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Cafe Garamanjyaku

Review excerpt: Kiyoko Yamashiro grows many of her vegetables and herbs in a garden near Cafe Garamanjyaku. The restaurant’s special Detox Set consists of whole rice, cereals, a rich miso soup with medicinal herbs, wild flowers, paprika, okra, pumpkin and purple turmeric. This is augmented with small dishes: bowls of Malabar spinach, black carrot pickles, fennel and Okinawan yams prepared with black sugar and rice powder. The abundance of ingredients hints at the intensive preparation time required to serve these dishes. My lunch set, a smorgasbord of vegetables with restricted meat and fish accents, is served on a getto (shell ginger) leaf. Bulblets of Madeira vine, boiled purslane, red onion and Okinawan burdock add flavor, density and complexity to the meal. An accompanying dish of miso, used as a dip, has been aged with more than 30 types of herbs, vegetables and fruits, resulting in a raft of flavors that are by turns sweet, tart and salty. There is also sweet potato, an Okinawan staple rich in vitamins, calcium, carotenoids and fiber, and at least three types of tubers, including taamu, a mineral-rich Okinawan taro. The meal is topped with one or two thin crescent-shaped slices of goya (bitter melon), a nobly green gourd bulging with vitamin C that is far too commonplace to dominate Garamanjyaku’s specialized menu.