Nirai Kanai Okinawan Restaurant.

Interior.

Interior.

I swear, it’s a Hidden Gem.
One would never have stumbled upon this Okinawan Restaurant if not for by word of mouth. Not only is it thanks to them being located in Liang Court (a distance away from Clarke Quay MRT), they are also hidden right at a corner of the basement level. Really. But well, keeping it that way has its good – otherwise a queue might start to form and dining there would begin to be impossible. So well, just read, nod, and move on. No sharing.

Whether it’s the interior or the exterior of the restaurant, you would feel as if you were transported to just another setting all together. I love its wooden-themed concept. Not forgetting cozy, and experiencing a crash course of Okinawa, Japan (in this case, more so because I was dining with a friend who visits Japan regularly).

(A) Okinawa, located in the southern end of Japan, has its own Japanese dialect that even people from the mainland Japan might have difficulty understanding. Further, it doesn’t only have one dialect; It’s like a small China, with diverse language.
(B) They live so very healthily that the population is known as the world’s longest-lived people – having 34 centenarians per 100,000 people. Amazing.  I am thus guessing that they are living quite a pure, pollution-free life, nothing like the built-up urban lives we’re living today.

Okinawan Seasoned Rice Dish :: $6++

Okinawan Seasoned Rice Dish :: $6++

Okinawan Seasoned Rice Dish ($6++) :: Prior to the visit in this far far away restaurant, I’d read everywhere that this is the to-order dish. But really, maybe it was because of the hype, I don’t know, I don’t find this anything too special, or to die for. Granted it’s good, but not a must-try. It’s served warm, and it’s well-flavored.

Pig's Ear :: $8++

Pig’s Ear :: $8++

Pig’s Ear ($8++) :: This is one of my favorite dishes of the afternoon. I don’t recall seeing this listed on the menu, despite duly going through the menu in an orderly manner. I might have just left my pair of eyes at home. Nevertheless, order this, please. I love that it’s all thrown up together with cold cucumber and beansprout. The slight tinge of sourness that comes with it really cooks up a perfect appetizer to kick start the entire meal.

Deep-Fried Aosa Seaweed :: $12++

Deep-Fried Aosa Seaweed :: $12++

Deep-Fried Aosa Seaweed ($12++) :: Not your everyday kind of seaweed (let alone fried ones), this another species of seaweed from the water bodies goes well with sea salt. If taken alone, it can be a little bland and boring. Not exactly a must-have, again, but good to have said you’ve eaten AOSA Seaweed. If people know what you’re talking about.

Stir-Fried Vegetable Set :: $15.30++

Stir-Fried Vegetable Set :: $15.30++

Stir-Fried Vegetable Set ($15.30++) :: Complete with a bowl of Japanese rice (I love the sticky rice), this bunch of bitter gourd has proved to have taken a lot of diners’ hearts. It is relatively less bitter, though still, but has a very smooth texture and easy to eat. It tends to be easier to finish even for a non-bitter-food-taker. It’s much raved about, but let me bring down a notch for you so that you can better enjoy this course.

Simmered Pork Belly :: $13.80++

Simmered Pork Belly :: $13.80++

Simmered Pork Belly ($13.80++) :: For only 4 pieces, it might come off as a little pricey. But if I were to go back, I would still place an order on this. You can be assured that its meat isn’t tough, isn’t too salty, and is chunky yet easy to strip off its meat horizontally. Coming from a person who loves his Pork Belly.

Pork Rib Soup Noodles :: $8.80++

Pork Rib Soup Noodles :: $8.80++

Pork Rib Soup Noodles ($8.80++) :: As reflective in its price, this fell a little short. Yes, yes, the pork ribs are just fine and meaty enough, but its noodles aren’t something to yell about. Neither is its soup base. So if you’re intending for a satisfied meal with just this bowl of noodles alone, please stop thinking that.

Stir-Fried Wheat-Gluten :: $12++

Stir-Fried Wheat-Gluten :: $12++

Stir-Fried Wheat Gluten ($12++) :: If you are new to this product, it is basically, wheat – washing the wheat flour dough with water until all its starch dissolves. I don’t even know how to put it into words, but it tastes kind of good in your mouth, a little elastic, soft, for sure, but a little dry (like the feeling you get from consuming MSG) after eating a bit too much. I wouldn’t say it’s worth the $12, but not too bad a dish to share amongst the table.

So yes. Since it’s so much of a gem, and has all the unique dishes you don’t see in other usual Japanese Restaurants, you might want to do it the way we did – order like a zi char style and share. Sharing is caring after all right. Go for it – it’s a different type of cuisine for a change, not your commonly seen Japanese sushi, hand rolls, udons, etc.

Address (In Context): 177 River Valley Road, Liang Court, #B1-01/02
Telephone: 6339 4811
Opening Hours: 12pm – 3pm; 6pm – 11pm (Mon – Fri); 12pm – 11pm (Sat & Sun)

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