Shisen-en Chinese Cafe and Karaoke [CLOSED]

Sweet and sour in downtown Naha

By Bonson Lam    - 3 min read

No matter how far or near you are from home, and whether traveling for business or pleasure, there are moments when you feel nostalgic for some home cooking. If your comfort food is Chinese cooking, then look no farther than the Shisen-en restaurant in the heart of the Kencho-mae Government District.

The Chinese Chef is from Sichuan, and despite working here for more than one year, has not lost his Chinese culinary roots. His favorite choice on the menu is Mapo Tofu, which is softly cooked bean curd in a spicy chili and bean based sauce, with minced meat mixed in, Sichuan style. For connoiseurs of authentic Chinese food, or those wanting a fix of the real thing, this is the place to go. And if you want to order or talk in Mandarin Chinese, the chef is more than happy to oblige.

While there is no English menu, the waitress who also happens to be the Japanese owner's friend, is more than happy to explain this in a combination of broken English and Japanese. So even if you can't read the word "ramen", when you hear it, chances are you will understand the menu enough to make an informed decision. Of course, there is always the picture menu at the entrance, if you would like to politely take the waitress outside. She is the owner’s friend, so be nice to her!

For those who don’t want to venture outside, here is the menu. They serve Mapo tofu, sweet and sour pork, seafood or vegetable ramen, tatamen with or without soup (kind of ramen) and sour ramen, all with small bowl of clear Chinese soup and a bowl of white rice. The soup is boiling hot, so watch your tongue.

All dishes are cooked to order by the lone cook, so this place will reward your patience. I ordered the sweet and sour pork, the batter stunningly crisp on the outside, and tender and juicy pork on the inside. The capsicum and pineapple are fresh and crunchy, and makes a perfect complement to the pork.

Being lunchtime in the office district on a public holiday, the neighboring cafes are closed. There is hardly anyone on the street, actually. Only local 50 year old office workers from the nearby hotel are eating here, so this must be their watering hole. This is testament to the great authentic food. For less than 700 yen for soup, rice and a hot meal, no wonder the office workers keep coming back.

Come night time, it is a different story, looking at the dozens of whiskies and cognacs on display. The crowds spill over from nearby Kokusai Dori entertainment district, and with four floors of Karaoke and dozens of posters with the latest pop stars, this is where tourists and office parties meet.

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Bonson Lam

Bonson Lam @bonson.lam

I knew my future was destined to be with Japan the moment I flew from Sydney to experience the atmospheric lane ways of Kyoto last century. From the skies above Sapporo to the old charm of Naha's alleyways, I have been enchanted by the beauty and variety on every island. I am humbled to have met many distinguished people in my role as Regional Partner, especially the national living treasures of Japan, such as the doll maker to the Imperial Family. From sushi cooking classes to Ninja training grounds I welcome your ideas on what you like from Please visit us in Kyoto or Osaka and have some green tea or sake with us. 

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