Friday, September 23, 2011

Curry Restaurant Familia **THIS RESTAURANT IS NO LONGER OPEN**

If you want to try some good Japanese style curry, you should check out Familia. Conveniently located near the Main Gate, it's a cute little restaurant with good food and a nice atmosphere. There was some nice Hawaiian music playing in the background when we went.

While looking over the menu, I remembered that somebody had posted on Facebook that the curry pizza was pretty tasty. I like curry and I like pizza, so it sounded good to me! Jason ordered a taco rice.

The menu is in English and they have pictures.

After a little bit, he brought out our food. Wow. It looked good and smelled even better. While I am a big fan of Indian curry, I am an even bigger fan of Japanese style curry. I even make it at home sometimes. I know. You all thought I went out to eat all of the time. I actually love to cook.

Here's my curry pizza

It was pretty tasty!

Jason's taco rice looked really good too!

Instead of taco seasoning though, it was curry. Mmmm!! I'll have to try that next time.
Jason said it was good and it had a little kick to it. Just a little.

He also ordered some garlic bread

He said the garlic bread was "okay". It looked good and smelled good though....

If you are in the mood for some good Japanese style curry, just walk out Main Gate and check out Familia. Go over the railroad tracks and it's on the right hand side, right after TNT car sales.
Good curry and nice atmosphere!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Maple City

When someone asks me where my favorite Italian restaurant in Iwakuni is, I always say "Maple City!"

What is it about Maple City that makes it my favorite? The food is amazing. And it's amazing every time I go. The service is always great. The ladies who work there are so nice and they are always smiling. It's also where I found the first red wine I liked. Until then I could only drink white zinfandel. Yes. I know. THAT is NOT a real wine. I don't drink white zinfandel anymore. Cross my heart. I have graduated and moved on to cabs and merlots (from what I have been told...the "REAL" wines). Another thing I love about Maple City is the atmosphere. Nice and intimate enough for a date night and yet, casual enough for an office farewell dinner.

I was lucky enough to help plan a birthday dinner for my good friend, Alma, a couple of weeks ago. Of course the first place I thought of was Maple City. So I called and was able to get reservations. I also let them know we would have a birthday girl in our party. If you tell them ahead of time, they will make something a little extra for the dessert.

As soon as we were seated, I started looking at the menu. I try to get something different every time I come, but the hardest decision is usually whether I should get pizza, or pasta. I should mention that they do have English menus. They also have a nice wine menu. In English. I was DD for the evening so I just got to taste some of the wines they ordered.

Sometimes they have these awesome sets that you can order. You choose your pizza or pasta and then add 1,500yen to the price to get a set. The set has a couple of appetizers, garlic bread (SOOOO GOOD!), a drink, and a dessert. I always get a set if they are offering it. The garlic bread is all-you-can-eat, by the way.

Now I had to decide which pasta to get. many yummy choices. Then, the word "pumpkin" jumps out at me. What is that? I see at the very bottom of the menu there is a pasta with a pumpkin cream sauce. Are you serious?! PUMPKIN CREAM? Oh. I had to order it. I love Japanese pumpkin (kabocha). I was so excited! It was almost like it was MY birthday!

The first appetizer was scallops. These were SO good!
If you can't eat fish or just don't like seafood at all, just let them know when you order and they will bring something else out for your appetizer.

The next appetizer was super yummy too!

Then the pastas started coming out.

My pumpkin cream pasta!!
Oh, it was reaaalllly good! Amazing. Delicious. I'm drooling right now.

One of our friends ordered the black squid ink pasta
We all tried it and it wasn't bad. Leaves black stuff all over your teeth and mouth though so it looks kinda weird.

For my drink, I always get a hot tea. Usually, Earl Grey. I love how they serve their tea. They actually use tea leaves and they give you a little timer to let you know when your tea is ready to be poured.
I have them bring my tea after dinner so I can enjoy it with my dessert.

Time for dessert!!!!! I couldn't wait!! Alma had no idea that we had told the restaurant it was her birthday!
Happy Birthday Alma!!! Isn't that cool??

One of our friends ordered a different set from us and this is the dessert that he got.
So purty!!

