added kick to anything on the menu.
To wash down my meal, I kept with the Peruvian theme and ordered Inca Kola (280 yen), one of Peru’s most famous beverages. Created in 1935, Inca Kola is a common soft drink similar to cream soda sold in many Latin American restaurants, and its eye-catching golden can is undeniably iconic.
After my meal, I still had room for dessert. I was told that Salsa’s chiffon cake is one of its more popular dessert options, but the restaurant was sold out during my visit — so I ordered the leche asada (250 yen), an oven-baked milk custard similar to flan. Although the leche asada wasn’t as sweet as I would have liked, eating the creamy custard brought back memories of dining at the homes of my Peruvian friends while growing up.
Being able to practice both my Japanese and my Spanish with the staff while dining at Salsa was an added bonus, and made me feel a bit more “at home.”
Salsa’s take on classic Peruvian dishes is a unique standout on the Okinawa food scene, adding variety to the selection of restaurants on the island. The friendly service and wide selection of dishes is definitely enough to keep me coming back for more.
LOCATION: 16-1 Misato, Okinawa City, Okinawa, Japan
DIRECTIONS: From Gate 3 of Kadena Air Base, turn right onto Route 74. At the Misato Intersection, turn left onto Route 85, then turn right onto Route 329. Salsa will be located on the left side of the road on a corner directly adjacent to a baseball field.
HOURS: Open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., with last order for dining in at 8:15 p.m. and take-away at 8:45 p.m.
COST: Yen or credit cards accepted. Entrees start at 900 yen, about $8 (for a quarter roast chicken plate) up to 1,650 yen.