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Hanabi Offers More Than Your Average Sushi and Rolls

02.09.2017 by: Tom Harris
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Though one can be forgiven for seeing Hanabi’s unassuming storefront and concluding that it’s a run-of-the-mill sushi joint, it’s clear that the restaurant has loftier aims. Dishes are surprisingly inventive, and there’s evident care in presentation. In a lesser sushi spot, a chef’s sampler is a way to offload cheap pieces of salmon and tuna. On a recent visit, our waitress went out of her way to point out that Hanabi typically throws more curveballs than you’d expect.

Hanabi pairs a traditional sushi and rolls menu with an array of more distinctive cooked preparations, and it was mostly these latter options we ended up sampling. One such dish was the 72-Hours Miso Sake, which featured buttery cured salmon and ikura (salmon roe).

Japanese for "salmon," universal for "delicious" - The 72-Hours Miso Sake

The Wasabi Cucumber Sunomono was cold, fiery and invigorating, featuring wasabi-infused tobiko (flying fish roe).

Wasabi Cucumber Sunomono, a bright and refreshing salad

The Mero appetizer was a highlight, both visually and flavor-wise. Blackened grill marks criss-crossed the firm white sea bass, with “carrot crunch” providing a sweet counterpoint to the filet’s savory smokiness.

The Mero, an appetizer-sized sea bass dish

The O Toro (fatty tuna nigiri) we got was meltingly tender, with just a hint of garlic vinaigrette to provide depth.

Definitely melts in your mouth: The O Toro Nigiri

The Ume Roll, containing only ume (Japanese plum) and shiso (a nigh-unclassifiable herb), provided a nice little “I have never really tasted anything like this before” moment. With the ume providing a tart sweetness and the shiso lending a difficult-to-pin-down herbaceous, minty note, this roll was a simple and unexpected pleasure.

Delicate plating, delicate flavor: The Ume Roll

Dessert was a Lemon Yuzu and Banana Brulee, a strikingly prepared dessert adding a butterflied, caramelized and torched crumble-topped banana to the standard torched custard.

The Lemon Yuzu and Banana Brulee

Hanabi has two locations in Austin. In addition to its standard menu, the location near the Arboretum also offers an RSVP-only omakase, which, given the adventurousness of the standard menu, may be worth checking out.

Ultimately, you aren't going to confuse Hanabi with Uchiko, but believe me, neither will your wallet. Hanabi tries to bring a bit of high-end flash to an everyman price point. It's an ambitious goal, and it's to their credit that they succeed.

{Hanabi Official Website}

TAGS : Northwest Hills/Arboretum/ Domain , Hanabi - Anderson , Hanabi - Research Blvd