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Delicious Filipino Food and Warm Hearts at Sampaguita

By: “Grand Chef” Keizo Nakasone

Date Posted: 1999-11-10

For anyone who likes good home-cooked meals Filipino style, Sampaguita offers the perfect setting. Everything, from the simple decor to the casual atmosphere, will make one feel like an honored guest at someone's home. And, the food is delicious!

Since 1992, Sampaguita has been a landmark in Okinawa City for those who love Filipino food. It is very popular with Filipino residents living on the island, Americans, Okinawans, and also with Japanese mainland tourists. On any given day during lunch hour, the small restaurant is filled with the sounds of Tagalog, English, and Japanese mixing together with the smells of garlic and vinegar from the kitchen. It is one of those places that naturally brings people together and leaves you with a warm feeling from heart to stomach.

Owner Francisca Kinjo, who was born and raised in northern Luzon, has managed to bring the taste of the Philippines to Sampaguita without sacrificing quality or quantity. Everything on the menu is made with the classic ingredients which makes Filipino food so tasty - plenty of garlic, fresh vegetables, and a touch of spice here and there. All of the meals are filling, and are served together with rice and soup for only ¥700. (A few dishes, such as "Lumpia" and "Pancit Bihon" are listed for ¥600.) If anyone prefers to sample a variety of dishes, sharing with a group of friends is an excellent way to order at Sampaguita.

We ordered the "Chicken Adobo," "Lumpia," and the "Pancit Bihon." Each was delicious. For those of you who have never eaten Filipino food before, Chicken Adobo is a well-known dish that is slowly cooked in a garlic and vinegar sauce. The meat becomes so tender it practically falls off the bones. Pancit Bihon is another popular dish that is made with vegetable and rice noodles stir-fried together. Lumpia, which can be found at most international festivals on Okinawa, tastes similar to a spring roll.

Other foods that can be found at Sampaguita are "Lo-silog" (garlic rice with sausages and eggs), Singang Na Sipon (sour soup made with herbs, spices, shrimp and vegetables), "Kare Kare" (meat stew with ox tail, green beans and egg plant), and "Afritada" (tomato base stew with carrots, onions, chicken, and potatoes). San Miguel beer is available for ¥400. The menu is filled with many other great tasting selections, but one hint to visitors to Sampaguita is this: not everything on the menu is always available. Francisca selects a few dishes from the menu to be prepared for each day, along with some common items that can be ordered anytime.

Visitors to Sampaguita will also find a small selection of groceries for sale, ranging from common canned foods from the Philippines to popular snack items.

Although most Okinawans will tell you that it's the home-style cooking of Sampaguita that makes one come back for more, Filipino residents flock there because of the good food plus a little extra - a reminder of home that is felt from the warmth given to each meal by Francisca, known to everyone as "Nanai" (mother).

"We don't miss the Philippines so much because the Philippines is here," said one young Filipino lady, who was eating "Daing Na Bangus with Talong" (tender milk fish and eggplant) with a friend. "It's like my mom is here with me."

"I love to cook. It's my hobby," explained Francisca. "Home economics was my best subject in school!"

Every Saturday you can enjoy Sampaguita's all-you-can-eat lunch buffet from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. The restaurant's recent expansion has added more space for larger groups, and reservations can be made by calling 938-3875. Sampaguita sometimes closes early in the evenings, so if you are going there for dinner, make sure you get there early or call first.

Sampaguita is located a few doors down from Phai's House of Jade, just off of Gate 2 Street.

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