This is the first review I have ever written…that tells you just how excited I am about this little known gem. We lived in Japan for 15 years a while back and this was one of most delightful and delicious food experiences we have ever had, anywhere.
My wife and I had just arrived in Kanazawa City, and I began searching online reviews for a local sushi restaurant. I perused several top 10 lists when I saw a single line for Hatanaka sushi. Clicking on it I read that it was a newly opened sushi shop and the head chef was a woman (pretty rare in Japan for sushi). Their motto was, “We are going to change the sushi culture.” I couldn’t find any reviews, but I just had a gut feeling that it would be good, so I called and made a reservation for two at the counter. The woman who took the reservation spoke English well.
We arrived to find a delightful, traditional wood exterior. Entering, we saw a warm, comfortable, simple interior, white walls, natural hewn beams, lovely shoji covered windows, with five tables and a counter that seats ten. The simplicity and warmth, with both modern and traditional touches seemed perfect for sushi.
We were directed to our seats by the delightful, smiling, hall manager, Aya Isogai, who spoke excellent English. Her smile and laughter were infectious. We delighted in talking with her throughout the evening.
As we sat down we were offered a menu in English. Head Chef Ayako Hatanaka stood behind the counter preparing sushi and sashimi. She also speaks English. We ordered sake, allowing sake sommelier, Shun Takemura, to choose the sake for us. Every sake he chose for us throughout the night was delicious. I especially enjoyed the “raw” sake. Shun is also the chef who prepares all the cooked dishes at Hatanaka.
Now to the food…it was outstanding…every dish…every perfect piece of sushi…every cooked dish…even the dessert offered to us at the end, a zabaglione/panna cotta…all delicious.
Chef Hatanaka has such attention to detail, each sushi calls to be photographed. A thin, translucent slice of hirame (a type of flounder) topped with a small oval of hirame liver…the glistening ama ebi (sweet shrimp) topped with a miniature cone of ama ebi roe. Chef uses aged red vinegar in the rice, which gives it a light tint and a deeper, more complex taste…the rice was a revelation.
We ordered al a carte, so I began with a sashimi platter, every slice so fresh, so perfect. Then, it was on to some of the most beautiful and delicious sushi I have ever eaten. I particularly loved the tachiuo (hairtail) and the kajiki (swordfish). Chef would be leaning over, focused totally on the next sushi, then, glancing up, she would smile, her face showing delight and joy towards her audience. She and her team truly love what they are doing.
My wife does not care for most raw fish so she ordered two dishes prepared by Chef Takemura. She absolutely loved both. The shrimp, corn, and asparagus tempura, chopped and all mixed together, was delicious and the grilled unagi (eel), recommended by Chef Hatanaka, was the best we have ever had!
As closing time was approaching I noticed Chef preparing a maki zushi (sushi roll) of ikura (salmon roe) and cucumber. I have never been a fan of ikura, but everything had been so tasty, on impulse I asked Chef if she would make me one. As I bit into my first piece my eyes widened, ikura, of this quality, was sooo good. Hatanaka made me an ikura convert.
Together, my wife and I enjoyed a full meal of sashimi, sushi, cooked dishes, and six different types of sake, the bill was $112 for both of us. This is an outstanding value in the world of top level sushi.
Hatanaka creates a jovial, fun atmosphere, with delicious food, that puts a smile on your face as you enjoy your dinner. Looking down the counter I couldn’t help but see that everyone was enjoying being there as much as I was.
Edward Worthington, Baltimore, Maryland, USA