Il gastro Sara

il Gastro Sara is an Italian style restaurant on route 58 in Onna village
Out front
A few weeks ago, a new restaurant opened up on route 58 about 5 minutes from my work! This kind of thing is always exciting for me because it means somewhere new to have the occasional lunch date with H and time away from the office. Il Gastro Sara, is an Italian style restaurant with a focus on fresh and seasonal vegetables. We were super happy to see that they offer a few vegetarian options as well as some other options (like the curry) that you can make vegetarian.

We have now been there twice, and although it's not AMAZING, it is a nice place for lunch. The inside of the restaurant is gorgeous, and I especially love that you can see what's happening in the kitchen. The staff are really nice and speak some English, and they also have an English menu. Both lunch times we have been there it has been quite busy, so it might be worth ringing to book a table if you have a few people in your party.

Everything on the menu seems to be made fresh, and you have an option of adding a soup or salad and a drink to your lunch (which also comes with fresh baked bread!) for an extra 500yen. The first time I had the salad, which was lovely, and the second time I opted for the soup (Corn), but I didn't realise it was going to be cold soup, so that was kind of odd, and not really my thing, even though it was tasty.

I look forward to trying out their night time menu sometime soon. You can find the location of the restaurant on the map on their website, but if you know where Cafe Doka Doka is, it is about 1 minute past that on route 58.

il Gastro Sara restaurant is an Italian Style restaurant on route 58 in Onna, Okinawa
Interior with open kitchen so you can watch all the action

The menu at il Gastro Sara, Okinawa
The menu

Herbs and olive oil are tasty with their fresh baked bread

The Mango Curry at Il Gastro Sara, Okinawa is beautiful and delicious!
Mango curry is vegetarian if you ask for it without the chicken

The white sauce lasagna

Mushroom pasta

Amatriciana pasta

Pannacotta and fruit for dessert

The bar

Okinawa Vegan Food Fest

The first Okinawa Vegan Food fest was held at Kaneku Seaside Park in Kadena
Vegan Food Festival
This past weekend we went to Okinawa's first vegan food festival at Kaneku Seaside Park in Kadena. It was actually on the hottest day so far this year, and the sun was out which was amazing. Unfortunately for the stall holders though, it was really windy, so things were blowing everywhere and some of the food vendors couldn't open sue to fire hazards or something (including my favourite - GubGubs!)

We did a quick walk around the stalls to see what was available. By midday most of the food stalls already had lines pretty decent lines, but we decided to join the line for felafel things because they looked delicious and it's one of the things you don't often get to eat here in Okinawa! While we were waiting in line for the felafel, we took turns to go and check out the other food stalls and picked up some vegan bibimbap from one stall, and what seemed to be another vegan bibimbap from the Ukishima Gardens stall as well as a little bottle of vegan wine to have with our picnic.

After getting the felafel goods we found one of the very limited spots of shade and got out our picnic blanket to eat. The felafel pita and felafel bowl were definitely the favourites of the day and were worth the line up for. The hummus and tahini they used on them were amazing and they made everything on the spot (hence the long wait times). The other meals we tasted (both the bibimbaps) were pretty average, but I think that's because they were going for more of a macrobiotic healthy vibe, whereas we just prefer things to be tasty! Haha.

I heard that all the food had sold out within 2 and a half hours, so i'm really glad that we got there early and had our choice of things to eat. I think for next year, they definitely need to think about better shade options for people (I got sunburned) but overall it was really nice to see something different in Okinawa.

Gorgeous, but windy day

bags blowing in the wind

Pottery for sale

This was my favourite stall

The felafel was amazing

Felafel Pita Sandwich from the Okinawa Vegan Food Festival full of felafel, salad and hummus
Felafel pita sandwich

Felafel bowl from the Okinawa Vegan Food Festival full of felafel, salad and hummus
More felafel

Vegan bibimbap and a mini vegan wine

My Okinawa Neighbourhood

A couple of weeks ago on one of our rare sunny days I captured some cute photos of my neighbourhood while I was walking the dog. 

When I first moved in to our neighbourhood all I noticed was the grey concrete houses and struggled to find anything pretty about it, but these days I really love the look of my neighbourhood with the narrow streets that you can barely fit a car down, and tropical flowers everywhere! The weather is slowly heating up and there are so many more flowers in bloom. It seems like every second house is covered with bougainvillea vines or surrounded by hibiscus trees. Okinawa definitely looks nothing like mainland Japan!

