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At the Obbligato, Delicious Mexican Cuisine is an Obligation

By: “Grand Chef” Keizo Nakasone

Date Posted: 2000-01-22

In the beautiful Portuguese language, the term “Obbligato” simply means “Thank You.” But in Okinawa, there’s more to it than just an expression of gratitude. Richard Esparza, one of the prosperous businessmen of the island, has made the flavors of world famous Mexican dishes an obligation for all out-of-home diners in search of extraordinary culinary experiences.

Someone said that it is impossible to restrain oneself from saying a big “Thank You” to the service personnel of the Obbligato restaurants after having dined there. That theory can be easily verified at the branch located around the overpass at Kadena Circle on Highway 58, next to the Okinawa Bank. Here, there is a wide variety of Mexican dishes and a few Japanese specialties on the menu. The Chatan branch, located off of Highway 58 in Mihana, offers some slight variations on the dinner menu that is usually served from 5 p.m. These include larger servings than during the day, and different combinations of exotic foodstuff.

At the Kadena Circle Obbligato, which was established in 1984 by Richard Esparza and his wife Toshiko just after they came into Okinawa from Los Angeles, CA, one can relish great Mexican plates that are easily recognizable by sight and by name. However, the dishes are all the result of Esparza family’s own original recipes. All the sauces are original, including the salsa. That gives a whole meaning to Mexican cuisine, as generic dishes are positively transformed through a personal touch.

Breakfast menu at the Obbligato restaurants include Spanish omelets, vegetable omelets and French toast. These selections can be topped with Vienna cream coffee, Capuccino, or Ice coffee. At lunch time or supper, the main Mexican dishes on the menu are enchiladas, served with rice, potato and egg; Chili pork, a stew-like pork sauce with rice and egg; and Canneloni, which is a dish of beef wrapped in pasta, covered with tomato sauce and cheese, and served with toast or salad; and burritos, that is beef and beans served with a choice of rice, toast or salad.

All the dishes on the menu are available the entire day. Prices for all dishes are very affordable, and range between ¥400 and ¥850. Dollars are also accepted for payments. On weekdays, meals come with free tea or coffee until 2:00 p.m. Bilingual staff is available at all times.

Richard Esparza says he learnt the recipe for these special dishes from an Italian restaurant in Wurzberg, Germany. Esparza is an experienced cook, who served as a mess sergeant from 1966-75 while stationed in Thailand and Germany. The US Military sponsored him through a culinary institution. He later worked as a wine expert at the celebrity restaurant Perino’s in Los Angeles for one year after having retired from the military. He then moved to Okinawa and started with a 24-hour restaurant.

The Kadena Circle branch of Obbligato is open from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 midnight, 7 days a week. The Chatan branch (opened in 1996) is open all week from 11:00 a.m. to midnight.

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