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Hana Sushi

Anew sushi restaurant has blossomed in downtown Ashland.

Hana Sushi opened in December in a prime location on the Plaza that had sat vacant since Pipon's Mexican restaurant closed early last year in the wake of the legal and financial troubles of Scot Bolsinger, former owner and Ashland Daily Tidings editor.

I had spotted Hana's sign in the pre-Christmas rush, but didn't get back to try the restaurant until this month. My husband and I stopped in early on a Sunday evening for dinner and found the simple dining room bustling with families, couples and groups.

We chose seats at the bar, which gave us an eye-level view of a bright array of seafood glistening in a glass-fronted refrigerated case. In the case, gleaming ruby maguro tuna and a mound of saffron-colored sea urchin roe both caught my eye immediately, but there was plenty on the menu to consider.

Hana, which reportedly means "flower" in Japanese and "No. 1" in Korean, offers a range of Japanese and Korean dishes. The tempura, teriyaki and bento options look very similar to those at other Japanese restaurants across the Rogue Valley, but the Korean bulgogi barbecued beef and hwe-dop-bap, a selection of raw seafood and spicy sauce over a bowl of rice, are less common locally.

Still, we stuck with the classics when ordering, choosing a sushi and sashimi combo, and steamed green-lipped mussels and tempura shrimp appetizers to share.

I ordered green tea to help push back the chill of a winter's evening and received a lovely, large mug of brilliantly colored tea with a grassy aroma. My husband started with warming miso soup — a pleasant, light broth with a mildly smoky flavor and lots of tiny cubes of silky tofu, seaweed and scallions swirling through it.

The food arrived quickly from the kitchen. The tempura batter on the shrimp ($7.45 for six) was appropriately crisp and delicate. The plump mussels, served on half shells rimmed with vivid teal, ($6.95 for six) were drizzled with a spicy sauce and topped with dabs of tobiko, the neon orange flying-fish roe that bursts in your mouth with a salty, celebratory pop.

Priced at $19.95, the Hana combo featured a tuna roll and eight pieces of nigiri, including shrimp, scallop, eel, salmon, yellow tail tuna, two pieces of maguro and urchin roe.

I had never had uni, as sea urchin roe is known in Japan, where it is a prized delicacy, so I was excited by the chance to try it. It was unctuously rich and creamy with a pristine, oceanic taste. Not simply briny nor tinged with iodine, it tasted fresher than most sea breezes. Needless to say, I loved it.

The scallop — sweet, tender and also exquisitely fresh — was another favorite, while the maguro tasted as good as it looked. All the offerings showed high quality and, while generous, weren't unmanageably large, a problem I have run across locally. (Sushi shouldn't be supersized.)

Hana recently has become licensed to serve beer and sake and is adding selections regularly.

It will be worth going back to sample those options, indulge in reasonably priced, quality sushi and explore the rest of the menu.

— Anita Burke