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Love brought Obbligato to Okinawa

Date Posted: 2009-09-10

Mexican dishes centered on a chili sauce got their start more than a century ago in America, but it took a love affair from a GI to get those dishes to Okinawa.

Enchilada plates, chili omelets and a combination of zesty Mexican dishes built around a chili sauce created by Theadora Casillas in 1998, in far off Mexico and Arizona, were passed down to daughter Maria, but family interests weren’t focused on foods, and the business floundered. Her youngest son was given the secret recipes, and Richard Esparaza studied cooking, took the chef’s exam, then joined the military and traveled. He wound up in Europe for a wine competition, and there his life changed.

Destiny brought Toshiko Tsuhako of Okinawa into Esparza’s life, and he followed her to Okinawa, where he resurrected the chili sauce dish and started Obbligato Restaurant in 1981. Obbligato’s has been passed down to the second generation, with Mark Esparaza running the restaurant chain with locations in Chatan Town, Uruma City and Yomitan Village.

Obbligato has transformed its Uruma City branch into a factory for tortillas, where customers can watch their tortillas being made. The tortillas are sold at all three Obbligato locations. The family recipes are on the menus, starting with the ¥700 enchilada plate and the ¥650 chili omelet. Also available for ¥650 is the Zesty Red Chicken Mole, Chimichanga meal for ¥900, crispy tacos for ¥550, an enchilada meal at ¥1,000, the Carnitas meal for ¥1,300 and the Combination Meal for ¥1,500.

Reservations are available at Chatan branch, (098) 926-1888, Uruma branch, (098) 972-4220, and Yomitan branch, (098) 956-7420.

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