Nakadomari beach in Okinawa
Love that this is what I wake up to on a sunny day

Shisa statues protect houses in Okinawa from evil spirits
Shisa outside a house in my neighbourhood

Old Okinawa style house in my naighbourhood
My favourite house in the neighbourhood

I wonder how old this place is?

These flowers were really big and a super pretty peach colour

Bougainvillea flowers are everywhere in Okinawa
Bougainvillea is out in force in the neighbourhood right now

Hibiscus will forever remind me of Okinawa
Narrow streets


This vegetarian lasagna recipe is so much healthier than usual using a cauliflower creamy bechamel It can be easily made vegan!

So, I know this is completely different to what I usually blog about, but i've been thinking about sharing this recipe for quite a while now because it's awesome. Healthy, low fat lasagna?! And it tastes amazing??! Hell yes it does! 

The story behind this healthy, low fat lasagna started about 8 months ago. We had finally decided to reign in our love for all things fatty and overhauled our usual home recipes to try and make them healthier and lower fat without compromising on taste. One of our favourite, most indulgent meals was H's eggplant lasagne. It was so good that we would often find ourselves going back for seconds. Clearly, this had to stop!

During our searches for healthier versions of our favourite comfort foods, we stumbled across Chocolate Covered Katie and her recipe for her creamy cauliflower alfredo sauce, which we made mac n cheese from. It was a hit. After discovering how creamy the sauce was it lead to the secret of our lasagna recipe - CAULIFLOWER!

Cauliflower bechamel sauce is a low fat healthy alternative to use in your lasagna!

We no longer make traditional bechamel sauce which contains a decent amount of butter, flour, milk etc, and instead make our own cauliflower bechamel!

To make the cauliflower bechamel:

  • one whole cauliflower
  • about 1 and a half cups of your milk of choice (your choice here will obviously determine whether it's vegan or not!)
  • one teaspoon of garlic powder
  • one teaspoon of vegetable stock powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • Chop one whole cauliflower into smallish pieces (see in picture below)
  • In a saucepan, pour your choice of milk (low fat dairy, soy, almond, rice etc) to about half the level of the cauliflower
  • Add garlic powder, stock powder and salt and pepper
  • boil the cauliflower in the milk until very soft
  • Transfer the cooked cauliflower to a blender and blend until smooth

Dry frying the eggplant without oil is delicious, soft and healthy!

Other ingredients:

  • For the tomato sauce:
    • Tinned tomato
    • onion
    • garlic
    • herbs
    • or just use a jar of store bought sauce!
  • grated cheese of your choice (sheese if you want it to be vegan)
  • eggplant (a couple of big ones!)
  • spinach
  • lasagna sheets

For the rest of the lasagna you will need to make a tomato sauce, as well as frying the eggplant. To save on calories and fat, we have also discovered dry frying the eggplant. This means frying the egplant in a non-stick frypan with NO OIL. That's right. It seems counter-intuitive, but trust me, it works!

Slice the eggplant lengthways into about 0.7cm pieces and fry until they are soft. Put the pieces aside to layer in the lasagne later.

I'm not going to tell you how to make your tomato sauce. I mean, even if you're using a jar of store bought sauce, go for it! Our sauce is made basically using tinned tomatoes, onion, garlic and some herbs. That's it.

Layering the lasagna and prepping the side.

Once you have all your elements ready, cover the bottom of your lasagna tray with a thin layer of tomato sauce, followed by lasagna pasta sheets, then another layer of tomato, topped with slices of eggplant, cheese (can add or not depending on how low cal you want this to be), a layer of spinach leaves and a layer of the cauliflower bechamel. Repeat this a couple of times until you end with a layer of lasagne sheets topped by a large amount of the cauliflower bechamel.

Once you have your lasagne assembled, pop it in the oven at about 220 degrees celsius (430 fahrenheit) and cook covered for about 45 minutes. Take it out of the oven, uncover and sprinkle on some grated cheese (again adjust the amount according to how calorific you want it to be!) and put it back in the oven, uncovered, until the cheese is brown. Be sure to stick a knife into the lasagne to check that the pasta sheets are cooked through.

I served my lasagne with some sautéed brocollini, garlic and onion, but it's also great with a side salad or other vegetables.

vegetarian lasagna with cauliflower bechamel.

I hope this recipe makes sense and that you enjoy making it! It's definitely our favourite splurge meal and I think this lower fat version is just as tasty! It's also very easy to make vegan, which we have done many times by using vegan milk options (almond milk works well) in the bechamel and breadcrumbs on top instead of cheese!)

If you have any questions, or anything is unclear in my haphazard recipe above, please let me know in the comments!

