Monday, April 25, 2011

Cafe Kelp

Cafe Kelp is the restaurant that sparked my interest in finding more great restaurants around the Courtney/McTureous area. When you live stateside, it's easy to judge a restaurant by how it looks on the outside. Westerners tend to put a lot of emphasis on their store front, and it's a lot easier to find restaurant reviews of a place that looks questionable when you speak the local language.

Like most places on Okinawa, Cafe Kelp really doesn't look like much from the outside, but it has a lot to offer. The beautiful garden outside, the calming music, and excellent lunch fare all add up to a great experience.

The food is traditionally Japanese, but is palatable even to those who aren't very bold about trying new foods. The staff speaks some English, and they are quite friendly. Their menu does come in English, and has four options, including chicken, pork, fish, and beef. Each meal comes with a plate of Japanese appetizers, soup, your entree with a side of rice, and a choice of dessert and drinks after the meal. Prices range from ¥1,000 for chicken and pork to ¥1,300 for the beef entree.

The appetizer plate varies depending on what day you go in, but typically includes a small slice of omelette, a few Okinawan style pickled vegetables, some vinegrated seaweed noodles with cucumber and shiquasha flavors, and a small slice of cooked carrot, purple sweet potato, and a Japanese miso gelatin square.

The soup they serve here is very delicious! The first few times I tried it, I assumed it was either broccoli or cream of spinach, because of its creamy lime green color. This last time, I finally gathered up the courage to ask our waitress. She explained that it is a cream of potato soup, and that the green color comes from a traditional Okinawan leafy green vegetable. I couldn't remember the Japanese name of it, but I believe it's a sort of spinach. They also serve home made grissini cracker sticks with their soup. They also sell several flavors of grissini (including vegetable, curry, and a few others) for between ¥180 and ¥300 for different sized packages.

The chicken set consisted of a grilled chicken breast cooked in traditional Japanese seasonings underneath a lettuce and apple salad with a Japanese onion vinaigrette. It's light but filling, and I love the tangy flavors in it. The pork meal is essentially the same, but with pork instead of chicken. They are both excellent.

My husband's favorite meal at Cafe Kelp is the beef stew. It's a little heartier than the other meals on the menu, and perfect for a cooler day. When I tasted this dish, it reminded me of Hayashi rice, which used to be my dad's favorite. The stew comes with several vegetables, usually a slice of acorn squash, onion, broccoli, and mushrooms.

The dessert menu varies from time to time. Every time we have been, there has been the option of a cheesecake and sherbet. The cheesecake is rich and delicious, and comes with a mint garnish. The last time we went, the sherbet selection was fantastic! They offered a shiquasha/yuzu (okinawan lime) sherbet, a goya sherbet that I was nervous to try, and a carrot sherbet. As you can see from the picture, I chose the carrot sherbet. It was surprisingly good! I loved it, and my husband thought it was good too.

You will also be served an after-lunch drink with your dessert. They offer hot and iced tea, hot and iced coffee, and an herbal tea that includes lemon, mint, and hibiscus flavors. My husband prefers the iced tea, but I always get the hibiscus tea! They bring it out in a clear teapot so you can see all the herbs used, and the tea takes on a bright fuchsia color from the whole hibiscus flower they steep in the tea. It's very pretty, and tastes amazing as well.


Cafe Kelp is located just outside the Commissary gate of Camp Courtney. Simply turn onto the road that leads to that gate, then take the first right hand turn. You'll see a cute little brown sign that says Cafe Kelp in katakana. Cafe Kelp will be the second building on the right.

If you have a car that sits lower to the ground, like my husband's MR-2, you may want to take the longer way around, as there is a pretty steep hill with a dropoff. To get around, simply continue north on 75 past the road to the commissary. Take the next left. You'll see a small brown sign for Cafe Kelp in katakana. You'll want to take the first left that leads to an actual road. You'll see the English sign pictured above. From there, continue a short ways down the road to get to the parking lot, which will be on the left.

View Cafe Kelp in a larger map

Hours and Contact Information:

Cafe Kelp is open for lunch only from 11:30 am until 3:00 pm on Tuesday through Sunday, closed Mondays. Their phone number is (098)979-9452. Their business card mentions that they will serve dinner with a reservation, but I am unclear on the details- they may require a certain number of people. They do take reservations here, and there have been times where we have arrived to find all the tables reserved, so if you are comfortable calling, you may wish to make a reservation.

Payment is cash only. I believe they take dollars, but I have only ever paid in yen, so I'm not 100% sure.

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