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A Healthy One-Plate Lunch at a Delightful Island Café (Ie Island)
post : 2020.04.11 16:00
To have lunch on Ie Island, there’s no other choice but to go to a diner! The was the common understanding of the local islanders up until a year ago, when a new café was introduced to the island. At [CAFÉ Lovers Rock], the husband and wife owners, Hiroki and Misa Shimabukuro, serve up delightfully healthy lunch plates prepared with fresh, local vegetables.
Also offered at the little café are various handmade goods and pottery pieces made by artists on the island, and the comfortable space fills up quickly around lunch time with islanders. The blackboard shows the lunch specials, which change completely every day, and you can choose from a rice dish or a pasta dish.
On the day I visited, one of the lunch specials was Basil Chicken Salad Bowl. The bowl was full of lettuce and Handama leaf salad, and topped with chicken that was drizzled with a great basil sauce.
The main chef at Lovers Rock is Hiroyuki-san. The dishes are neither western nor Asian, and has a unique, exotic taste. The secret to the flavors is created with Hiroyuki-san’s favorite spices.
“If I were to say what genre the cooking is, I think it would be closer to Caribbean cuisine.”
Despite their changing menus on a daily basis, he says his cooking always ends up with a Caribbean touch, and this is the main attraction to Lovers Rock.
I finished the meal completely satisfied and so full! Misa-san says, “We just want our customers to be totally satisfied when they eat here,” and so they pile the plates full, as they wonder, Hmm, I wonder if they’ll be able to eat all of this. She adds with a mischievous smile, “Whether they’re men or women, it doesn’t matter. When the plates come back empty, that makes us the happiest.”
After the café finishes their lunch time, the two of them go out to the local supermarket on the island. At the Iejima Vegetable Corner, where the local farmers sell their fresh harvests, the two of them share their ideas and decide on the lunch menu for the next day.
“The vegetables from the island are super fresh and really delicious. The tomatoes, in particular, are so good that we can’t eat any other tomato than those from the island.” The lettuce, Handama in the salad, and the beans in the appetizer dish in the lunch menu I enjoyed, were also fresh veggies from the island.
They’re conscious of not using ready-made, processed foods, and to use ingredients made on Ie Island or elsewhere in Okinawa, and they want to offer their dishes “at low cost” for the customers. For these reasons, they mostly procure their ingredients from the local supermarket on the island.
“With papayas, they’re commonly used for stir-fries in Okinawa, but we arrange it in salads and try to come up with new and experimental ways of enjoying various ingredients. Traditional cooking by grandmas are great, but we also try to come up with delicious dishes for the kids to enjoy today.”
The couple hopes to welcome more and more people to visit not just for lunch, but to enjoy it as a casual café.
For light meals, they recommend French Toast or Baguette Pizza from their regular menu. To quench your thirst on hot days, they recommend their homemade mixed berry soda made with Okinawan brown sugar.
If you call a day ahead, they can prepare a vegan menu as well, and they also take requests to make the dishes carb-free and are offered at the same prices as the regular dishes. They’re open until 22:00 at night and serve alcohol and finger foods, so if you’re looking to spend a relaxing evening on Ie Island, definitely visit this café.
CAFÉ Lovers Rock
Address: 638 Kawahira, Ie Village, Kunigami, Okinawa
Hours: 11:30 to 22:00 (Open only for lunch on Tuesdays)
Photography & Article by Ai Matsuda, Edited by Aya Asakura