Gajumaru aka The Treehouse Restaurant

Gajumaru

UPDATED BY SARAH FORTE

Outside view
View of the restaurant from Route 58 (Picture from 2009)

Update: June 2012

Maybe you are familiar with a website that promotes “pinning” pictures and internet links that are “interesting” to you. Recently on that website, I’ve often seen a picture similar to the one posted above. I see it “pinned” by people that I know have never been to Okinawa. They often say something like “Isn’t that a cool restaurant? I wonder where it is? I would love to eat there!”  Well, we are the lucky ones! It’s in Okinawa, and you may have driven past it near the Naha airport. I have lived here three years and I believe it is on it’s third owner and operating under it’s third official name, but to most Americans it is commonly (if not creatively) known as “The Treehouse Restaurant.”

 

It’s most recent incarnation may be its best. It is now named Gajumaru and specializes in shabu-shabu. In the past, the location overlooking the Naha Harbor and the fantastic exterior design may have been the draw, but the food was forgettable. Not any more! I recently ate lunch with a group of friends ranging from shabu-shabu experts (they had had homemade shabu-shabu the day before) to the shabu-shabu newbies who had never heard of it before. All left satisfied and enjoyed the experience and the food.

Shabu-shabu, Step 1

What is shabu-shabu you ask? It is an Asian way of cooking that could best be compared to fondue. If you’ve never tried it before, don’t worry. Gajumaru provides you with handy English instructions on how to handle this way of eating. First you need to order your type of shabu-shabu. The lunch options ranged from pork rib and chicken which were under 1000¥ to the more expensive types and quantities of meat for around 2000¥.

Shabu-shabu is a meal that you cook at your table. Instead of a grill in the middle of the table like yakiniku, there is a glass-top cooking surface. The server insured that each person who ordered shabu-shabu was near a container of broth that was brought to a boil at the table. Instead of a pot each container of broth was prepared in an interesting basket with a liner. The contraption looked like it was going to end disastrously with hot broth seeping out, but of course they held up wonderfully. Each set was served on a few dishes. There was a plate of vegetables and tofu, a tray of meat, and two kinds of dipping sauce: sesame and a citrusy soy. Whether you choose to follow the directions or go rouge is up to you. Traditionally, the tofu is added to the boiling broth first, then the vegetables. This is followed by the meat which is held by the chopsticks and swished through the boiling broth “like a paintbrush.”

 

There were also non-shabu-shabu menu items available. For 980¥ each, you have your choice of nine different sets each served with rice, a vegetable and miso soup. These dishes featured familiar Okinawan dishes like curry, taco rice, ginger pork and more. Side dishes were also available such as dumplings, tofu, kimchee and others. There were a few small dessert items too.

Included with each lunch set (shabu-shabu or not) was a drink bar, salad bar and a bowl of rice. The drink bar had cold and hot teas, coffee and my favorite: Okinawan lemonade. This is code for shikwasa! The salad bar is simple and Okinawan; greens with toppings like corn, goya, and seaweed, finished with sesame or Japanese style dressings. The rice is your choice of brown or white and I highly suggest the brown. It was almost purple in color and full of flavor.

I imagine that dinner at Gajumaru would be wonderful. The lights of the harbor below would be great and there are even more options on both the shabu-shabu and regular menus. Maybe next time!

While the unique character and shape of this restaurant may still be it’s biggest draw I now can fully recommend this restaurant for its food as well. Give it a try!

The whole set up!

Information: 

Directions: Gajumaru is located next to Naha Harbor on 58. (On some maps this is the point where 58 becomes 331, but it is the same road.) If you are driving south on 58 you will cross a bridge over the harbor and can see the restaurant from the bridge. After crossing the bridge, turn left at the giant treehouse! Parking for the restaurant is behind the tree and surrounded by a rental car lot. Walk to the back of the giant tree and you will see a smaller branch of the tree, which is the elevator. Be ready for a kijimuna inside!

Phone: 098-859-6530. Reservations may be needed for dinner hours.

Hours: Open daily year round. Lunch 1130-1530. Dinner 1830-0000.

Payment: Yen and credit card

Kids? Yes! This restaurant is kid friendly, especially at lunch. There is a children’s lunch set and highchairs.

