Hana Sushi certainly fills a needed niche in the Ashland restaurant scene: a casual sushi/Japanese/Korean restaurant with outdoor seating downtown. Hana Sushi is a great place for families, college students and date nights. The casual atmosphere but quality food make it perfect for a family where parents may dine on quality sushi and sashimi while their children are happily spearing teriyaki chicken with chopsticks. The college crowd is treated to “late night sushi” on Friday and Saturday nights when Hana Sushi stays open late to give those partying or studying (yeah, right) students something good to put in their bellies. And date nights are great at Hana Sushi because of the reasonably priced dishes with large enough portions to share.
I visited Hana Sushi on a date night with a companion who had never before eaten sushi of any kind. I eat sushi on average three times per month but sometimes its from the grocery store sushi bar and many times from a restaurant. It has been about two years since my last visit to Hana Sushi and my expectations were high.
We cruised by Hana Sushi at 7pm on a Sunday night and saw that it was very crowded. I have been to Hana Sushi when it was very crowded and have not had very good service. I wanted this to be a very good experience, especially because my date has never really “done” sushi. I suggested to him that we wait a half hour to go in, when the crowd would have dissipated. I’m glad we did. We ended up at Hana Sushi around 7:45pm when most of the crowd had gone. The place had a calm after the storm feeling, which I kind of like. I like having the server’s attention. Our server did mention that they were not expecting such a large crowd on a stormy Sunday night in downtown Ashland; and had to call back their lunch server in order to get the dinner crowd served. He confessed that one large table waited 30 minutes for their food but that the small staff could only churn the orders through as quickly as they could move. This information made me even happier that I had made the decision to wait out the storm of the evening before sitting down.
My date had a very open mind and open tummy, ready to try anything I put in front of him and I wanted to try some things I’d never had before.
I’m a fan of sake and while I have my favorite sake (very dry, unfiltered) I always try new ones when I find them. Hana Sushi’s sake list is short but complete with a range of sake types: from dry to sweet; from high end to low end; from Japan, Korea and Oregon. Since there were so many new sakes for me to try, I opted for the sake flight which consisted of 4 different sakes and was a steal of a deal at $4. The four sakes were: Taru from Japan, Nigori from Japan, Momokawa Plum from Oregon and Momokawa Organic Ginjo from Oregon. Each sake was served in a different color and shape ceramic cup that seemed suited to its taste. The Taru was served in a square black cup and had strong tastes of cedar bark and grass. The Taru would pair well with beef dishes. The Nigori was served in a round grey cup and because it was unfiltered, had a milky color to it. The Nigori was very smooth and silky. A sake that pairs well with most food, especially vegetarian and seafood. The Momokawa Plum was served in a round red cup, perfect for its sweet, fruity taste. This is a dessert wine and should be consumed after dinner. Because of its sweetness, its tough to pair with main dishes. The Momokawa Organic Gingo was served in a green cup with a scalloped edge. It had an earthy taste that would pair well with most food, especially dishes with chicken and pork.
I was especially interested in the Oregon sake because I have had sake from SakeOne and really liked it, but did not know if the Momokawa was from the same sake producer. I asked the server and he did not know; he said he’d find out by looking at the bottle but he never did give me an answer. So, I looked it up on my smart phone when we were half way through our dinner.Sure enough, the Momokawa is from SakeOne located in Forest Grove, about an hour West of Portland. I had tasted their “g” sake at the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival and was impressed. I recommend any of their Oregon made sake to any one adventurous enough to try them.
I put in an order for two Hana Sushi specialties from the sushi bar that I had not had before. The Mt. Ashland hand roll: Tempura shrimp, krabmeat, avocado, scallops in a lettuce wrap; and the Rainbow Roll: which was listed in the menu as 3 fish wrapped on top of California Roll. We also ordered the Yakisoba (wheat noodles) with spicy pork to share.
