Published in The Dallas Morning News: 06.03.05

Thanks to artful slicing and dicing led by executive chef-manager Yugi Suzuki, good things do come in small packages at Hanasho Japanese Restaurant. Namely, beautifully prepared sushi.

Now that it's been accepted by a healthy percentage of the dining public, the game is on to find the best sushi at the best price. Hanasho's is not the best around. But the portions are generous, the fish is fresh and the price is right.

Salmon sushi and a spicy tuna roll here were much like those at dozens of Japanese restaurants. Spicy squid sushi offered several very large pieces (you know the kind: If you take 'em in one bite, you can't talk for about five minutes of chewing). Piled high with tiny bits of mayo-pepper-sauced squid, it was quite enjoyable. Spicy avocado crawfish sushi had a similar sauce, but it didn't overwhelm the delicate sweetness of the crawfish.

A real tear-jerker came in the form of the wasabi tobiko sushi. I should have known better from the name; the seaweed wrappers filled with brilliantly green fish roe were hot as ... well, you know. My sinuses are still clear weeks later.

Sushi prices are a bargain, most ranging from $3.50 to $4.50; rolls are mostly $3 to $8.50.

Hanasho's menu is very extensive, so even those who avoid raw fish will surely find something pleasing among the seafood salads; beef, chicken, pork and seafood entrees; noodle dishes; hibachi skewers; and bento boxes. The last are those cute little black lacquered boxes filled with combo meals like a California roll and beef teriyaki, along with rice and miso soup or salad.

Like any good Japanese meal, ours started with those addictive edamame beans. The soybeans should be cooked in boiling water for just a few minutes to preserve that wonderful al dente snap, and these didn't disappoint. A sprinkling of sea salt brought out the meaty soybean flavor. They are a Japanese restaurant's answer to popcorn.

Everyone at our table also dove for the shumai (dumplings), light little pillows of pleasure that held nicely seasoned bits of shrimp. A more unusual order was oshinko, pickled Japanese vegetables. Most looked unfamiliar, but all tasted teasingly tart, tangy and refreshing.

One of the less-adventurous diners at our table went for the classic chicken teriyaki; Hanasho's version was just fine. Little nuggets of chicken breast were broiled and bathed in a house-made sauce that was kinda sweet and kinda salty. It was sided with a tangle of bean sprouts and cabbage.

Another dining companion opted for the salmon teriyaki, which he said was fresh and flavorful. I thought it tasted fishy but agreed that it was well-cooked and -seasoned.

Both entrees come with salad or soup. The small side salad was a basic and boring mix of iceberg lettuce and threads of carrot, but the kicky ginger-spiked dressing gave it life. Miso soup was a nice blend of soybean, scallions and floats of tofu.

There's an extensive martini menu, but we went for cold sake, namely Otokoyama. It had a light, slightly floral aroma, with a beautifully smooth, semidry undertone. Carafes of sake go for $7 for a small, $14.50 for a large. Large bottles are also available for $10 to $26.

The dining room is open and airy, with blond-wood tables and black banquettes. The walls cast a soft melon hue over a polished concrete floor done in earth tones. Relaxing, jazzy music wafts through the air, creating a very nice space in which to share a meal. There's also a tatami room where small groups can gather.

Service was very friendly and welcoming. Being met by our hostess on the way out as well as on the way in scored customer-service points in our book.

Hanasho offers lots of small, tasty gifts that we hope to receive again.

Hanasho japanese Restaurant
2938 N Belt Line Rd
Irving, TX-75062
Phone: (972) 258-0250
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