I love Maple City!! They also have some great lunch sets! They are open from 11:00AM-3:00PM for lunch and then from 5:00PM-11:00PM for dinner. They can get kind of busy on the weekends so I think it's best to make reservations. Their number is (0827)53-3319. Dial it just like that if calling from a cell phone.

To get to this amazing restaurant, go out main gate and turn right at that very first light. Follow that road all the way until it comes to a T-intersection. Turn left but stay in the middle or right lane because you will be making a right onto Route 2. Go straight on this for about 15-20 minutes (it's before you get to the big YouMe Town in Otake). Maple City is on your right. There is a car dealership across from it on your left. I want to say it's a Toyota dealership. There is a sign on the side of the street that says "Maple City Sicily" or something like that. They do have a few parking spaces in front, but they also have other parking. Turn right down the little street right next to Maple City and then take the first left. There is a small lot on your right. You can park in there.

Great place for a date night!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Last Friday Night......yeah we danced on table tops....yeah we ate at an Izakaya...

Oh. Wait. Those aren't the words to that song. And I'm not sure if it completely fits how our Friday night went. We did do some drinking....but I'm pretty sure none of us danced on table tops. There was some singing though. And maybe a little dancing. And now it wasn't even last Friday night. It was more like two Friday nights ago. I liked the title when I started writing this post over a week ago though so I'm keeping it.

I'm sure the only thing you are wondering at this point is, "what's an Izakaya?" Izakayas are a style of restaurant in Japan. I always think of them as a munch and drink place. They have a wide variety of food, but they are in small portions so you can munch away on many different things. They usually have a wide variety of drinks, and a lot of them offer all-you-can-drink plans.

Our choice for a girls night out was Shirokiya. Shirokiya is one of my favorite izakayas in Iwakuni. Great food. Service is usually pretty good. And they have an all-you-can-drink plan. For 90 minutes it's 1,000yen and for 120 minutes it's 1,500yen. We went with the 120 minutes plan. I do have to warn you that the all-you-can-drink menu for drinks is different than the regular one so some of the drinks in their big menu are not available for the all-you-can-drink. So, if you just plan on having a few I would just pay for each drink separately. Some of the really yummy cocktails are 398yen each so the prices aren't too bad.

One of my favorite cocktails -
Strawberry Sour! With chunks of strawberries!! Unfortunately, this is not on the all-you-can-drink menu. Booooooo!!
So I drank these all night instead...
Cassis Soda. Very good!!

Now for the important stuff. Food! They have so many things to choose from! I like to order a bunch of different dishes and just have everyone eat whatever they want. It's also a great way to try something you have never eaten before. And if you're worried about how to do the bill at the end of the evening, just split it. Some places do not let you split the bill at the register, and this is one of them. Besides, it's too difficult to figure out who pays for what when everyone was eating everything. Splitting it just makes things so much easier.

Here are some of the fabulous dishes we ordered -
This onion dish was soooooo good. If you like onions. I do!!

Edamame (soy beans) deep fried in wonton wrappers. Yes! I said FRIED! These are addictive!

This was bacon wrapped OKRA. MmmHmmmm.....bacon wrapped. I'm pretty sure there was more than one on the plate when it was brought out, but it seems someone didn't understand the rules. Nobody touches the food until Linda has taken a picture of it. Yes, even if it means Linda has to take a bunch of pictures.

There are a few items on the menu that I ALWAYS order. Bacon wrapped asparagus is one of them. One plate comes with two pieces so I usually order a couple of plates (or three, or four....). You get the choice of sauce or just salted. I prefer the salted, but if there are people at the table who have never been to Shirokiya before, I'll order both so they can try both and then decide which one they prefer.

I also love their yakitori (chunks of chicken on a stick). These are also two to a plate so I order a few. I prefer these with sauce so that is what I usually get, but some people like them just salted. I suggest ordering a plate of each and then you can see which one you prefer.

I love it when it takes me half the evening to realize my camera is on the wrong setting. And I couldn't even blame it on the alcohol.

If you like salad, their seafood salad is pretty tasty. Get it with the sesame dressing. Mmmmmmm!! The caesar salad is also pretty good. I didn't get a picture of the salad.......and I'm not sure why.