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11 Comments
  • June 4, 2009

    I remember being somewhat disppointed in this cafe/restaurant too. A friend and I went for lunch, and whilst the view is good (as good as a view of a shipping dock can be), and the decor was new and pleasent, we found it nothing too special and havent deemed it worth the drive back when there are so many other wonderful cafes with better menus. If your on the way to the airport, its not a bad place to stop.

    Kate
    Reply
  • June 6, 2009

    My family & I tried this restaurant last summer on our way back from the outlet mall. It has that allure like the barrel restaurant “come try me”. Makes for cool pics but was disappointed in the food also and it was expensive. I did try seaweed soup for the first time. It does look like a few things changed they did not have the salad bar or drinks available. We haven’t been back since. Okinawa has alot to offer..on to the next!

    Amy B
    Reply
  • June 6, 2009

    This was the first and last place I dined when I was there almost a year ago for my 3 week adventure and that is why it is special to me. Aviva and her precious little one took me there right after they picked me up from the airport and I thought this was the most whimsical place I’d ever been. For my first Okinawa meal I had a curry set and loved it, but I loved every single bite and person and smell and smile I experienced for the whole 3 weeks I was on Okinawa, so maybe I can’t be trusted. Plus, I am feeling really nostalgic.

    Then, on my last night there on Okinawa, I walked myself down to Harbor Diner so I could come full circle and finish out my trip where it had begun. It was dark both outside and in the restaurant and I was the only soul in the place. I sat by the window and had a glass of wine and there was a big screen with videos shot underwater and beautiful music in English.

    I ordered one of the best salads I’d ever had or ever expect to have and I sat and just let myself absorb the tastes and the place. I was ready to see my family again, but I wasn’t ready to leave Okinawa and my salad said “Okinawa” with every bite. It was full of the sea, wonderful sea grapes popping in my mouth with every bite, fresh raw fish, beautiful greens. This salad was perfectly dressed with the most exquisitely beautiful and balanced and delicate and subtle dressing I’ve ever tasted.

    If I ever get to go back to Okinawa, I will go to seek out my salad at Harbor Diner. That salad again, now that would be divine!

    Love and misses, really,
    Robin

    Robin
    Reply
  • October 12, 2009

    looks good!

    kilala
    Reply
  • March 20, 2011

    Hubby and I tried this place just last night and I don’t think we would be coming back. There is nothing wrong with the service or the ambiance. It was the food – not horribly bad but just okay. We have eaten in a lot of places on the island and it tasted better than what we had. Hubby had lamb chops which were okay but expensive and the serving was so small. I had the seafood paella and I found myself looking for salt or soy sauce to “fix” the dish to my taste. Perhaps it really was meant to taste that way but it wasn’t for me. I’ve had better paella. We may give it another chance and order a different dish but there are lots more places to explore and eat at on the island. :)

    Lulu
    Reply
  • March 20, 2011

    PS:
    The view at night was also okay. I personally could do without the view of the 58 traffic. As for the harbor….it is a port. The lights from the 58 were too bright and “overshone” (if there is such a word) any reflection from the water. :(

    Lulu
    Reply
  • September 11, 2011

    FYI!!!! The restaurant has changed. We went there today only to find out a new place had opened up in August. I’m not exactly what the cuisine would be called, but it seems like a mix of the korean bbq grilling/pot cooking. The tables now have a stove top and the they bring a bowl(the bowl has some sort of grill inside…) and for you to cook your meat/veg in. I saw them pour something into our neighbors pot but because of the grillplate inside, maybe it was water and its more of a steam cooking thing. We only ordered off the sides menu because we had went there for steak so I’m not very helpful. I do have their website though, http://www.gajumaru-ok.com/

    Ashley
    Reply
    • September 11, 2011

      Thanks for the update, Ashley!

      Joelle Yamada
      Reply
  • September 11, 2011

    The new restaurant serves shabu shabu now.

    zee
    Reply
  • December 11, 2012

    I was pretty disappointed in this place. My food was so/so. My husband didn’t like his at all. Over priced, not very good quality. Glad I tried it once, but won’t be going back.

    P
    Reply
  • February 23, 2013

    i am nepali so i am searching a job in naha and i see this resturant in naha . i want to work in night

    malbul sarki suresh kumar
    Reply