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Date Posted: 2001-09-07

Salsatina is another great place to get your feet wet in the world of Salsa in Okinawa, but the food is more original than any of the other Salsa establishments we interviewed. They have a wide selection of Latino foods to choose from, and everything we tried was immensely delicious and spicy! As you walk up the stairs, through the outside balcony, and into Salsatina, the sounds and smells of Salsatina will immediately awaken your senses, and you might find your feet involuntarily tapping the ground to the upbeat Salsa music. "Salsa music isn't the music you hear with your ears; you hear it with your whole body." says Michiyo, co-owner of Salsatina. The name Salsatina was created by the owners as a mix between Salsa and Latina, which signifies that everyone has their own taste in music and in food. Many of the Latino customers who visit this cafe say they feel at home here, and according to Michiyo, visitors become a family very quickly here. She says that if you visit twice, the employees and regulars will recognize you. Also, Salsatina welcomes all ages and nationalities. Everyone fits in here. Michiyo says that some customers even drive as far as from Hansen to visit her establishment!

Salsatina's owner Julio Hirashiki was born in Peru and lived there until he was 20 years old. He moved to Japan 18 years ago and lived in the mainland for a decade before moving to Okinawa. While on the mainland, he met Michiyo. The two were married six years later, and have been married for twelve years now. While dating, the two would often visit Cuban Bar Boolaguita, and it was there that they made plans to open a Salsa venue of their own, a dream that would come true twelve years later in May 2000. Since then, with Okinawa's Salsa scene being one of the latest to explode, business has been steadily blooming! This is an excellent getaway to go to for a meal or a drink with friends. There is also a small dance floor for those wishing to dance. Also, though the club doesn't advertise dance lessons, Michiyo and Julio are always open to teaching those who are interested, and many from the crowd will do the same.

Most of the decorations, from tablecloths to ornaments shown in the display case, have been imported from Peru. The restaurant has a large supply of imported beer, including Cristal (Peru), Corona (Mexico), Tecate (Mexico), and Dos Equis (Mexico), and the prices are affordable ranging from 500 to 700. You might also want to try Pisco. It's hard to define exactly what Pisco is, but it can be compared to what awamori is to the Okinawans. Where Awamori uses rice, Pisco uses grapes. It is mixed with lemon in a drink called Pisco Sour and with Coca Cola in a Pisco Libre.

Also, this cafe boasts the largest food variety of all Okinawa Salsa cafes. Most of the food served here is of Peruvian origin, but Salsatina also serves some Mexican fare and a little bit of Japanese. We tried four plates from the menu and each was somewhat spicy, but very delicious. Salsatina claims to be the only Salsa cafe on island serving Tamal, a delicious dish of crushed giant corn with beans, meat, and olive oil, wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. Sounds good? It is! Watch out for the hidden red pepper though! The Papa Ala Huancaina, or potatoes with a special cream sauce is a very great dish and will accompany any meal nicely. I was a little intimidated by the idea of eating Anticucho, or beef heart, but this plate proved to be nothing to fear. In fact, it's great if you can get yourself to brave it! If you like spicy meat, you'll like it. Finally, Pitagoras were basically round hard-shelled tacos with beef, lettuce, cheese, and tomatoes. They are perfect for appetizers, as a snack, or to supplement a meal.

A lot of Salsa fans jump from cafe to cafe and from club to club, and if you're looking for a great place to start your evening of Salsa jumping, this is the place to start.

To get there, drive down to Naha on Highway 58 and turn left towards Okinawa Prefecture Office Building and Palette Kumoji. Just before Palette Kumoji on your right, turn left behind Okinawa Bank Head Office. Drive to the right side of a small park in front of you. After three blocks, Salsatina is on the second floor of a building. Pay parking is available around the corner.

Mon. ~ Thu. 6 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Fri. ~ Sat. 6 p.m. - 4 a.m.
Information 098-868-8286

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