Tulsans have come to embrace the deliberate beauty of sushi over the years almost in spite of itself. We are fortunate to have so many options in the metro area -- from trendy night spots, to those hidden gems where substance trumps style.
Sushi Hana Japanese Fusion is the latest addition to the landscape, located in King's Village Shopping Center around 99th and Riverside. Shiny new shops and eateries have propagated like capitalist rabbits in this area, but in the neon glare, Sushi Hana's subdued storefront manages to stand out. Take just one step inside and the strip mall quickly disappears in the distance.
The sleek interior, with an enviable lighting scheme, couture-yet-comfortable chairs, has its spotlight on the formidable sushi bar, with two sushi chefs creating mini-masterpieces at a purposeful pace. It's all the chic theatrics one expects from sushi bar -- slick, big-city intrigue, but at Sushi Hana, it's served without the haughtiness.
Simply put, this place is cool.
After being seated and while perusing the menu, my daring dining companion became almost giddy.
"Fatty tuna!" he exclaimed.
Luckily he wasn't just making a rude comment (this time). He was letting me in on a sushi secret.
"It's like delicious fish ice cream".
It became a priority to add this to our order, along with another appetizer. The appetizer menu is separated into a "kitchen" and "sushi bar" section. Favorites like Gyoza Dumpling ($5.50), Shrimp or Potato Spring Roll ($5), are present, but White Tuna Tataki ($9) and Soft-Shell Crab Mango Salsa ($9) make daring appearances. The Fire Ball Shrimp ($14) won out at our table.
Several tempera-battered shrimp were piled delicately on a plate, outlined with flourishes of sauces and topped with a layer of bonito flakes. These little crunchy morsels are flakes of dried, smoked bonito -- a type of fish -- and have a very distinct flavor, to put it mildly. But with this dish, it worked. It almost made the shrimp taste "shrimpier". These little guys were good, but the fatty tuna quickly stole their heat.
So, fatty tuna isn't just fun to say, it's apparently amazing to eat. It is on Sushi Hana's sashimi menu for $8, and is in good company with Tuna ($5), Red Snapper ($5.5), Yellowtail ($5.5) and Fluke ($4).
Fatty tuna is also known as "toro", and is the most prized part of the tuna -- the equivalent of beef tenderloin. Two pearly-white medallions of fatty tuna lounging seductively on a small pad of rice sashayed to our table. One small bite and I was hooked. It gives this "melt-in-your-mouth" sensation while still maintaining a firm texture, and then the flavor is so subtle yet rich. Let's just say that I am now an unapologetic fatty tuna fan.
No matter which direction you want to take your entrée experience at Sushi Hana, there is something from the kitchen for even the most pessimistic of eaters. Comforting dishes like Sesame Chicken or Shrimp ($16) are accompanied by surprising selections like Chilean Sea Bass with Bok Choy ($24), Crispy Duck and Tamarind Sauce ($20); or a lovely vegetarian selection, the Eggplant Lover ($15) with chicken tofu in garlic sauce.
Sushi Hana's chefs are also equipped to construct a variety of special rolls, and even have a few visual tricks up their sleeve (note photo of 'glowing' plate of sashimi!).If something more basic is how you 'roll', they have almost anything your heart desires for around $5, like tuna, yellowtail, Philadelphia or vegetable.
But on this night, for these two sushi savants, something more extravagant was in order.
Special rolls on the menu were all tempting, like the Lobster Mango Roll ($12), the Black Samurai Roll ($13) with seared peppercorn tuna on top of crunchy and spicy yellowtail, and the White Phoenix ($13) with spicy lobster seaweed topped with slices of white tuna and yuzu dressing. But we challenged the chefs to prepare for us the Deep Sea Roll ($12), the Monster Roll ($14) and threw in a Spicy Lobster Roll ($8.50) for good measure.
The Deep Sea roll's center of succulent spicy tuna and fluffy white crabmeat was wrapped in seaweed, then torched ever-so-lightly and gilded with a luscious spicy mayo. Nothing could make a mouth happier.
Something for Everyone.
The Monster Roll packed a powerful punch with fresh tuna, salmon and buttery avocado, throwing a flavorful uppercut with crispy smoked, tempura-fried eel on top. Last, and certainly not least, the Spicy Lobster Roll had a robust treasure of lobster wrapped with sticky rice and a mellow, spicy sauce.
Splendid food aside, have you been paying attention to those price points? The quality of fish was superb. Dr. Fish -- a company that flies fish in from all over the world daily -- made a delivery while we were there. We struck up a conversation with a couple who were also dining and they eagerly declared themselves "regulars". With these prices, distinct ambience, and great food, you may be able to indulge those sushi cravings more often.
The owners of Sushi Hana stay true to the essence of the art of sushi, with its well-appointed décor, a menu filled with deliciously surprising twists, and painstakingly prepared plates. It's the sushi experience you crave and it's a finally a solid sushi restaurant that south Tulsans deserve.
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