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Rivah Visitor's Guide

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Hana Sushi offers an enjoyable transpacific culinary experience at home in Gloucester

Sushi Roll

by Audrey Thomasson

From sashimi and sushi to tempura and steak, this little restaurant has all the foods we love about Japan. The restaurant is tucked away in a back corner of York Crossing Shopping Center in Hayes.

But if you’re hesitant about eating raw fish, half the restaurant is dedicated to hibachi grilling.

While sushi has been a staple of Japanese cuisine for centuries, the restaurant’s teppanyaki style of grilling got its start in 1945 when a little known bombed-out restauranteur rummaged through the local dockyard, found an iron plate and used it to grill Kobe beef. That industrious young man was desperate to rebuild his business and he knew beef was the way to appeal to the few people with any money—the occupation forces.

Shigeji Fujioka cooked top quality meat and fresh vegetables by skillfully manipulating his spatula and knife as he grilled in front of his customers. He dubbed his cooking method teppan yaki in his Kobe restaurant, Misono.

Hana Sushi supplies plenty of entertainment to its teppanyaki grill. Chef Alan Vong paired food preparation with juggling condiments in the air, flipping a raw egg into his hat and building a flaming volcano out of a stack of onion rings as he chopped up a filet mignon and lobster with sides of vegetables and fried rice on the flat metal grill.

Having experienced the original Misono restaurant, I asked Vong’s thoughts on how filet mignon measures up to the world famous Kobe beef.

“Kobe beef is more marbled, juicier than filet,” Vong explained. While not as impressive as the Kobe of my memory, the filet was very tender.

Owner and chef Alan Vong

Teppanyaki grilling requires little oil and no spices, outside of a dash of salt. We were offered three mild dipping sauces—ginger for veggies, mustard for steak, and mayo-based yum/yum for fish—all tasty, but we preferred the natural flavor off the grill. In Japan, only soy sauce is usually offered.

The meal comes with a very mild miso soup (dried kelp and fish stock) and typical Japanese salad.

One order was more than enough to feed two of us. Of course, we’d already dipped into all the traditional foods as our appetizers. That included a couple of sushi rolls.

It’s customary to eat sushi at the sushi bar where you can watch your bite-size meal come together. But since we were already seated at the grill, we ordered from the extensive menu which included classics plus some interesting combos of their own. The New York roll was made with tempura shrimp, spicy tuna, cucumber and roe. The combination of crispy fried with soft and raw made this the highlight of the meal.

We ordered the Eyeball just for the name. Made of crab, avocado, cream cheese and spicy mayonnaise on rice balls, the presentation lived up to the name. While the flavor was fine, chomping down on “eyeballs” caused some trepidation. Perhaps more ghoulish diners could better appreciate this choice.

The pickled pink ginger root is important to cleanse the palate between sushi bites.

You don’t have to like raw fish to enjoy many of the rolls, so give it a try. But order slowly, because the only thing faster than Vong’s knives are his two sushi chefs.

Another enjoyable appetizer is the classic tempura battered shrimp and vegetables. Tempura’s light flavor and coating is wonderful on shrimp. Even the worst veggie eaters are sure to enjoy tempura battered broccoli or zucchini. While it is only offered as an appetizer, two orders would be a perfect-sized meal.

Gently warmed Sake, a Japanese rice wine, complimented all of our choices, cooked and raw. But the bar also offers a variety of other wines and mixed drinks.

While not fancy or flashy in location or decor, Hana Sushi reminded me of the 12 years I lived in Japan. With its friendly chefs and kimono-clad waitresses, the vibe was casual and a little tight on space. Prices were very reasonable.

I discovered my favorite Yakisoba on the menu, so I’ll be back soon.

いただきます Itadakimasu (Let’s eat)!

posted 04.27.2017

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