Saturday, June 6, 2015

Nawlins

Location: Nawlins


Rating: OK
Meal: Dinner for 2 (plus 2 beers)
Price: 4500 yen
Payment:  Credit cards accepted
Dishes: Shrimp Po'boy, Pulled pork and red beans with rice, a Japanese IPA and Saison (beers)
English Menu:Yes
Smoking:No


Nawlins is a special place for us.  It used to be a bit closer to the base and just serve Po'boys and such.  I think we ate there once and never went back because we didn't like it that much and it was expensive.  Then, when we moved into Yokosuka from our previous place, we discovered that they had moved at the same time, to a place just a block away from our apartment.  Best of all, they had expanded into BBQ and (this is the awesome part) craft beers!  With room for around 24 beers, they currently have about 12 items on tap, but the selection is constantly changing.  The importance of this is huge for Yokosuka, as there are exactly 0 other locations where you can get craft beer at a bar in Yokosuka.  Sure you can buy a few in bottles either on base or at Aqua Vitae, a local beer store, but Nawlins specializes in getting interesting Japanese and the occasional American craft beers.  As such, the place can be rated on both beer and food, and since this is a food blog, I'm going to rate the place as a restaurant primarily.  But I just want to be known that we love the beer there as well as the people and we have made many good friends, from the owners to the staff, and I mean no ill will in giving the restaurant the rating I'm giving it.  If I were to rate just the bar, I'd give it a Very Good, missing an Excellent only because I think the beers are overpriced by about 200 yen.

There are 2 basic cuisines on offer there, Louisiana cooking and BBQ.  There is a BBQ restaurant up in Yokohama and the pitmaster there partnered up with the owner of Nawlins here to expand Nawlins' food options when they moved to their new location.  Last night we had a bit of both for the review.


My wife had the Shrimp Po'boy, and we've both had others in the past.  Honestly our opinions on them haven't changed much.  The bread is interesting in that it is crusty (hard to find in Japan), but it is incredibly chewy and a serious workout for the jaw.  And there seems to be too much bread for the filling.  My wife said the shrimp (which was breaded and fried) tasted good but was lost in all that bread.  There are sides available but none of them seem to really complement the dish (i.e. I usually look for something green, but the closest thing is coleslaw).  The fries that she got were ok.  Bottom line is that for 900 yen, we'd expect to see more food for the price.









I went for BBQ and ended up getting the pulled pork as I hadn't tried it before.  I wanted to get the collared greens as a side but they were out (see rant below), so ended up with red beans and rice.  The dish arrived, meat on a plate with a bowl of beans and rice.  I think this is one of our complaints about the place...the presentation is extremely minimal, with no attention to aesthetics.  It seems almost deliberately anti-beauty in that respect.  Now, I understand...no one says you have to pretty your food up.  However...when you are charging as much as they are for the food, I kind of expect a little extra in that department to justify the price.  As we've said multiple times, if their food was dirt cheap and being served out of a hole in the wall, we'd probably be raving about it.  The pork was cold though, and I had to send it back to be heated up.  Once that was taken care of, I can report that it was delicious.  I just wish I had something green to go with it.

A word about their service.  I just want to preface this again by saying that we love the people there.  What we are criticizing here is the consistently terrible service we have experienced there from the beginning.  At first we assumed it was just opening blues and they would get better with time.  But it has been so bad for so long and for so many people, that it has become something of a joke.  You have to know if you go there that you will probably be ignored or forgotten about, your order will be messed up, some food might be cold and what you want won't be available.  All of these things have happened to us and others we know numerous times.  In Japan, where there is no tipping (thank goodness!), there is really no recourse when it comes to providing feedback other than to say it directly, and when you are good friends with the people involved, that is difficult to do.  I hope if they end up reading this, they don't take offense, but instead start doing something about the systemic problems.  I think they could be sooo much better as a restaurant if they did, and could do a lot more business.  It is just a night and day difference in experience between Nawlins' service and just about any Japanese restaurant you might walk into.  When that's the norm, the difference is shocking.

One more caution...they are almost always out of many items on the menu.  I understand this is due to the nature of BBQ, it takes a long time to cook and you can only have so much on hand.  However, we have personally witnessed entire tables of people who waited 20 minutes to be seated only to be told that what they were hoping to eat isn't available, get up and leave en masse.  We strongly suggest that when you first enter the place, ask if they have any of X (your favorite item) before sitting down.  There is a board behind the bar on the first floor where everything they currently have or are out of is listed, so you can check that too.

On a more positive note, Nawlins fills a niche that is lacking in the available restaurants in Yokosuka. The upstairs floor is a large, comfortable area in which to gather with friends and have a meal and some beers in a pleasant environment. I appreciate that the owners are not looking to make a quick buck off of cheap alcohol and drunken sailors (as many other places in this area seem to be doing).

I have waited a long time to rate Nawlins because I wanted to be sure I did it justice.  It's hard to give a lower review for a place than you wish you could give it.  It still merits an OK because we do return there to eat occasionally, and because the beer is good and we go back often for that alone.  If you know what you are in for when you go there (regarding service and items being unavailable), then you can just laugh when it happens and have a good time anyway.

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