Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hanamura in Columbia

I have a new girlfriend -- a neighborhood gal with less flash, but just as much ambition as the stylish chicks I have been seeing.

I love Sushi King and Sushi Sono. Love the big rolls and private rooms. I have been loyal for years -- mostly because my few dalliances were expensive and not as fresh.

But I stepped out to Hanamura last week and discovered complex food in a joint stripped bare of the decor, the sauces -- and the $12-18 per roll price tags -- that dominate my sushi experience in Howard County. OK, dominate our sushi experience. That metaphor has gone far enough to test how regularly the wife reads the blog, and this post should be about fish, not girlfriends.

Mrs. HowChow and I stepped out to Hanamura with my aunt and mother after I wrote about wanting to try new places and noticed the Columbia restaurant mentioned again and again. We stepped in with trepidation because sushi disappoints if the fish or the price seem off, and the sparse, small restaurant off Dobbin Road doesn't look that different from places that have let us down.

Then, the fish started to arrive. Spicy shrimp roll picked by my aunt, spicy scallop by my mother, salmon skin by Mrs. HowChow, and on and on . . . . We filled a table with sushi for four on a budget just larger than dinner for two at Sushi King. We had a wonderful meal that started with edamame (ask if they'll salt the beans) and ran through mochi ice cream for dessert. Everything was delicious, and everything was different enough that we each had favorites. The Atlantic Roll's mackerel, ginger and scallions was my "new find," but the least of the rolls for my aunt. We all left satisfied, and Hanamura gets my family's ultimate prize -- my mother says the spicy scallops matched Niwano Hana, her gold standard in Rockville.

For me, the innovation at Hanamura is serving imaginative flavors even in $6 or $8 dishes. They have $16 rolls that echo the Sushi Ks', but I saw more small dishes that looked intriguing. For $8, we took a risk on tuna tartare, and the bowl of tuna, avocado and cucumber echoed the poke that we loved in Hawaii. For $3, we tried the pickled radishes. They weren't great, but they weren't pricey. Next time, I'll try the salmon and squid in the "tiger eye" appetizer or the salmon soup that commented about. You aren't sacrificing quality at Hanamura. You are just getting choice and a great change of pace -- tasty fish in a budget meal or tasty fish in an opulent banquet. It just depends on what you want to try.

And a parting thought for equality: On our visit, Hanamura was an all-woman show. Women manning the tables and the sushi bar. Mrs. HowChow pointed out the sushi chef as we left -- in part because we have seen more Latinos cutting sushi than women. Way to go girlfriend!

If you want more advice about sushi in Howard County, check out the posts on Sushi King and Sushi Sono and check out all the comments there and on my post about wanting to branch out to something new. People talk up Yamahana in Waverly Woods, Niko on Rte 40 in the Normany Shopping Center, and others.

If you're interested in cooking Japanese food, check out my review of Kimiko Barber's cookbooks. They're great guides to the Japanese aisle of our local Asian grocery stores.

Thanks to everyone who pushed me to Hanamura, including Chris C., David P.,, Hal, Lisa, and Anonymous (who loves the Kevin Roll).

8865 Stanford Blvd
Columbia, MD 21045

NEAR: Hanamura is off Dobbin Road south of Rte 175 in a shopping center with Pub Dog, Riverside Coffee and Frisco Grille. From the north, take Rte 175 and turn south on Dobbin Road at the intersection with a Chik-fil-A on the corner. The shopping center is on the left after the second light. From the south, take Snowden River Parkway and turn left on McGaw Road at the light with Apple Ford. Turn right at the light with Dobbin, then look for the shopping center on the right.

Hanamura on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Re: directions, the K-Mart is now a Walmart.

Kim said...

It's been a few years since I went there, but they had a menu item at that time that no other sushi restaurant I'd been to had: tempura sweet potato roll.

That this was fantastic. Worth going there for that alone! I'm sorry I didn't warn you to get it (assuming it's still on their menu) before you went!

I just had Sushi K's Double Six roll for the first time, so I'm kind of still obsessed with it, but that sweet potato tempura roll was #1 in my heart for a long long time.

emkenton said...

I also learned about the sweet potato tempura roll at Hanamura-- and then found out that they'll make it for you at Sushi King if you ask!

We used to go to Hanamura for their great happy hour deal but then they changed the HH selections and it wasn't at interesting. So we're Sushi King loyalists and I was SO happy when I realized they could hook me up with the yummy sweet potato tempura roll!

Lisa said...

Glad that you enjoyed Hanamura! The lunch menu is a great deal, too (Mon - Sat, I believe). Good prices for food that's also on the dinner menu.

Katie said...

The boyfriend and I went to Hanamura last night. I thought their sushi was some of the freshest and tastiest we've had in a while.

HowChow said...

Katie -- What items did you have?

Katie said...

We ordered so many! Hmm... let me think. We had The Kevin roll, crunchy roll, bagel roll, crispy vegetable roll (my favorite), shrimp and spicy mayo roll, and one of the special rolls of the day which was made up of jumbo sea crab, fish eggs, and sweet chili sauce.

Anonymous said...

Try the Hannamure or Kevin roll for a decadent deep-fried maki experience. I guess the Americanization of sushi, but they are good.

Anonymous said...

My parents and I love Hanamura. Having lived a few years in Japan, we love Japanese food although not so much that we're willing to travel too far for it. We started out at the restaurant further down Dobbin Rd, and across the street but were not so impressed by the service. My parents stumbled upon Hanamura many years ago we have all been regulars ever since. I love the tonkatsu or chicken katsu, pork or chicken cutlets fried in a panko crust. I also frequently make a meal out of miso soup and a couple oshinko rolls. Not being a seafood eater I don't do sushi and really don't care for the typical veggie rolls, but their pickled daikon (a white radish) roll is delish and better than I've had at other Japanese restaurants in the area. My eleven year old daughter loves them as well. I've tried Katana in Clarksville as well but their oshinko is too mild and sweet. I don't much care about ambiance if the food is actually good and at Hanamura, the food is good.