Sunday, May 6, 2012

Sashimi Lunch at Hanami II, Branford CT

While traveling on business, I happened to have the good fortune to stumble upon a Sushi spot so new that it didn't exist in our GOS, or even on Yelp yet. The experience we had for our roadside lunch stop was so good, that I felt the need to plug the place into Yelp on the spot, at the table, while enjoying my sashimi. The place in question is Hanami II in Branford Connecticut. At the time, the restaurant had only been open for a few weeks, so I was eager to put my thoughts on the place on-line quickly- especially considering that a high quality lunch entree, with a soup and a salad for starters clocked in at under $12...

My first impression of the place was a good one. The restaurant is immaculately clean, modern, yet peaceful. The staff was attentive and seemed eager to serve. The meal started with a light salad and a simple bowl of miso soup. Miso soup is such a common starter for a traditional sushi meal that it can serve as an indication of what is it come in the next course.

The soup had all the trademark umami that a good miso soup should have. The bits of seaweed seemed perfectly cooked- these leaves still had life and freshness in them- they were not sitting in a broth for the better part of the day until they became lifeless and limp with no real color or texture. The little chunks of tofu floating in the soup were all cut into precise uniform cubes, This little touch was not lost on me- it speaks of exemplary knife skills, and meticulous attention to detail- qualities that are a must for a great sushi chef.

The main course was stellar- the precisely cut slabs of fish were extraordinarily fresh, and there was never any doubt that the fish was the star of the show. The other elements on the plate- the paper thin radish slices, the wasabi, the ginger, the leaves, and the shavings of daikon, were all clearly supporting acts to provide complementary flavors, and contrasting textures, without ever even thinking about upstaging the fish.

All that said- it was a thrill to find such a good sushi restaurant practically by accident. It was also a thrill to be able to count myself among the first patrons of a new and promising restaurant. Hanami II clearly has a bright future - assuming that they survive those first difficult years of existence that tends to claim many new restaurants. If nothing else- their attention to every last detail of what goes on the plate puts them off to a very good start. With any luck, I think we'll see them thriving.

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