Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai Great World City Review
10 May 2021
I first got to know of Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai when it was located at Liang Court. Mum and I used to visit Liang Court quite often as that was the go-to-place when we wanted to eat and buy Japanese products. We even visited Liang Court on 1 Jan for a number of years as there were activities to celebrate the Japanese New Year. With Liang Court now gone, we had wondered where Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai would move to. Thus we were pleasantly surprised when we found the restaurant at Great World City during one of our visits. We specially made a trip there just to dine at Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai in early April.
Okinawan food is quite different from the usual Japanese food that most of us are familiar with. Even Okinawa itself is quite different from the rest of Japan. I remembered when I first visited Okinawa in March 2018, I felt rather conflicted. My passport was stamped that I’d entered Japan but yet being in Okinawa felt like I was in a totally different place. The culture, food and scenery are very different from the rest of Japan. One could see Chinese elements in the food and culture and also spot American influence. It might be because Okinawa is a lot closer in location to Taiwan/China than it is to Tokyo. The years of American military base and it’s people presence in Okinawa also influenced Okinawa.
I googled and found that Nirai-Kanai referred to a mystical world in the Okinawan Ryukyuan Religion. A paradise beyond the seas where Nirai-Kanai gods live and blessings came from.
Decor & Atmosphere
I like the decor of Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai. They had moved their furnishings from Liang Court and set up the Great World City diner in a similar fashion. With Okinawan music playing in the background, one felt transported to Okinawa while dining there. There were more seats at the Great World City location compared to when Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai was at Liang Court. Even so, there was a waiting list queue during weekend dining peak hours.
Our Lunch Orders
Having not visited Japan for 2 years due to the Covid situation, I decided to just order what caught my fancy as I terribly missed Japan. As much as I like to have more choices, there were only 2 of us and my Mum isn’t a big eater. So I could only order 2 appetizers and 2 set meals. Here’s a link to Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai’s menu if you’re interested to know what they serve.
Vinegared Okinawan Mozuku-Seaweed (S$8.00)
I love Mozuku Seaweed! Especially Vinegared Mozuku Seaweed 😋
This dish didn’t disappoint. The cucumber slices added a nice crunch to the smooth and slippery Mozuku seaweed. There was a tinge of gingery flavour from the thinly julienne fresh ginger and the sourness was just nice. What an appetizing dish! Mum enjoyed the Vinegared Mozuku Seaweed as well.
Okinawan Soft Bean Curd in Noodle Soup Stock (S$10.00)
When this dish was served, I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed and cheated. It looked totally different from the menu’s photo and the Bean Curd (Tofu) didn’t look like it was freshly made. The menu’s photo showed scooped Bean Curd while what was served looked like it came from a carton. One of my pet peeves is having my Bean Curb broken/mashed into small pieces. Luckily the tofu was soft and nice, and we could taste the Bonito umami in the soup stock. That helped save the dish, though Mum was worried we would feel thirsty as the soup stock was on the salty side.
Stir-Fried Pork Belly Sliced with Ginger Set Meal (S$16.50)
Mum usually ordered the Goya (Stir-Fried Bitter Gourd) Set Meal when we dined at Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai. This time she decided to try something else and chose the Stir-Fried Pork Belly Sliced with Ginger Set Meal. The set came with rice, Nori Seaweed Soup, Pickles, Sweet Miso Pork Mince and Peanut Bean Curd.
Mum felt the Pork Belly slices were quite tough and dry while I though the Pork Belly slices were rather tender. Maybe I got stronger teeth and was able to easily chew the pork. Both of us found the dish lacking in the ginger taste. There were lots of sliced sweet onions and made the dish more like Onion Pork Belly than Ginger Pork Belly. Okinawan Diner Narai-Kanai should either add more fresh ginger or rename the dish. Not that it didn’t taste good, just that when the menu said it’s Ginger, the dish needed to taste like it had ginger. So a little disappointing when it become Onion flavoured instead. The side of raw cabbage with a dab of mayonnaise helped to balance the pork belly dish.
Most Japanese restaurants served Miso Wakame Soup. Here at Okinawan Diner Narai-Kanai, they serve Nori Seaweed Tofu Soup. The soup tasted deep and flowed smoothly down the throat together with the Nori seasweed.
Okinawan Soup Noodle Set Meal ($16.50)
As I’d always ordered their rice set meals, I decided to try their Okinawan Noodles instead . The Soup Noodles set meal came with Okinawan Seasoned Rice, Pickles, Sweet Miso Pork Mince and Peanut Bean Curd.
The Okinawa Soup Noodles was topped with a piece of braised pork belly, 2 pieces of soft bone pork rib meat, some spring onions, seaweed and pickled red ginger. I’d always start with tasting the soup first whenever I eat noodle soup or ramen. Okinawan Diner Narai-Kanai’s noodle soup had deep Bonito umami and tasted stronger than the soup stock used for the Soft Bean Curd dish. The flavours from the braised pork probably added to the taste. The handmade noodles were not over cooked and texture was still hard. I really enjoyed the noodles. The pork pieces were well braised and tender, with the taste and texture reminding me of the can braised pork. Everything just melted in the mouth. I shared some of the braised pork with Mum and she thought they tasted delicious too.
The Okinawan Seasoned Rice had pieces of pork, mushroom, seaweed and carrot and was absolutely delicious. One thing I forgot was to ask for the Okinawan Chilli Sauce – a slightly vinegared spicy sauce that would go well with the noodles and braised pork.
Side dishes and Dessert
All the set meals came with the Pickles, Sweet Miso Pork Mince and Peanut Bean Curd. Mum thought the Sweet Miso Pork Mince was too sweet and didn’t quite enjoyed it. I, on the other hand, liked it and ate it with my Okinawan Seasoned Rice.
I had always considered the Peanut Bean Curd as a dessert even though it was served with grated ginger and drizzled with a sauce made from soya sauce, mirin and sugar. The sauce gave the Peanut Bean Curd a sweet and savoury flavour. The Peanut Bean Curd was smooth and had this bouncy pudding like texture. Quite yummy IMO 😋
Our lunch cost a total of S$60.05 (S$51.00 plus service charge and GST). I felt the Vinegared Okinawan Mozuku-Seaweed was a little overpriced for the small portion compared to what we would pay in Japan. The Okinawan Soft Bean Curd in Noodle Soup Stock too seemed a tad pricey. However, beggars can’t be choosers when we’re far away from Japan and considering no airfare to be paid, the prices became “reasonable”.
Overall, it was a good lunch. Very filling as I ate quite a bit of my Mum’s Ginger Pork Belly too! I was glad to be able to eat Vinegared Mozuku Seaweed in Singapore. If I were to order the Pork Belly Slices with Ginger again, I would ask them to add more ginger.
It wasn’t our first time dining at Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai nor would be it our last time. If you feel the need to be in Okinawa but can’t get there, go dine at Okinawan Diner Nirai-Kanai. Either dine early or dine late to avoid peak hour crowds and having to wait for a table.