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Bistro Dugong: Okinawaís top authentic French restaurant

By: David Knickerbocker

Date Posted: 2002-07-13

Over the past two decades, only one restaurant on Okinawa has had such overwhelming recognition as the only true French restaurant on island. Only one French restaurant has held true to the essence of authentic French cuisine. The funny thing is this: from the outside, the restaurant looks nearly the same as every other building on its block. From the inside, the decorations hint that this may be a French restaurant, but nothing of the restaurants semi-classy interior and settings give any suggestion that this is the Mecca of French cuisine on Okinawa and one of the top French restaurants in all of Japan!

However, Bistro Dugong is just that! There are other French restaurants on island and throughout Japan, and some of them have even thrived over the years. However, most of those are either inexcusably expensive or they alter the true taste of their French cuisine to match Japanese tastes. This is not the case at Bistro Dugong. They serve up the finest in traditional French cuisine. Modern French cuisine is prepared as a piece of art for both the eyes and the tastes, but Dugong delivers equally tasty food and you actually leave full!

All of the dishes prepared by chef Yoshio Hironaka are incredibly delicious. Each is a masterpiece prepared by a well-trained artist. Hironaka spent his first five years in chefís attire at the Tokyo Hilton but decided soon after to specialize in Gaelic food. A short while later, he hopped on a plane for Europe, spent a few years cooking in London, and then headed to France for four years. There he cooked in some of the most famous kitchens in the world including Maximís and Tour DíArgent. Picking up letters of recommendation from each, he headed back to Japan and Okinawa where he cooked for the Hilton Hotel for four years. After that, he and his wife decided to open up the Bistro in 1981. Since then, Bistro Dugong has been bringing the best of the best in French cuisine to the appreciative Okinawan audience.

For my meal, I was served escargot in butter sauce, French bread, salad, French onion soup, and stuffed duck with mushroom sauce. Though wary of eating any kind of mollusk, the escargot was great. The garlic bread is especially delicious if you dip it in the escargot butter sauce. The French onion soup was inexplicably good. Words cannot give adequate description of the fullness of its taste, the perfection of its preparation. I donít usually get excited about soup, but Bistro Dugongís French onion soup is tremendous. Itís well worth the trip itself! The funny thing is every dish is like that. The duck was also delicious and flavorful, the salad was crisp and fresh, and the bread was just right. The meal was indeed special!

After eating my meal, I was served two desserts: caramelís custard and chocolate mousse. They were simply too good to be true. However, the big shock came when I learned that they had both been made from scratch by Hironaka himself, not pre-made elsewhere. The Bistroís desserts are dreamlike.

Bistro Dugong has three dinner sets to choose from. The Chef's Recommendations is a full course dinner set for •3,500 that includes appetizers, soup, salad, a meat or seafood dish, coffee or tea, and dessert. The •2,300 set includes baked French onion soup or hot or chilled consomme, salad, a meat or seafood dish, and coffee or tea. Finally, their •2,000 set includes the soup of the day, salad, a meat or seafood dish, and coffee or tea. You can also order appetizers individually for between •1,200 and •1,500 per dish, and desserts go for between •300 and •500.

The restaurant and setting itself is quaint and quiet, clean and comfortable. Bistro Dugong is the perfect peaceful place to bring a date for a remarkable romantic candlelight dinner. The restaurant is open for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. everyday except for Tuesdays and Sundays, and for dinner from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Reservations are required, so please call (098)936-4301 in advance.

Bistro Dugong is by far the best French restaurant I have ever been to on Okinawa. Everything is perfect! Nothing is mediocre! Everything is full of flavor and prepared just right.

To get to Bistro Dugong, if you are driving south from Kadena Gate 1, turn left on Highway 23 up the side of Kadena Air Base towards Gate 5. Drive to the first pedestrian overpass and turn right. Bistro is on the right side of the street near The Bank of the Ryukyus. Free parking is available.

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