Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
8: Umi No Sachi at Hana Japanese Eatery
Hana Japanese Eatery officially celebrated its 10th anniversary last year. It's a notable achievement for any restaurant, but especially for a neighborhood mom-and-pop shop tucked into a quiet strip mall in central Phoenix's Melrose District.
The secret of Hana's success is easy to decipher. Co-owners Lori Hashimoto and Lynn Becker, along with their well-established crew of cooks and sushi chefs, deliver a uniformly strong menu of casual yet polished Japanese dishes. The kitchen has a broad repertoire – everything from sashimi to sushi boats to ramen bowls are served in the Hana dining room. The dimly lit space feels as cozy and comfortable as your neighborhood bar.
Many regulars come for the sushi and sashimi, which is artful and consistently well-crafted. A signature roll is the photogenic Hana Pride, which features crisp cucumber wrapped around yellowtail, tuna, salmon, crab, albacore, and white fish.
Another popular dish is the restaurant's take on Ika Kara Age. The fresh squid is slathered in sweet butter and then fried, tempura-style. Its crisp, buttery notes are the stuff of daydreams.
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If you want to get a sense for how scrupulously fresh the fish is at Hana, though, order the Umi No Sachi. It's a bright, florid sashimi salad layered with thin strips of raw salmon, tuna, octopus, white fish, and yellowtail. The fish is fresh and tender, with a natural creamy richness. The salad is drizzled with a terrific soy miso dressing that accentuates the sweetness and meatiness of the fish.
Hana is also known for its great bento lunch boxes and noodle bowls, including a very credible tonkotsu ramen. Apart from the strong array of dishes, what really makes Hana Japanese Eatery unforgettable is how cozy and inviting the restaurant feels. After all these years, Hana is still a BYOB establishment, and no reservations are accepted. There's really no need to overthink a visit to Hana. Just grab a bottle and drop in.
Hana Japanese Eatery, 5524 North Seventh Avenue, 602-973-1238, Tuesday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 9 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday 5 to 10 p.m., Sunday 5 to 9 p.m.; closed Monday.
The Essentials So Far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
45: The Haturo Sub Sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff
44: Zookz at Zookz
43: Jade Red Chicken at Chino Bandido
42: Tasting menu at Quiessence at The Farm
41: Single-origin Papua New Guinea Bar at Zak's Chocolate
40: Green chile at Casa Reynoso
39: Brûlée burger from Paradise Valley Burger Company
38: Hand-pulled noodles from China Magic Noodle House
37: Carne adovada sliders at Dick's Hideaway
36: Crispy Pig Ear and Amaro cocktails from Crudo
35: Chile-laced specialties from Cafe Ga Hyang
34: Martinis at AZ88
33: Nooner at Duck & Decanter
32: Eggs Maximilian at Harlow's Cafe
31: Beef Tacos from Asadero Norte De Sonora
30: Orange Blossom from Huss Brewing Company
29: Rye bread from Yasha From Russia
28: Scotch Beef and Mashed Potatoes from Tarbell's
27: Griddled Corn Cakes and Ramona Farms Super Food Salad at Phoenix City Grille
26: Soup from Reathrey Sekong
25: Lamb tongue sandwich at Haji Baba
24: The Special at Grand Avenue Pizza Company
23: Red chile at Elmer's Tacos
22: Marranitos at La Purisima Bakery
21: Kronuts from Karl's Bakery
20: Beef pies at Chou's Kitchen
19: Bavarian pretzels & schnitzel at Haus Murphy's
18: Red chili burro and sopapillas from Los Dos Molinos
17: Camelback Soda at The Sugar Bowl
16: Brisket Sandwich at Chelsea's Kitchen
15: Taco Hazz from Ta'Carbon
14: Barnone at Agritopia
13: The Jazzy from Emerson Fry Bread
12: Flour Tortillas from La Sonorense Tortilla Factory
11: Peach picking at Schnepf Farms
10: The Purple Fusion at Snoh Shaved Ice
9: Sours from Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company
8: Umi No Sachi at Hana Japanese Eatery