I’ve been here twice. The first was for lunch — a rather unmemorable meal — and more recently, dinner. I had heard from friends that dinner is so much better and wanted to check it out for myself.
We arrived around 7pm and it wasn’t super crowded. I quickly went ahead and ordered a bunch of items. Okinawan cuisine veers closer to Chinese than Japanese, but obviously, it is regional Japanese cuisine. I used to love eating Okinawan food while living in Hawaii.
Umibudou ($7.50) is Okinawan sea grapes, a type of seaweed, served with ponzu on the side. I remember eating these as a child, but they were brined. They don’t taste like much, but I think I liked the nostalgia of eating it.
We love tofu and the trio of Okinawa-Style Yakko Tofu ($4) caught my eye. Three cubes of tofu are topped with different ingredients: housemade miso, squid ink and salted fish. I liked every one in its own way. The miso is lovely, not overly salty, while the squik ink with little strips of squid is wonderfully savory and enhanced the tofu well. The salted fish is the most robust with a strong salty taste perfect to season the tofu with.
Mimiga ($4.50) is lightly fried pig ears, so delicious, and so crispy I wish I had ordered another plate. It is served with the same dipping sauce you get with tempura. Definitely a must-order.
Naturally, I am not able to leave without trying the Okinawan Pepper Teba Wings ($5). These are moist and off-the-bone tender.
We are obsessed with Chicken Karaage ($5) and order it whenever we see the Japanese fried chicken on the menu. The ones here are in nugget form, small, but very moist and flavorful.
Spam Musubi ($2.50) Onigiri Salmon ($2) and Salmon & Ikura Onigiri ($4.50) are next. The former two are just what you would expect with the Onigiri Salmon a little thin on the salmon.They were all decent and worth ordering if you love rice.
However, I really liked the latter best with a combination of salmon and ikura (roe). They all had too much rice but still, quite enjoyable.
If it is noodles you love, then try one of the ramen. We especially loved Spicy Miso Ramen ($8.50), fighting for the rich, hearty broth swimming with curly al dente ramen. I found slices of chashu (pork) and kamaboku (fish cake) dotted in between. The spicy miso is served on the side, but we immerse the entire dollop into the broth. It is ridiculously tasty.
This little place is not fancy but it definitely churns out some delicious homestyle cooking. I can’t wait to come back again.
Habuya Okinawan Dining
14215 Red Hill Avenue
Tustin, CA 92780