Details tell you place really cares

TAKEOUT

Setting, sushi other fare make Hana a class act

March 26, 2003|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Upstairs in the dining room at Hana Japanese Restaurant in East Baltimore is a small flower bed. Unlike 95 percent of carryout restaurants I've ventured into, this one actually contains living plants.

It's only appropriate, I suppose, for a restaurant named after the Japanese word for flower. But the live flowers confirmed my initial impression walking in that Hana is a restaurant that really cares.

Hana opened about 10 months ago and is not related to Sushi Hana in Towson. This one sits between two beauty-supply shops on a busy block of East Monument Street abutting the Johns Hopkins medical complex. Serving nicely prepared dishes and sushi, Hana is a welcome addition to a neighborhood in need of more quality carryouts.

Besides the flower bed, the dining room is decorated with Japanese posters and has seven tables (wood, not the usual plastic). But much of Hana's business is carryout. Our large order was prepared quickly and packed with astonishing care.

First, the sushi, which is served only between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., was good, if not outstanding. Our spicy tuna roll ($3.50) was made from quite fresh fish, sprinkled with piquant pepper. A shrimp tempura roll ($5.99) somewhat awkwardly combined the fried shrimp and sushi concepts, but did come with two cute shrimp tails jutting out from the pieces of roll. And a perfectly adequate vegetable California roll ($3.25) featured firm avocado and the ubiquitous "crab" stick.

The Japanese dishes were all good and modestly priced. Gyoza, or fried dumplings ($2.99 for six), were crispy and had a nice pork filling. The restaurant had run out of beef so we had two chicken dishes. The teriyaki ($4.49) was a large serving of not-too-sweet meat, rice and a small salad drenched, incongruously, with Russian dressing. And chicken katsu ($4.49) came rolled in bread crumbs and deep-fried - Japanese chicken fingers. (Hana also serves lake-trout katsu.)

Finally, a vegetable tempura and udon combo ($5.99) provided a huge meal - a healthy sampling of yam, broccoli, onion and zucchini fried expertly tempura-style, combined with a bowl of soup featuring large Japanese noodles and a pleasing, smoky, fishy taste. Hana serves no desserts, but we were pleased to discover that the teriyaki dish came with takuan, or pickled daikon radish, an authentic and tasty touch.

Hana

Food: ***

Service: *** 1/2

Waiting area: ***

Parking: **

Where: 2049 E. Monument St., East Baltimore

Phone: 410-732-1900

Hours: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday

Prices: Sushi from $2.15 to $7.99; Japanese dishes from $3.49 to $6.99; no credit cards

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor:**

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