#117 - Hanami Japanese Restaurant, College Park, MD

I was in College Park, running some errands and catching up with former colleagues.  I had some time to myself in between all this, so I wanted to grab some lunch.  And I wanted something new and different.  There really are a lot of restaurants in the CP area that I've never even heard of or been to.  And surprisingly lots of ethnic restaurants.  Very different than when I was in school and worked there.  I hadn't had sushi in a while, and so I was on a mission.  Hanami Japanese Restaurant is rated as one of the top restaurants in CP.  It's in one of the many strip malls in the area.  I had a little trouble finding it, because honestly I'm not used to looking for addresses when I'm there.  I just know where things are, or what they're near to.  And when I figured out where I thought it was, there was a car on my butt so I had to drive around in a couple of circles.  It's a very small place, with 15 tables and a few seats around the sushi bar.

I have to say, I was very disappointed when I first got there.  The server wasn't very nice at all when she seated me.  Not rude, but very disinterested.  And after a couple of minutes she came up and said "ready"?  I was taken aback, because I had never experienced that before.  For a second I thought about leaving, but decided to wait it out and see.  It has to be the #2 place for a reason, so I was determined to see it through.  She did get better as the meal went on, and by the end was nice, and even helped me make decisions on what to get.  Who knows what happened.

There were only a few other people in the restaurant the whole time I was there.  Usually that's not a good sign.  But I didn't get there until almost 2PM, and it was 2 days before Thanksgiving... in a college town.  Most of the students had long bolted for home.

I started with the Haru Maki, the fried Japanese spring roll.

Man, this was really good!  Not sure what kind of meat it was, and still wasn't sold on the server at that point so I didn't ask.  But it had a lot of flavor.  The duck sauce on the side was also delicious, and had a definite kick.  Lots of red pepper flakes in there.  I could have gotten another serving of the rolls and devoured them just as fast.  But instead I ate the carrots and dipped those in the duck sauce too.  The meat toned down the sauce because when I ate the carrots I could taste the heat a lot more.

After lots of contemplation, I went with the Sunny roll.  It was one of 3 that the server recommended
Shrimp tempura, cucumber inside, with spicy crab, caviar and crunch on top
I was pleasantly surprised by how big this roll was.  And the individual pieces were huge.  Both of the sauces were so good, and I made sure to get every bit of it as I ate.  I was a little disappointed that it was fake crab rather than real, but the roll was still really delicious.  Real crab would make it outstanding.  The down side is that they only give you chopsticks.  Sure you could request a fork/knife.  But by the time I needed them, I was almost done.  So at that point I was determined to finish it all with the chopsticks. 

A few weeks ago I was having lunch with my friend Shawn, and he put the sliced ginger into the soy sauce and let it marinate, and then ate it.  I usually never eat the ginger because it's so strong, even though it is good for you.  But the soy sauce is a fantastic idea.  Tones the bite way down.

A few minutes after I first arrived a Japanese couple showed up, and they were seated next to me.  But after about 5 minutes they moved a little closer to the sushi bar, but still at a table.  They ordered the Hanami boat, and when it came out I think I understand why they moved closer to the bar. 

This isn't their actual boat, but it gives you an idea.  I wanted a picture, but I felt kind of weird going up to their table.  Had they been next to me I would have definitely done it.  Holy crap that's a lot of sushi!!  15 pieces of sushi, 36  pieces of sashimi, and 2 chef's rolls.  And it's super expensive...$78.  And what is even crazier, is that it was just 2 of them... and they tore through the boat like their lives depended on it.  They got the boat as I was finishing my rolls, and they were almost finished with it all before I was even done with my one roll.  And they talked the entire time. 

They have a "Fall Harvest" menu, and the desserts on it looked good.  And so since I hadn't gone overboard on the appetizer or roll, I decided to try one.  Again, the server helped me make my decision of the green tea cheesecake.

O...M...G...this was outstanding. Even though it was deep fried, there wasn't much of a crust, and what crust there was, was very light.  The cheesecake itself was so creamy and delicious.  You could definitely taste the green tea, but it wasn't overpowering at all.  Just a very good flavor.  The first bite was very warm, but it got colder as I got towards the larger end.  I thought the whipped cream was a very odd accompaniment, but it was light and airy and really worked pretty well.  The whole thing reminded me of the fried stuff at the state fair.

Will I go back?  Definitely.  The server aside, the experience was really good.  And the food was excellent.