Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Eat & Drink

The Spanish have their tapas bars and the Chinese have their dim sum houses. The idea of small portions of tasty morsels to be shared amongst friends over a drink (whether it be a bottle of tempranillo or a pot of freshly brewed oolong) is appealing because it fosters a shared dining experience.
The Japanese equivalent of this form of dining is the izakaya - or literally to stay and drink. Izakayas are found all over Japan and are immensely popular with many such establishments creating innovative and incredibly delicious snacks to accompany sake or a cold Japanese beer. And given the regional nature of Japan's cuisine - each Izakaya boasts an interesting array of dishes which pay tribute to its region's produce and history.

The prefecture of Okinawa is the most southern of the 47 prefectures in Japan and was only incorporated into Japan about 100 years ago. Consequently, the southern islands still maintain their own distinctive culture, language and cuisine. Okinawan cooking tends toward stronger and spicier flavors than Japanese food, and is more heavily influenced by Chinese cooking styles. Okinawan Diner - Nirai Kanai is a charming, almost rustic izakaya located in the basement of Liang Court - a mall which is heavily patronised by the Japanese expatriate community in Singapore.
We started with a delicious grated daikon salad with sesame dressing. The simple salad was highlighted by wakame, bonito flakes, shiso leaves and cherry tomatoes.

The house specialty, slow cooked pork belly was also well executed with the meat meltingly tender. Being tempted by many of the dishes on the menu, we also ordered the okinawan okonomiyaki (try saying that quickly repeatedly) and the grilled ox tongue. Both dishes which were tasty but not particularly interesting.

The highlight for me personally, was the barbecued pork ribs with shio (salt). Soft pork bone which has been slow cooked until an almost gelatinous consistency is then barbecued and seasoned in sea salt. Simple flavours combined with lovely textures. Salty, juicy, gooey and crusty - all at the same time. Perfect with a refreshing glass of cold Japanese beer or sake.

I love izakayas... almost in the same way I love tapas bars and dim sum houses. Maybe its because you often find a huge variety of interesting dishes to sample. Or it could be that these places are often relaxed and loud conversations are welcome. But perhaps its simply that life's simple pleasures are condensed in such establishments - where good food, good drinks and good friends come together... and that's what great meals are born of.


Hee Luong August 17, 2008 at 6:30 PM  

Hey hey!

Realli AWESOME blog Foodographer. And those are amazing images
Unfortunately, I am looking at your blog at dinner time and am on another continent so it will be sometime b4 I will able to satiate my hunger with those yummy items.

Just a few opinions...
It will cool if you are able to make some larger captions for the images, especially since they are such a visual feast. Some lines of the main body text could also increase in size to create more of a visual anchor amongst the sea of text. That way there will be different points of contact to draw the viewer into your story. Anyways, just my 2 cents.

Keep up the good work!
mmm... pork belly strips:)

Foodographer August 29, 2008 at 10:38 PM  

Hi Hee Luong!

thanks for the comments - very helpful and you will see some of your suggestions built into subsequent entries.


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