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Ippongushi - a Rare and Delicious Taste of the Mainland

By: Dinner Gong

Date Posted: 2001-02-09

In Chubu or middle Okinawa there is only one restaurant that specializes in mainland Japanese cooking, quite different from the Okinawan fare available everywhere else. Ippongushi, which has been open only a few months, is surrounded by Izakaya or traditional pubs, where local varieties of yakitori may be sampled. None of them go in for its mainstay, Kushiage, delicacies on bamboo skewers, deep fried in egg, flour and breadcrumbs. Ippongushi makes 300 of these, which rely on fresh ingredients and have to be eaten quickly after frying.

Meat, poultry, shrimp, fish and vegetable based, they are served individually, in sets of three or five or with other dishes.

One of the most popular orders is the Lady’s Set for ¥1000, which DG tried. This consists of three pieces of Kushiage, some salad, green tea noodles, grilled rice ball and dessert. The main characteristic of Kushiage is that although fried, they are not in the least greasy or heavy. The taste is light, fresh and crunchy, with an interesting combination of flavors. The ones in Dinner Gong’s Lady’s Set were beef and pineapple, eggplant and minced chicken, tuna and avocado. DG thought the green tea soba particularly delicious, with a consistency slightly firmer than normal noodles, served in a soy based sauce with a dash of seaweed and some wasabe an optional extra. The rice ball was lightly fried on the outside and had a salmon center. The salad contained crab sticks, tomato, lettuce and cole slaw. Dessert was a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

A more elaborate version of the Lady’s Set can be ordered for ¥2000, which includes appetizers and sushi as well as Kushiage. A still more opulent Lady’s Set is available at ¥3000, containing sashimi and five different types of Kushiage.

The three long term friends who founded Ippongushi got to know about mainstream Japanese cuisine on visits to the mainland. They realized that many Okinawans who don’t know about Kushiage were missing out on a delicious item. In preparation for opening the restaurant they went to Tokyo and Osaka to sample the best varieties available. The chef, who has had 17 years experience in his trade has lived and worked in Tokyo.

If you want to try Kushiage without a full set of other dishes, you can order a set of three for ¥450 or a five piece set for ¥750. Types served depend on the chef’s recommendations that day.

There are many other exotic possibilities. One section of the menu is devoted to Kushiyaki, grilled rather than deep fried and also served on a stick. Dinner Gong tried the three quail eggs wrapped in bacon and mini tomatoes, also wrapped in bacon, which were very good. Other Kushiyaki possibilities are: chicken, liver, heart, gizzard and chicken wing; chicken, leek, beef tongue and beef rib; pork with kimuchi, beef and vegetable. They all cost ¥120.

Another unusual item appreciated by your reviewer was a heart shaped piece of camembert cheese fried on a stick.

Also tried was another variety of Kushiage, chicken mince and shiitake mushroom, a tasty combination. Other Kushiage choices are: pumpkin, cheese, asparagus and chicken; minced chicken, eggplant, shrimp ball and quail eggs; asparagus and beef; mini tomato, bacon, beef fillet, salmon and mussels; beef and pineapple scallop. They cost from ¥120 to ¥200 each.

There is also a tempura section. The Combination at ¥1000, containing shrimp, squid, fish and vegetables was a great blend of flavors, delicately crunchy and lightly salted just enough. Delicious. Other tempura are shrimp at ¥800 and squid, ¥600.

Another notable dish offered by Ippongushi is Seilomshi, steamed seafood served in a large rectangular wooden container with a bamboo base. It contains snapper, shrimp, mussels, scallops, mushroom and shrimp gyoza.

There are other steamed items, such as Chimaki, a rice ball with pork and tiny shrimps, a Chinese specialty served in a round bamboo vessel.

There is also Chawanmushi, chicken, mushroom and white fish in a hot, solidified egg sauce, served in a ceramic cup and eaten with a teaspoon.

Sushi and sashimi are also catered for at this restaurant. The one I tried was Oshi Sushi, an exotic and delicious combination of salmon, tuna, mackerel, flying fish eggs, ginger and seaweed. There are sushi and sashimi sets for ¥1000 each and other choices of tuna, squid and avocado sushi and sashimi, costing between ¥500 and ¥800.

Other possibilities at Ippongushi include Onigiri, tofu dishes and a variety of salads.

The restaurant is offering a Valentine’s Day Special from Feb 8 to Feb 14. To customers who bring a copy of Japan Update, all food will be half price from 6pm to 8 pm. Ippongushi accepts yen only. Tel. 090-4359-8206.

Directions: Coming from Kadena Gate 3 along Highway 23, pass the Gate 2 intersection and China Pete’s on your left. At the next traffic light where the Express Highway entrance is, turn away from it to the left and go all the way up the street towards Highway 330. About 50 yards before the intersection with Highway 330, Ippongushi is on the right with a red lantern hanging outside. An hour’s free parking is available in the car park next to “Grand Parking” on the same street, just before you reach the restaurant.

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