Jiji

Showing my artistic love in leftover squid ink sauce!

Showing my artistic love in leftover squid ink sauce!

I was wondering when it was gonna happen. The day I finally got called out by my local cafe about my culinary meanderings here on “Forage.” It wasn’t four months ago that my husband just “happened to mention,” during a lovely dinner down at the Jiji Cafe, that I was a food writer and reviewer. I met the chefs, who were lovely, and chatted with them. Suddenly, the pressure was on….which meant that I could not find the words to save my life. Thankfully I had a great excuse. The pictures did not turn out due to the fabulous, yet intimate lighting in the restaurant.

"Manekin" and the intimacy of Jiji.

“Manekin” and the intimacy of Jiji.

But that excuse could not hold me forever, especially when I frequent Cafe Jiji at least once every other week, sometimes up to three times a week. I bring my friends for drinks, I go for dinner, my cleaning lady hits them up every Tuesday for lunch, hell I even write these blogs sitting in a nice cozy corner next to their bar. So it is about damn time I wrote about this great little joint that I dearly love!

My dear friend, Hannah, enjoying one of many cocktails we have toasted over at this lovely cafe!

My dear friend, Hannah, enjoying one of many cocktails we have toasted over at this lovely cafe!

Cafe Jiji sits on the side of one of the curving, narrow main hilltop roads in my village of Kitanakagusuku, just a nice little meander from my home. It is, perhaps, the greatest discovery in my local area that I have made in the years I have lived here in Okinawa. You see, there are those few places, as a world traveler, as an expat, that pop up in your life. Places that have so much heart, attitude, creativity and comfort, that you almost immediately feel at home, no matter where you are.

Cafe Jiji, the view from my writing nook.

Cafe Jiji, the view from my writing nook.

It doesn’t matter what language you are speaking or where you fall on the longitude and latitude, but that you some how share a connection through great, creative, gorgeous food and drink!

Hanging out at Jiji, writing this for you!

Hanging out at Jiji, writing this for you!

Jiji lives up to everything I adore in a perfect hangout. I grew up in the cool 90’s cafes of downtown Prescott, Arizona, which, at their time, were revolutionary for a little hick town but have since continued  to create an amazing, thriving cafe culture in my hometown. We had these artistic little corners of paradise where you could escape into a cocoon of laid-back warmth and acceptance. They always had mellow lighting, great music, supported local artists and musicians, and most importantly made wonderful food and drinks.  There were only one or two of these in my childhood but they made their mark on me and I can honestly say that when I move into a neighborhood, whether it was Brooklyn, Paris, London, Cedar City, Okinawa, I have searched for this perfect creative-comfort cafe. I always found one. And that one, here in Okinawa is Cafe Jiji.

Pigging out with my bro-in-law! Mmmm Carbonara!

Pigging out with my bro-in-law! Mmmm Carbonara!

Jiji is so very eclectic in every aspect. It is like an arty-hipster, a traditional hippie and a totally sophisticated gastronome exploded all over a a found-art gallery. In a beautiful, perfect, holy-crap-how-did-they-think-of-this manner. Dried flowers and plants, candles. hand blown glass, antique furniture, fixtures and shabby-chic agedness accent the decor, without dominating or defining the dining area or bar. The Bar itself is chalk full of the pleasures of libation, the kind you don’t get in many places in Okinawa. Things like Chartreuse, Absente, Pernod….bevvies that make a gal like me stay much later than I should!

As I have been frequenting this establishment for quite awhile, they do take care of me. They always surprise me with their latest, special wine. “Manekin,” as he likes to be called, took the time upon my first few visits, to get deep into my wine tastes. He NEVER disappoints me with a recommendations, and they have a constant flow of new wines….so much so that they don’t really have a wine list. They will bring the bottles to your table and let you taste.

So, the food. You wanna talk about the food?

Tandoori Chicken Lunch Special

Tandoori Chicken Lunch Special

Indeed.

Duck in Berry Sauce...oh and a meal.

Duck in Berry Sauce…oh and a meal.

