Giant Panda Chinese Restaurant: 大熊猫

大熊猫 ookumaneko means Giant Panda. Although honestly, I usually see panda simply as パンダ written in katakana, so today I learned a new word.

We were up in Nago, and trying to decide on lunch. My husband felt like eating Chinese food, so I checked Google Maps and after glancing through a few restaurant pictures settled on a Sichuan restaurant called 大熊猫. And, just as I like it, it was off a back road in a little neighborhood. It is located on the second story of an apartment building and a few parking spaces underneath on the first story (upper stories are apartments).

*Just as a quick note, especially for mainland Americans: Chinese food is quite different than the American-Chinese most people expect. I know some Americans complain about the Chinese food here in Japan (but it is the same style as in Hawai’i due to the significant Asian influence, so I guess I am used to it), and they just want the Americanized version “whatever-fried-with-sweet-sauce” (not that this is a bad thing– American-Chinese food has its place I suppose). The thing is, you just probably will not find anything like your typical American-Chinese here, except for maybe on the American bases. Now, Chinese food in Japan is not necessarily authentic or anything, but it is more similar in style to actual Chinese food, although often with a Japanese twist and usually a lot less spicy.

When we entered, a slightly surprised lady greeted us, and got us some iced tea. There were cute panda decorations all around, a counter and a few tables, a fairly small place but clean. It was just after 11 am, so we were the first customers that day.

The menu was fairly simple, a few items, plus some specials hanging on the wall. The mapo tofu (麻婆豆腐) was recommended (おすすめ osusume), so of course we ordered that, and another favorite for my husband the fried crispy noodles in sauce (五目あんかけ焼きそば). There were other items, such as gyoza, tantan men, sweet/sour pork, fried rice; all of which tempted my husband, he had a difficult time deciding what we should order. She seemed pretty excited that we were there and reading the menu in Japanese. Once we ordered she went to the back and we could hear her cooking.

After a bit, the food came out, piping hot and so delicious. Wow, probably the number one Chinese food on the island that I have had! It was spicy and so well flavored. We ordered the fried sesame dango (唐揚げゴマ団子) for dessert, yum. The best part– the total was less than 2000円 for everything, and we were completely stuffed full.

As we were eating, more people started coming in, so the secret must be out about the amazing food at this place in the neighborhood. If you are in Nago and wanting some good Chinese food, this place is a must.

address: 沖縄県名護市為又1219-212