Where to Eat Tuna Eyes in Okinawa
Japan’s version of a neighborhood bar, the izakaya has been an integral part of the country’s culture since the 1600s. They were the original gastropubs, serving shareable tapas-style small plates to sake-soaked patrons way before it was the trend. Today, izakaya specialties are some of the most beloved foods in the world—egg custards, ramen, soba, robata-style fish, sashimi, yakitori, goya and so on. My favorite izakaya in Okinawa’s capital city of Naha is Payao, a tiny spot with counter seating, a few tables, and a wide array of fresh seafood. With 50 years experience, chef Tsutomo Yamashiro artfully prepares dishes that showcase his mastery of the local seafood offerings. If you’re there during tuna season, order the tuna eyes (and arrive early, they only sell a few per evening). For me, the muscle meat behind the eye is the best tasting muscle on the tuna when it’s cooked properly. At Payao, Yamashiro braises the eyes to perfection with soy, rock sugar, sake and dashi. Cooked this way, the meat reminds me of short ribs, and the fat of bone marrow. It’s fantastic.
Tune in for Bizarre Foods: Okinawa, Tuesday July 19 at 9|8c on Travel Channel.
Ishigaki 907-0014, Okinawa
Photographs courtesy of Travel Channel.