What do you think of when you hear the word “garden?” Lucious foliage,
warm sunbeams, runnings dogs, children smiling… Most often,
we associate gardens with warmhearted images such as these. Recently,
I visited a well known “niwa” right in Uruma City– the “Niwa Cafe”
located in Ishikawa Akebono’s foreign residents district.
The shop has a calm, playful atmosphere,
and is decorated with various goods and photos taken by the owner.
Sunbeams filter through the glass windows,
and a calm breeze flows from the outside. Indeed, it’s interior is the perfect, refreshing park.
The shop is run by owner Makoto Niwano and head chef Yukari Niwa.
The two are married, and moved from Tokyo to Okinawa two years go.
They’ve run this shop together for now over a year and a half.
They’re both very experienced– Mr. Makoto worked in the service industry for several years in Tokyo,
and Ms. Yukari has over 10 years of experience as a chef.
It seems that they had originally planned to work in Okinawa for a small while,
but several of their friends and acquaintances suggested that they open their own business,
and with their support Cafe Niwa was born.
The couple knew they wanted a cafe in the foreign residential district,
but couldn’t find anywhere suitable. They were at their wits end,
when finally a friend introduced them to the building that would later become Cafe Niwa.
“As soon as we opened the wide windows and felt the cool breeze, we knew we had to have this place,”
said Makoto. The love and effort they’ve put into hand making the restaurant furniture
and choosing shop decorations is proof of the connection they feel with the building.
There’ve even built a small house in the back of the cafe!
This play room filled with exciting games and activities is so fun,
even adults wish they could join. Kids who enjoy going to the park will love this inside “playground.”
A variety of menu items are written on a large blackboard.
At Cafe Niwa, nearly everything is handmade,
even their salad dressing! Their food is made with pesticide free,
organically grown vegetables from Okinawa and all across Japan.
Apart from serving customers healthy food,
the owners aim to use vegetables rarely found in Okinawa
and present to them a menu they’ve never experienced before.
Recently they’ve rented a nearby field and have begun raising their own homegrown vegetables.
Makoto says that eventually they hope to harvest the plants
and make them into products to send outside of province,
or use the field to start their own cooking workshop.
“We want to teach the rest of Japan about the best of Okinawa and show Okinawan people the best of the mainland”
they say. “We want to learn local techniques and incorporate them into our cooking as well.”
This is the Croque Monsoir, made with homemade brioche.
Most Croque Monsoir is made with normal wheat bread,
but here at Cafe Niwa’s use plenty of egg and butter to bake their brioche elevate this dish.
The creamy white sauce pairs wonderfully with the melted cheese,
and the soft bread beneath is pure perfection.
There’s even a side dish of fresh vegetables, handpicked that very day from the owners garden.
Each bite is so delicious that you’ll be smiling through the entire meal.
Top off your delicious lunch with a dessert, like Niwa’s golden potato tart,
made from pesticide free golden potatoes grown in Ikeijima Island.
The potatoes natural sweetness gives the dish a sweet but savory flavor.
The ingredients used to make the tart crust change according to the flavor,
sometimes adding ingredients to balance a very sweet flavor.
Thanks attention to detail heightens the taste of the the various strawberry,
chestnut, golden potato and sweet pear tarts.
Enjoy a slice with a cup of Mr. Makotos fresh brewed cafe latte!
His adorable coffee art looks wonderful with these fancy desserts.
Even though they’ve only been open for a year, they have customers from all around,
both inside and outside of Okinawa.
“Our customers choose to spend their valuable free time with us,
and we really appreciate that- we want to make their time with us special” says Makoto.
“I want to feed customers delicious food and send them home with a smile on their face,” adds Yukari.
As the couple continues to work hard and create their dream cafe,
their customers keep growing and growing.
Inside, the cafe is filled with the sounds of Mr. Niwano speaking softly with his wife
and the smell of delicious food. “Sometimes the customers won’t leave for a long time,” smiles Makoto.
If you’re visiting Okinawa, make sure to stop by Cafe Niwa and real for an hour, or two….
Location Uruma City Ishikawa Akebono 1-8-13HN131
Buisness Hours /11:00 AM〜3:00 PM (Lunch) 3:00 PM〜5:00 PM (Tea Time) 6:30 PM〜10:00 PM (Dinner, only served Fridays and Saturdays) Buisness Holidays / Sundays and Mondays