The sushi was delivered to our table quickly. I was pleasantly surprised by the Rainbow Roll. It wasn’t a mere “3 fish wrapped over a California roll”. It was a beautiful presentation of scallops, octopus, ahi tuna, salmon, yellowtail and shrimp wrapped over a large California roll which is: cucumber, avocado, krabmeat wrapped in seaweed (Nori) and rolled in rice. And there was no skimping on the avocado! It was almost too pretty to eat. All of the fish tasted fresh as well as the California roll. I would order the Rainbow Roll again, at $12 its really a good deal.
I was also surprised by the Mt. Ashland hand roll. I expected it to be a cone, usually a hand roll is served in a Nori cone, and I thought maybe some type of lettuce would be substituted for the seaweed. Instead the ingredients of the Mt. Ashland roll were tightly wrapped in a rice flour wrapper, the same wrapper used for spring rolls. I liked this wrapper but the roll was a bit difficult to eat because it fell apart when picked up. So we requested forks to eat it. The combination of tastes in the roll were delectable; again, there was no skimping on the avocado. I also think this roll is a deal at $12.
The sushi chef overheard that my date was a sushi virgin and he personally delivered a special treat to our table. He called it a Sunrise Roll but it wasn’t really a roll. It consisted of many layers of delicacies. From bottom to top: tobiko (salmon roe), rice, tempura shrimp, chipotle mayo, green onion, thinly sliced lemon and a beautiful piece of salmon on top. It was a wonderfully delectable treat that my date and I enjoyed immensely. He said it was one of the yummiest things he had ever tasted. I liked everything about it except the chipotle mayo. I’m just not a fan of mayo with my sushi.
I had wished that Hana Sushi offered a high end sake flight so that I could have tried some of the more expensive sake on the menu but I understand that it would be tough to have the more expensive sake open without selling the entire bottle. I tried to order a small bottle of Ty Ku from Oregon; but the server had only the big bottle in stock and I wasn’t up for drinking a large bottle of sake. He did offer to allow me to try the Ban Ryu from Japan, which I had never had before. I am thankful to him for allowing me to try the Ban Ryu. It was earthy and grassy and the one ounce pour he gave me was enough for me. After reviewing the sake list again I settled on the house sake which is a traditional Korean rice wine sake. This sake was pink in hue and fairly sweet. I like dry sake so I wouldn’t say this was my favorite. I would have stuck with the unfiltered Nigori sake to go with my Yakisoba and spicy pork. But, my date liked the Korean sake with his Yakisoba, so to each his own.
Our server was thoughtful enough to bring our one order of Yakisoba on two separate plates. There was plenty for us both, neither one of us could finish the dish. The Yakisoba wheat noodles are stir fried with vegetables and the bbq spicy pork. I think Hana Sushi makes some of the best spicy pork and I recommend it as an entree ($9) or with the Yakisoba ($11 with the meat, $8 without). The Yakisoba was a very hearty dish, perfect for a cold, stormy night.
Hana Sushi closes at 8:30pm on Sunday nights and the sushi chef excused himself from our presence at that time. We closed down the restaurant as the server was putting up the chairs, at 9pm.
The best times to dine at Hana Sushi is before 6pm, as that is when the staff and fish are freshest and the crowds are not yet filling the space. On Friday and Saturday nights check out late night sushi between 9pm and midnight where students receive 50% their highest priced menu item. Prices at Hana Sushi are very reasonable with Teriyaki Chicken, rice and salad dinner at only $8, and most entrees around the $12 mark with the most expensive being Japanese Chirashi at $19. Sushi prices are reasonable with California Rolls at $5 and prices topping out at $37 for a 26 piece Sashimi platter–still a deal.
Some of my other favorite items on the Hana Sushi menu are the Gyoza (pork and vegetable pot stickers) 6 pieces for $6, Hana Bento (Chicken Teriyaki, 4 pc. California Roll, 4 pc. Gyoza, rice and salad) $11 and the Udon Noodle Soup (thick Japanese wheat noodles in a clear broth garnished with seaweed, green onions, bean sprouts and tofu) $7.50. Hana Sushi offers homemade Kimchee for $3.
Hana Sushi is open Mon-Thurs 11:30am-9:30pm, Fri and Sat 11:30am-11pm and Sun 11:30am-8:30pm. The address is 29 N Main Street on the Plaza and phone number for orders to go is 541.201.8898.