I don’t return to a restaurant if I don’t like the food. I don’t blog about it if I haven’t returned many times or plan to. I don’t freak out and NOT write a blog about a joint unless I am so overwhelmed by it’s fabulousness that I have to spend time, eat everything on the menu and put my kiss of approval upon this place. Jiji gets kisses.

Homemade pasta!

Homemade pasta!

Pasta of the Day. Pork with Basil Sauce. Epic.

Pasta of the Day. Pork with Basil Sauce. Epic.

So what do I recommend? Well to begin with, they do make their own pasta for a few of the dishes, so any of those are naturally on the list. Jiji is open for Lunch, Afternoon Tea and Dinner. Essentially for 12 hours there is always something on offer! Quiche, Salads, Pasta, Fish, Pork and Steak, and amazing desserts. The menu changes with the seasons, with what is available locally and organically. It changes with the winds of Okinawa and whims of the chefs.

Blue Cheese and Mimolette with Honey.

Blue Cheese and Mimolette with Honey.

We have had amazing cheese plates with Italian honey, specials like tonight: Pork and Potato Pasta in Pesto Green Sauce (which was divine!) to a Bone Marrow and Cartilage Risotto. They make a mean Carbonara, an exquisite Duck Breast in Berry Sauce, and I am always thrilled when the Coconut and Shrimp Risotto with Squid Ink Sauce pops up on the menu.

Coconut Shrimp Risotto with Squid Ink Sauce! Pure DECADENCE!

Coconut Shrimp Risotto with Squid Ink Sauce! Pure DECADENCE!

The set menu is really the way to go. It comes with a beautiful salad dressed in their signature black sesame. You also get the appetizer of the day, usually quiche but sometimes an interesting concoction of, again, whatever is fresh and seasonal. And of course you finish up with a beautiful plate of desserts, always different, always scrumptious!

One of many dessert plates!

One of many dessert plates!

If you are just looking for a nice place to spend the afternoon they have many teas and coffees to choose from, including a tea menu offering quiche of the day, bruschetta and other various nibbles. You will, if you come around tea time, see the cool coffee klatches of Japanese mommies who bring their little ones to read the multi language kids books on hand whilst they gossip over said nibbles. It is a relaxing time to be there, amazingly, and bridges that gap into cocktail hour, which of course Jiji excels in as well. To be honest, for a person like myself who doesn’t tend to deal with daylight til 10 or 11 am, Cafe Jiji provides the perfect opportunity to be social or secluded and spend my day however I see fit. Coffee or wine? Lunch, tea or dinner? Pasta or salad? They are an equal opportunity cafe with something intensely pleasant available for anyone. 098-987-7515 www.jijicafe.com

Quiche of the day with Shiquasa Beer

Quiche of the day with Shiquasa Beer

 

 

 

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About tashierags

I love food. I love eating it, I love playing with it, I love growing it, I love having it served to me, I love traveling to discover it and I love all the things that go with it, like wine and conversation, ambiance and entertainment, relaxation, divine inspiration and laughter. I will never be a professional chef. I like to like the act of cooking too much to be angry about having to make it for people I don't know, on a schedule, with the pressure to succeed. I am much happier learning, taking risks, exploring and taking my time in the process. So instead I make it for the people I love. I share it with the people of my choosing and give it as a gift. Lately, it seemed that I was having so many requests and conversations about the food I make and the restaurants I visit that I thought that a blog might be a cool way to discuss the art, luxury, necessity, irreverence, beauty, rebelliousness and spirituality of the thing that keeps us alive and happy.....food.
This entry was posted in Comfort Food, Okinawa, Okinawa Restaurant Review, Okinawan Cuisine, Pork, Uncategorized, Wine and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Jiji

  1. evan ragsdale says:

    Excellent as usual even though I know you are “sucking-up” to your “local” (just kidding). Writing as is always the case very good. You are now a full-fledged culinary journalist!

    • tashierags says:

      I wouldn’t need to suck up to my local! They are that good. And obviously no place is safe, local or otherwise. You read my slam of Laxmi! LOL But thanks for reading, as ever.

  2. Lola K. says:

    Great article. That place looks amazing.

  3. Pingback: Grown Ass Woman! | Forage

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