‘Toto, I don’t think we are in Japan any more’, Japanese Dorothy (Jdot) said to her robot dog, when they stepped foot on International street (Kokusai Dori), the main drag of Naha, Okinawa. Okinawa is often referred to as the Hawaii of Asia and it’s pretty easy to mistake yourself in 80’s/90’s Waikiki (except people don’t speak English here) what with the bright neon lights, loud Hawaiian prints and liberal use of ‘Mahalo!’ signs. I mean, I’m a little surprised the girls hanging outside the restaurants didn’t greet you with super kawaiiiii ‘Aloha!’ but it’s ok, because you get to have some awesome Japanese food, and only a 2 hours flight from Tokyo (beat that, Hawaii, you are so frigging hard to get to).
So far, so incredibly touristic and ever so slightly scary. We managed to do very little food research before arriving at Naha as listings, reviews and blogs were a little bit on the scarce side- I’d highly recommend the super modern izakaya next to BDP, but as I was terrified of my sister spending 15 minutes to set up each insta shot, (I quite like to eat my food while it’s fresh in front of me, sorry/not sorry for not sacrificing my food for the blog), I didn’t have any pictures, and after about an hour on google search I still can’t find the name. Ditto with the yakiniku we had on our first night there (it was on the hotel map and by the river and NOT reviewed ever. The taxi driver didn’t even know it existed. Oops. All round blushes from Jdot and Toto.
But I did manage to get some pictures from the super hippy Ball Donut Park (yep, hipster culture has landed squarely in provincial Japan too), so I’ll share my experience of eating extremely delicious donut balls. The shop itself is tucked down a side street of Kokusai Dori, so immediately, it feels less touristy Hawaii and more homey Japanese- and it is so chic with its wooden/ middle eastern inspired tiling, one would expect such a shop in Tokyo, Osaka, Paris or London.
What about the food though? All the balls are fresh to order and you can choose between ‘Simple Balls’ or ‘Fantastic Balls’ (like an ice cream sundae but with ALL THE BALLS). As it was already 6pm and we normally eat at around 7 (blame the small human being), the selection of simple balls sounded like a logical idea (only available for eating in). We ordered, paid and waited. Yes, these balls are fried to order and takes a few minutes, but the lovely guy at the counter entertained us by showing us their clever lighting while they were fried and decorated.
When they finally arrived about 5 minutes later, we inhaled them in seconds. Seriously, all 4 flavors were fantastic and spot on. For me, the salt and butter/ milk balls flavors were definitely the best- the former’s salt cut through the richness of the butter perfectly and the latter was just rich and heavenly (because condensed milk makes everything better). The lemon and sugar is a classic pancake combo which translated well to donut balls. The chocolate, for me was the weakest, but as you know, I’m obsessed with chocolate and have very high expectations.
These were honestly amongst the best donuts I’ve had for a long time and I was super tempted to buy a packet of their mix to take home (best not tempt ourselves). Our gluttony also resulted in walking pass the aforementioned unnamed izakaya, so after a quick walk around the tourist traps of Kokusai Dori, we returned for some fantastically fresh seafood (their anago [eel] tempura was to die for). Gluttony wins!
As for our heroine Jdot and her companion Toto? They were just glad to have travelled around the world in mere seconds.
Ball Donut Park
Paradise Street, off Kokusai Dori