Santorini Cafe and Dining on Hamahiga Island makes a great retreat from life's stress
A crystal blue-green sea stretches out without a ripple; you sink into a cozy cushioned deck chair with a cocktail in your hand. A cool breeze caresses your sun-drenched forehead while UB40 oozes syrupy island vibes through the overhead terrace speakers. You don’t have a care in the world.
Santorini Cafe and Dining on Hamahiga Island in Uruma, Okinawa prefecture, is the perfect upscale retreat from life’s daily stressors. Located about 30 minutes from Okinawa City, the tiny island is rustic and largely undeveloped despite a bridge connecting it with Okinawa’s main island.
Hamahiga is home to several charming beaches and a small number of locals who enjoy a close relationship with Americans thanks to the U.S. Marines who provided much-needed infrastructure, including electricity, irrigation and schools, in the late 1960s. Santorini is one of only a couple of restaurants on its shores, considered a spiritual place for residents.
Santorini’s menu operates under the philosophy that it is better to do a few things very well than a lot of things just OK.
Sit inside or outside for lunch; they offer a course menu of soup, homemade bread or rice, a main course and coffee or tea for 1,550 yen. Or choose an appetizer, homemade bread or rice, a main course and coffee or tea for 2,050 yen.
The soups will not disappoint, with a choice between minestrone, pumpkin cream or beetroot cold cream.
The minestrone had good flavor and the right amount of vegetables. The pumpkin cream soup was out of this world. It looked watery but was actually just the opposite, with robust flavor and hints of garlic and sour cream.
The freshly baked bread — bursting with steam when opened — was the perfect accoutrement.
Santorini’s appetizer menu features marinated shrimp, escargot, fried Bourgogne, smoked duck and pork rillettes.
For main courses, Santorini offers pan-seared chicken with a tomato or balsamic sauce, pork loin with a red wine sauce or sauteed red snapper with seaweed sauce.
The pork and chicken — accompanied by sauteed fresh vegetables — were perfectly cooked, seared crisp on the outside, moist and bursting with flavor within. The sauces added a little acidity but were flavorful and not overbearing. The meat seems to melt in your mouth.
To wash it down, Santorini offers a wide variety of reasonably priced beverages, beers and cocktails, from fresh-squeezed lemonade with honey to ouzo for 550 yen, along with a wide variety of juices, coffees and teas.
For dessert, Santorini serves chocolate cake, parfait, sherbet and more, all for under 550 yen.
Santorini Cafe and Dining serves as a brilliant stop between home and the beach or the beach and home. The food and drinks are not only delicious, but also come infused with the laid-back tropical lifestyle of the island’s inhabitants.
Santorini Cafe and Dining
Where: Hamahiga Island in Uruma, Okinawa prefecture, Japan.
Directions: After crossing the bridge to Hamahiga, take a left. Santorini is a couple of hundred feet up on the right side.
Hours: The cafe is open for lunch 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call for a reservation for dinner from 6 to 9 p.m.
Cost: Prices vary depending on the course. Entrees generally cost upwards of $10.