by Sarah Fenske
I have the occasional good fortune to dine with a 15-year-old -- and no, I'm not kidding when I call it "good fortune." This kid is an adventurous eater with a knack for ordering. He's introduced me to the world's most amazing sea urchin, an absolutely sensational clam treatment, and now -- the latest and greatest -- Ika Kara Age at Hana Japanese Eatery. I swear, this dish is so good, I almost fell off my chair. And, soon thereafter, I started nagging my friends: "Dude, we've got to go to Hana!"
Hana is a little BYOB joint in an unassuming strip mall at Missouri and 7th Avenue -- not exactly the Biltmore area when it comes to fine dining. But every time I go there, I'm blown away. They have the nicest servers, the freshest fish, the yummiest specials. And, thanks to my teenage friend, I now know that the yummiest of the yum is just $6.95 -- a perfect plate of squid, marinated in sweet butter and then fried, tempura style. Nothing will prepare you for how buttery this stuff tastes, and how soft the meat. It seriously tastes like it's just been dipped in drawn butter.
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Last Friday, I took my friends to Hana to show off my find. And they agreed: It was out of this world. "This is sooo good," Kendall said, her eyes like saucers. Said Jill, "Wow. Wow! This is so frickin' good -- and I'm a squid fan!" We seriously sat there for like five minutes, oohing and ahhing and congratulating ourselves for good ordering.
Of course our friend Kiri couldn't have any, and not just because we're selfish gluttons who wolfed down the entire plate. No, Kiri is a vegetarian ... and I couldn't help but feel like a jerk as we sat there, positively moaning with pleasure over our buttery bits. "No, really, it's okay," Kiri assured us. I still felt lousy. Can you imagine sitting that close to perfection and not getting to taste it?
But Kiri is such a good sport that she decided to share her insights into the Ika Kara Age anyway. So here you have it, a description of the best squid in the world, courtesy of someone who didn't have a bite of it: "Tasty titillating tentacles."
You go, girl! And next time around, I'm going to get my 15-year-old food consultant working on the veggie side of the menu. Surely, we carnivores shouldn't get to have all the fun.