We also ordered this amazing camembert cheese croquettes. Wow!'s got cheese in it and it's FRIED. Need I say more? I think I have found a new favorite.

The menu is in English AND it has pictures!!

Shirokiya is a pretty big restaurant. Quite a few tables and they also have some party rooms.
I've planned some farewell dinners here and some birthday dinners. The party rooms are pretty spacious. You will have to take your shoes off though so don't forget to wear socks. I've also taken people who are here TAD to Shirokiya and they loved it. The variety of food on the menu makes it easy to take a group of people who all have different tastes. There's definitely something for everyone.

To get to this fantastic izakaya, go out the main gate and turn right at the very first light. Follow this road up and over the bridge. You will pass Mike's Tex Mex on your left. At the third light after you've crossed the bridge (I'm counting the one right at the bottom in front of Mike's), you'll turn left and go around this swirly (I like that word) overpass. At the light, turn right. Now, you can park at the train station (I do, but it is a little more expensive than other lots) or you can park at the new lot that's kind of across from Andersen Bakery. Shirokiya is on the same side of the street as Andersen's. Walk past Andersen Bakery and right after you pass Monte Beer (I'll be blogging about this place soon!), you will see some stairs on your left. Go up the stairs and you will see Shirokiya!

Great place for food and drinks!!

And if you feel like belting out a few tunes after dinner, there is a great karaoke place right next to Monte Beer. Nice karaoke rooms and you can continue munching and drinking while you sing! That's what we did. Some singing, some dancing, lots of drinking, and some more singing!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


When it's cold outside, I like nothing better than a hot bowl of ramen. And I am not talking about the instant ramen that a lot of people think of when they hear "ramen". Let's get one thing straight. That is NOT real ramen. I guarantee that if you have real ramen, you will not be able to eat the instant ramen or admit that you ever did. You'll also become a ramen snob like me.

One of my favorite ramen places in Iwakuni is Nagahama Ramen. Every ramen place is different. The soup is made differently and in a lot of cases, the noodles are even different. You should try a few different places before deciding on a favorite. You might even find that you have a couple of favorites. I have a few favorites and all for different reasons.

Last week a few of us at work decided to go out for some ramen together, and I remembered to bring my camera! For those who have been following since my very first post, Dave blasted me on Facebook because we had gone to Ganesh and I didn't have my camera on me. So, I couldn't blog about it. Ha! This time I was prepared! I now take my Nikon with me everywhere I go because you just never know.

We decided to go to Nagahama Ramen since it was Wednesday. I ordered my usual Wakame Ramen and Gyoza. Their gyoza is awesome! Wakame is seaweed so my ramen had lots of seaweed in it. They also have their traditional Nagahama Ramen which is just green onions and pork slices. If you don't like pork you can order it without the pork. Their Wonton Ramen is also pretty good.

My Wakame Ramen

and my Gyoza...Mmmmmmmm

AND if you go on Wednesdays, it's free noodle refill day (now you know why we decided to go)!! You order one bowl and then you can request extra bowls of just noodles as much as you want for free up to 3 times (updated on 4/6/15). You will always have soup left over so all you really need are the noodles. I am usually pretty full after one bowl and my gyoza so I didn't order any extra noodles, but the guys sure did.

They just bring the noodles out to you in a bowl and you just put them in your soup.

For those who like a little spice in their life, they also have a spicy ramen. You get to choose your level up to 5. Dave chose level 3 and he said it was pretty spicy. Not sure what that means for anyone else since everyone has different levels of tolerance for spicy foods. I think for me that meant I would be running around with smoke coming out of my ears, looking for some ice water to dunk my whole head into. I am a spice wuss. It's not that I don't like spicy foods. I love the flavor! I just can't handle the heat. And when I say heat.....level 1 at Coco Curry is a little spicy for me. I'm not kidding.

Even though the menu is not in English, they do have great pictures on the menu. It also helps that it's a very small menu. The one at the top left corner is the "Nagahama Ramen". That is the original ramen.

Be prepared to wait if you go on a Wednesday. It's not always super busy, but it usually is. I try to go early for lunch to beat the crowd and usually, by the time I'm leaving there's a line of people waiting for a table. I've gone in the evenings and usually I don't have to wait very long for a table. It's usually only crazy busy on Wednesdays though.

