Occupation: School Superintendent
Favorite Restaurant: Hana Japanese Restaurant
Reviewed Hana Japanese Restaurant: Saturday, January 4, 2014
Almost literally hidden in Sonoma County, that mecca of outstanding places to dine, is Hana Japanese Restaurant, tucked away in a nondescript little strip in Rohnert Park, close enough to feel the buzz of the nearby 101 freeway. While the outside of the restaurant may not be inspiring, the food, service and ambience on the inside make for a memorable and unique dining experience.
Hana epitomizes the definition of the word “fresh” in everything that they serve. A variety of daily specials are handwritten on three chalkboards located throughout the intimate confines of this hidden gem.
The wait staff is attentive, polite and welcoming. They are happy to suggest something that the chef may prepare that may not even be listed on the daily board or regular menu. The regular menu has something that meets every palate from those looking for traditional sushi or sashimi to diners who prefer something less exotic, but equally fresh and flavorful. For someone like myself, who grew up not enjoying fish or seafood of any kind, it is miraculous that I think nothing of ordering a variety of sashimi and sushi, and dishes that range from bluefin tuna to Tako Poke (a wonderfully spicy yet delicate serving of thinly sliced octopus).
The ambience features the joyful conversations of contented diners, as the intimacy of the space tends to amplify the noise level, though not so loud that it is intrusive or uncomfortable. It is a place that families frequent with children of all ages, as well as savvy college students from nearby Sonoma State University, looking to enjoy fresh, tasty Japanese food at an affordable price.
The wine list is surprisingly sparse for the restaurant’s location in the gateway to the wine country, but the plethora of sakes and two excellent Japanese draft beers more than fit the bill for any libation to accompany your meal.
For those people who wonder what outstanding Japanese cuisine really tastes like, Hana is more than just a stop in the Wine Country. It is a destination for those who appreciate great food and a fun, festive dining experience.
Occupation: Digital Media Consultant
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Cocotte
Reviewed Hana Japanese Restaurant: Saturday, December 14, 2013
My overall experience at Hana Japanese Restaurant was just average. The best thing was the service as the owner walks around to make sure every customer is hungry and happy as does the very knowledgeable wine director. Our server was also very nice and accommodating. The ambiance of the restaurant was a bit odd – located in a strip mall, lights were too bright and inside decor a bit outdated. We waited past our reservation to be seated as the restaurant was packed and loud with what seemed to be locals. The staff at the front seemed kind of chaotic and there was really no room to wait, so we were kind of in the middle of everything.
The food was average tasting; I enjoyed the appetizers more than I did my main meal. I typically go straight for Nigiri to taste the freshness of the fish, but some of the Nigiri had a fishy smell and not really fresh taste. We also tried a Bento Box in which some of the items (chicken) did not seem fresh. Portion sizes were fine – not too large and not too small.
Overall I thought the restaurant was just average in terms of food and ambiance. Having been to Japan and to many great sushi/Japanese restaurants in the U.S. and other countries, Hana Japanese Restaurant did not hit the level that I was looking for in a great dining experience. But I’m always willing to give it another shot and try different items.
Occupation: Forensic Mental Health Therapist
Favorite Restaurant: Sakoon Restaurant
Reviewed Hana Japanese Restaurant: Monday, December 30, 2013
The Miso Soup was exquisite and had a refined seaweed taste to it. The Wagyu Beef was cooked well, but I couldn’t taste the miso. The balsamic reduction didn’t go well with it. The Grilled Pork was extremely tender, briny, and smoky and came with a green pepper paste. The Ankimo tasted fresh and buttery. The Seaweed Salad did not taste fresh and was texturally off rather than crisp and clean. The Spider Roll was thick, stuffed with fried soft-shelled crab and daikon sprouts sticking out. The crab was crunchy and hot. Their house roll, Hana Maki, consisted of fresh tuna, yellowtail and salmon. The Nigiri Sushi were a highlight of the meal. We ordered Wild Hamachi, Uni, and Unagi. The hamachi was fresh and had a buttery finish. The unagi was grilled perfectly with a perfect sweet glaze coating. The uni was creamy and slightly briny. The entrees were Kuro Buta Tonkatsu and Black Cod Misozuke. The tonkatsu was fried perfectly and I would order it again. It came with shredded cabbage, a sweet and tangy dipping sauce, and Japanese potato salad. The black cod tasted strongly of sake and miso. It came with sautéed peppers, and Japanese potato salad. We then ordered one more nigiri sushi, Mirugai (geoduck). The jumbo clam was tender, yet it had firm bite to it. It tasted briny and had a chewy texture. Being too full for dessert, we ordered a glass of Eiko Fuji sake, which was clean and crisp and had floral hints of lychee to it. It was a great way to finish the night.
Hana Japanese is quite far out in Sonoma County, just south of Santa Rosa. I am reluctant to say it is in the Bay Area proper. The restaurant ambiance is average. The restaurant was bustling, even on a Monday night, and the décor is decent with carpeted flooring and a general cramped feeling, despite the large size of the restaurant. The highlight of the décor would be the sushi bar area. The menu was arguably overly extensive, with dizzying lists of categories. I would recommend Hana Japanese if you lived close by or were visiting the area. I would recommend focusing on nigiri sushi or sashimi and sake, instead of appetizers and entrees.