Phone: 244-0055 or 244-0056
H O U R S
Lunch: Mon-Fri / 11am-2pm
Mon-Thurs / 5-10pm
By Colleen Coffield
It seems that lately, when one type of restaurant becomes popular in this area, several more like it open up.
Japanese restaurants are enjoying a surge, with the opening of several new ones.
One of the new options is Okinawa Japanese Steak and Seafood House in Fort Walton Beach. Located on Eglin Parkway near the Cinco Bayou Bridge, Okinawa occupies the former home of Imperial Palace.
The interior has been changed to add a sushi bar at the rear, and a traditional dining area flanked by two rooms with hibachi tables. Most diners chose the hibachi table option or traditional dining, while the sushi bar had only a few diners at any given time.
The staff at Okinawa was accommodating and friendly, but not as attentive as would have been nice.
Needs, including the taking of drink and food orders, were not anticipated. Whenever we asked someone to assist us they did, but we seemed to have to ask on each occasion.
I have learned that with Japanese restaurants in the area, I tend to find one thing I like in particular at each. For example, I go to Yamato in Fort Walton Beach for its superb sushi, with fresh seafood prepared in imaginative ways. I like Osaka in Destin for its soba and udon noodle dishes.
Okinawa seems to excel at things that are fried. I enjoyed not only the tempura dishes that make up a large percentage of the menu, but also I liked a couple of dishes that I am not accustomed to seeing fried.
Among the appetizers, an order of gyoza (meat-filled dumplings) was prepared fried with a crisp batter as opposed to the usual steamed or pan-fried versions.
The were delicate and light, and had a good, savory filling. A dipping sauce that is a little spicy, salty and tart is a good accompaniment.
Tempura dishes featured the same light batter, and were served with a dipping sauce that was slightly sweet and very mild. It let the flavor of the shrimp and vegetables come through.
An order of shrimp and vegetable tempura had five shrimp, and an assortment of vegetables that included sweet potato, carrot, onion rings, zucchini, and winter squash. At $6.95 it was an exceptional value.
Shrimp and vegetables can be ordered separately, and in combinations that include fish and lobster as well. Appetizers that include sushi or sashimi with tempura are also on the menu.
Another fried item that was outstanding was a sushi roll that had been deep-fried. The Fort Walton Roll was filled with crab stick and shrimp. It was then fried, producing a crust of crisp and pleasingly chewy rice. After being cut into slices, each slice was then topped with a drop of chili sauce.
The Okinawa Roll is also deep-fried, and contains smoked salmon, cream cheese, shrimp tempura and jalapeno peppers.
Okinawa does a good job with its other rolls as well. Good choices include a Dragon Roll with eel, avocado and soft shell crab; The Rainbow Roll topped with tuna, salmon and hamachi; and the Oishi Roll of spicy tuna topped with fresh salmon and avocado.
I found that the spicy tuna (which is in several rolls) is very spicy.
All the usual nigiri sushi items are available, and when we visited the fresh salmon was particularly good. I also ordered a sashimi dinner, and was happy when the sushi chef let me choose which items would go on the plate.
Okinawa serves several salads, and all are good.
I really enjoyed the Okinawa salad, a bowl of crisp, cold iceberg lettuce topped with a delicious ginger dressing. The seaweed salad was a beautiful bright green to match the bright flavors of its dressing.
A squid salad had lots of tender strips of squid and a slightly sweet dressing, while the cucumber salad was simple, but refreshing when paired with something fried or something spicy.
In addition to the gyoza, sushi and tempura appetizers, Okinawa offers beef and chicken skewers, a fried soft shell crab, edamame, and nagimaki.
The nagimaki is strips of tender beef wrapped around green onions. It is served warm with a subtle sauce, and was an excellent appetizer choice.
Each of our meals came with a complimentary bowl of miso soup. Beef and mushroom soup, and nabiyaki udon ( a soup with beef, vegetables, shrimp, chicken, egg and soft noodles) were also offered.
Hibachi table meals come with an appetizer, soup, salad, vegetables, fried rice and dessert. Main course options include filet mignon, chicken, shrimp, steak, scallops, salmon and lobster.
Children can choose from chicken, steak, shrimp or filet in a smaller portion for those 12 and under.
Hibachi lunches are also offered. Lunch boxes with teriyaki, tempura, sushi or sashimi are served with soup, salad, rice, vegetable tempura and two pieces of a California roll.
Other lunch dishes are meats (chicken, beef, shrimp) and vegetables served over fried rice, and come with soup and salad.
Okinawa is not a fancy restaurant, but the food is wholesome and good, and the value can be very good.
Good quality fried items help Okinawa fill a niche as the options for Japanese food in the area continue to expand.
Colleen Coffield is restaurant reviewer for the Daily News. She dines unannounced and anonymously at area restaurants for this review. You may write to her in care of the newspaper at P.O. Box 2949, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549.