To get to this wonderful ramen shop, go out Monzen gate turn right and then turn left onto the main road. After about 30 seconds (maybe less), you'll see a right turn. Take it and go over the railroad tracks (Yellow Hat should be on your left). At the light, turn left. Follow this road and at the third fifth light (I think it's the third one....there is an AU shop on the corner), turn right. Follow this road (you should pass a 7-Eleven on your left) and after a few minutes you will see a bright yellow sign on your right. You'll want to turn right there. It's like a mini shopping plaza. The ramen shop is to the right.

Do you have a favorite ramen shop in Iwakuni? Please share! If you are looking for a favorite ramen shop, make sure you give Nagahama Ramen a try!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sako's is back!

I guess if you are new to the area, you are not sure what I mean by "Sako's is back!" Sako's is a world famous restaurant that is located just a few minutes from the Main Gate. It has been around for as long as I can remember (and that's a LONG time) and it has always been operated by a very nice couple. As they got older, they cut back on their hours until they were only open for a couple of hours each day and they had a limit on how much they would make. Oops. I guess I should mention what it is they are known for. They make amazing BLT's. I also love their onion rings. Now, back to my story. Since they had cut back on their hours and placed a limit on how much they would make per day, I started to think about the possibility that Sako's would shut down for good. And it was really just a matter of time. Then I started seeing posts on Facebook asking if anyone knew why Sako's was closed and whether they were ever going to open again. My heart sank. I couldn't help but wonder if one of them had gotten sick. Were they okay? Maybe they were on vacation? I thought about a lot of possibilities for why they were closed, but none of them had to do with the couple selling the place! I thought, "It's never going to be the same" I patiently waited along with everyone else and I heard that the new owners wanted to keep the food the same and so the previous owners were showing them how to make everything the exact same way they did. Once I heard that, I was excited about going again.

Last Friday, Sako's reopened under new ownership. I went for lunch on Monday and when I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised. The new owners had been very busy. Not only were they learning how to cook the food the same way, but they had also done a little remodeling.
The wall that had all of the business cards on it was completely changed. The business cards were gone (that kind of made me sad) and replaced with a very nice wall. I liked the business cards on the wall because it was kind of cool to see names I recognized from 10 years ago or before. It kind of gave the place character. But I do like the new wall too.

They also got new tables

The amount of space they have didn't change. There are still only three tables in the restaurant and a few seats at the counter, but the new tables give it an updated look.

Now for the good part. The food!

I ordered a BLT and onion rings. I wasn't too worried about the BLT, but the onion rings were going to be the test.

First, the BLT was brought out. It looks the same! Now, I have to remind you that this is a mom and pop joint so it takes a little while for your food to come out. Please be patient. It's really worth the wait!

Someone at our table ordered a fish sandwich and was nice enough to let me take a picture of it before he bit into it.
I love that everyone is so supportive of my crazy food taking habits! He said the fish sandwich was good too!

Then came the onion rings....

Mmmmmm...they look exactly the same! I couldn't wait to dig in! And when I did......yes, they tasted the same!

The food tasted the same. I was so happy about that! It was kind of strange though to walk in and not see the obasan (what we call older ladies) behind the counter. I really hope they enjoy their retirement, but they are going to be missed. The new couple seem very nice. She even gave us some free zucchini soup that she had made. It was YUMMY! AND she also speaks very good English.

While we were eating, a delivery guy showed up with these beautiful flowers for the new owners -
In Japan, it is customary to send flowers to celebrate the opening of a new business. These were just gorgeous!

To get to Sako's, go out main gate and just go straight. Continue over the railroad tracks. Sako's is on the left corner at the 4-way intersection (4 corners). It's a small doorway that some people completely miss. They do have a chalkboard sign outside now.

And according to their sign, they even have parking now.

I do love the new hours!

If you are not a fan of BLT's they also offer fried rice (which is yummy too!). It's also close enough to walk to. Not sure what to do for dinner tonight? Head on over to Sako's and have one of their world famous BLT's! And don't forget to get some onion rings with that!