Life lately - April

Life lately has been BUSY! This year is already flying by so quickly. I hope it slows down when it actually turns to proper beach weather. I know I talk about weather a lot at the moment, but seriously Okinawa, get your act together. I feel like it's been raining constantly for the last 4 months and i'm over it! Don't get me wrong, we get some sun every now and again, but I think it's on average 2 sunny days to 5 miserable ones.

A few days ago we said goodbye to our first guests of the year. It was so nice to have family here and get to show them around Tokyo, as well as where we're living in Okinawa. It also meant a couple of date nights because we had people offering to babysit! There's just something so luxurious and amazing about kid-free date time with my lady! All up we managed to get in 3 dates over 3 weeks. Our first date we just went out for a few drinks in our neighbourhood. First we stumbled into a cute and tiny French restaurant and had some wine, then on to an izakaya down the street for another drink and a snack.  Our second date we headed further afield to Shirokuma Thai in Yomitan.

Zhyvago coffee in Chatan is a really cool little cafe with a great view of the East china sea
Having some solo time with a coffee at Zhyvago Coffee Works
Street art in american village, Chatan
Around American Village Chatan

Colourful buildings along the seawall in Chatan
I love the colourful buildings around American Village

A couple of weeks ago I also managed to get some solo time to go out for a coffee and read my kindle. It was a rare sunny morning so I headed to Zhyvago Coffee Works in Chatan to sit in the sun and look out over the water while H and her mum took the little guy to his swimming lesson. I managed to have a walk around and get some photos as well.

Date night 1 - a french place nearby and an izakaya in Onna

Maeda Beach is one of the nicest on mainland Okinawa
Maeda beach
In just another two short weeks we will have the next influx of visitors. Some of our besties are coming over to hang out (they were also here last year) over the Golden Week holiday so we will be doing lots of exploring of the island as well as jetting up to Tokyo for a few nights of fun! It will be a completely different trip than the recent one with family, so i'm really looking forward to it!
Shirokuma Thai in Yomitan has really tasty Thai food
Date night 2 at Shirokuma Thai restaurant in Yomitan

Sparklers during a power outage

Street art on an building in Chatan, Okinawa
Some random street art in Chatan
In other good news, a new, vegetarian friendly restaurant has opened up just down the road from my work. It's got a lovely fit-out and is italian style food. I will try to do a more detailed post on it later, but I love it when a new place opens near my house! It also has a pretty stellar view!

il gastro sara, restaurant Onna-son Okinawa
New restaurant near my work

Okinawa Beach Day

Okinawa Beaches with crystal blue waters

Today, our last family guest is going back to Australia, but we will only need to wait another 2 short weeks until the next batch arrives! Once again, the weather here in Okinawa has involved days and days of rain, luckily though a couple of weekends ago we had the perfect weather to show our family what we love the most about Okinawa - the beaches!

We started our morning with breakfast at Kaiholo cafe, then headed up route 58, taking the scenic coastal route all the way to my favourite place - Sesoko Island. If you've read my previous posts (best beaches in Okinawa, and Sesoko Island Paradise) you will know how beautiful this place is. Because we really only had one day to get to the beach with some of our family who were only in Okinawa for a short time, I wanted to make sure it was the best beach!

Cute latte
The water was still quite cold (read: freezing!) but it was sunny and gorgeous anyway. We set ourselves up in a shady spot and some even braved the cold enough to have a snorkel!

Sesoko Island has the most beautiful clear water
Water time!

Sesoko Beach, Okinawa
Seriously! This water?!

Bridge to Sesoko Island Okinawa
Bridge from Sesoko back to the main island
After lunch, I really wanted to take the family to the Hammock Cafe, Anettaichaya, however it seems that word has gotten out about how great it is because even early on a Tuesday there was a HUGE line up out front to get in. This makes me sad because last time we went on a weekend it wasn't busy at all.

After the dissapointment of not being able to eat lunch there we kept driving back towards Nago and stopped off at Okashi Goten Sweets Palace (The sweet potato factory) and decided to eat at one of their restaurants, Ikoi. They had a decent variety of Okinawan meals and we all found something we wanted to eat. The restaurant had a lovely view out over the forest and cute little wooden tables to sit at. After the dissapointment of not getting to go to the Hammock Cafe, this was actually really nice and we all left satisfied. After lunch we wandered around the shop selling Okinawa souvenirs as well as many many sweet potato products!

Lunch at Okashi goten Nago
Lunch at the sweet potato factory

Ice cream time
Considering the recent rainy weather, i'm so glad that our visitors were blessed with some gorgeous sun so we could show them how beautiful Okinawa is, as well as getting to my favourite beach!