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Affordable sushi 

Hanaroo is a go-to.

click to enlarge PANKO FRIED TUNA: The Salmon Lemon Roll is an impressive creation.
  • PANKO FRIED TUNA: The Salmon Lemon Roll is an impressive creation.

Hanaroo is not concerned with first impressions. In fact, you may not even notice it there on the corner of West Capitol Avenue and Louisiana Street if you aren't looking for it. Inside, it's unassuming. The booths are a bit worn, the lighting could be softer, and the background music is minimal. The atmosphere is defined by efficiency rather than elegance. But you don't pick Hanaroo for the ambiance. You go there to eat your weight in sushi without breaking the bank. And you won't be disappointed.

We arrived around 8 p.m. on a Saturday, after the dinner crowd had started to thin. Service was efficient, which is fine with us when we're paying $8 for a sushi roll. (When we pay $18 for a roll, we appreciate, and tend to expect, a little more conviviality.)  

The Age Dashi Tofu ($4.50), fried wedges of tofu served with a special sauce with scallions and shichimi, a Japanese spice mixture, was labeled as a "house favorite." It wasn't ours. The "wedges" of tofu were too big — only the outside was crispy. The inside was mushy and flavorless. We liked the idea of the dish, but the execution fell a little flat.

That is where the disappointment ended. We ordered tuna tataki ($8.95) to hold us over until we could decide on our sushi order. If you're someone who likes having options, Hanaroo is the place for you. There are over 50 sushi rolls to choose from, most with quirky names, so the detailed descriptions come in handy. The menu takes some time to get through and reads like a sushi encyclopedia. 

The tataki, a generous portion of raw tuna cut into small chunks, was served over a bed of iceberg lettuce covered in a tangy garlic ponzu sauce, which added a nice burst of flavor to the plate. It went well with a house chardonnay and made a lovely appetizer.

Without much delay, out came our platter of sushi, beautifully plated. We ordered the Salmon Lemon Roll ($8.95) based on a friend's recommendation. It looked beautiful, topped with avocado, salmon and super-thin slices of lemon. We didn't know how we were going to feel about lemon-topped sushi, but the taste was crisp and clean. The citrus was a perfect complement to the salmon. We were impressed with this creation.

We are suckers for spicy crab salad in a sushi roll, so the Russian roll ($8.50) was a must. It was stuffed with crab salad, cucumber and avocado and topped with panko-fried tuna, sweet chili sauce and eel sauce. The sauces were rich and used sparingly. The fried tuna on top was good, although we usually prefer it raw. It made for a more substantial roll that was as filling as it was tasty. 

click to enlarge TASTY TUNA TATAKI: Covered in a tangy ponzu sauce.
  • TASTY TUNA TATAKI: Covered in a tangy ponzu sauce.

Spicy tuna lovers should try the Bubble Pop roll ($8.95). It was filled with tuna, cucumber and avocado and topped with crab salad, eel sauce, spicy mayo and tobiko crunch. We loved the contrast in textures of the delicate crabmeat and fried panko flakes on top. Sometimes a roll with this much stuff on top becomes unwieldy and difficult to eat. Not the case here. Though packed and topped, pieces of this roll remained manageably bite-sized. 

We were impressed with the fish-heavy T.N.T. roll ($5.50), featuring chopped tuna, yellowtail and salmon. Avocado, scallions and wasabi mayo sauce added a burst of texture and flavor. Two pieces of tuna nigiri made for a good side. The chef tucked away a small smattering of wasabi underneath the fish that provided a nice kick. 

Every sushi roll we ordered was solid. The fish was fresh, the presentation was beautiful and every bite was well balanced. Probably the most refreshing part of the meal was seeing the check at the end of it. Usually we expect to drop a lot of dough when out for sushi. Hanaroo's prices are extremely affordable and the quality is high. You might not get all the white-table-cloth pizzazz of some of the other sushi places in town, but you will get a very respectable meal at a good price. 

Hanaroo Sushi Bar
205 W. Capitol Ave.
301-7900

Quick bite

If wasabi is your thing, the fried pork shumai is a must ($6.95 for 6 pieces). The big bite-sized pork-and-wasabi dumplings were fried crispy and golden brown. They were hearty and hot.

Hours

11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 p.m. to 9:30 pm. Saturday. 

Other info

Credit cards accepted. Beer and wine.


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