Restaurant news: A tale of two fishes — Hanari Cafe and Kazoku

Hanari Cafe exterior.

We have an abundance of wonderful Asian restaurants in our area. Recently two Japanese restaurants have opened, adding to our many options for sushi. My son spent a year living in Japan as an exchange student when he was a junior in high school. His host family made sure that he tried a wide variety of Japanese foods. His host “father” was always trying to get him to try food items that were very unusual, and our son stepped up to the challenge by trying everything that was offered. This made him the perfect person to accompany me to the Hanari Cafe in Lynnwood and Kazoku in Edmonds.

Hanari Cafe (Hanari is a lotus flower) transformed a credit union space into a brightly lit dining room next door to Ezell’s Chicken and Fork Mediterranean Grill. While it has a strip mall vibe to the interior, it is spacious and comfortable. When we arrived, it was quiet and there were only a few other tables occupied. We were warmly greeted by our server and could pick a nice table in the corner of the large dining room. I hope that business picks up soon as this is a hidden gem. The menu is extensive and is 95% Japanese cuisine although they recently added a Chinese food menu (which I have not tried). I think they are still working out what is going to appeal to their clientele and perhaps they are having an identity crisis in the kitchen! The restaurant offers appetizers, soups, salads, rice bowls, sushi, sashimi, temaki (hand rolls), nigiri, noodles, hibachi, teriyaki and katsu…and that’s simplifying the menu. There is something for everyone. You can order online for take out.

Tempura at Hanari.
Sashima Omasake at Hanari.
Dining room at Hanari Cafe.

We started out with an order of tempura vegetables ($6.95) that was nicely fried and a generous portion. For dinner we had the Sashimi Omakase ($36) which included 12 pieces of fish that were the chef’s choice as well as seasoned sushi rice, edamame and three bowls of miso soup. The fish was fresh, beautifully cut and displayed. The tray included two types of tuna, salmon and butterfish. The warming miso soup arrived first along with complimentary cups of hot tea (Hanari is still waiting to receive its liquor license). We also enjoyed the steak and shrimp hibachi platter ($20.95) that included a house salad with ginger dressing, sautéed vegetables, fried rice and noodles. The hibachi platter was plentiful and at least half of it came home with us. I was pleasantly surprised with the preparation of the dishes as well as the quantity of food. I will definitely go back and look forward to trying some of their Chinese dishes. The service and kindness from the staff was appreciated. They made it a pleasure to eat at Hanari.

Potato Croquette at Kazoku
Norilicious Age

Kasoku (translates to family in Japanese) took over the space in the Boohan Market Plaza previously occupied by Sushi Moto. Owned and managed by Sumin Yu (she’s a banker by day), the space has been refreshed and updated. The ambiance is serene, elegant and transports you to a sushi spot in Japan. I made a reservation for dinner and glad that I did as the line was out the door on a very cold night. Our table was in the middle of the dining room with a perfect view of the chefs making sushi.

Kasoku has a liquor license in place so we started off with Sapporo Premium beer and shared Potato Croquettes with katsu sauce ($7 for two), Norilicious Age ($10) and Softshell Crab Tempura ($14). All three dishes arrived freshly made and the combination of tastes and textures was a perfect way to begin our meal. The most unusual and interesting was the Norilicious Age. Recommended by our server, this appetizer consisted of deep-fried seaweed chips with parmigiana reggiano, tobiko, green onion, spicy aioli & tsume (broth). I was sad that I had to share this one — I loved it that much (although next time I will ask them to go lighter on the aioli). It combined tastes of the East and West in a magical way. The tempura was on point as well–lightly battered and not greasy. I know soft shell crab can be an acquired taste but Kasoku’s version was unctuous. We followed our appetizers with an order of the Ton Katsu ($18) that came with rice. This crispy pork cutlet was one of the best versions that my son has eaten in the Pacific Northwest — it brought him back to his Japanese host family’s dinner table in a few bites.

Softshell Crab Tempura at Kazoku

We also ordered the Sashimi Beloved Set: 12 pieces of sashimi (chef’s choice, no substitutions) with rice and miso soup ($50). Unfortunately the sushi chefs were so backed up that our sashimi plate did not arrive in a timely manner. We had to wait and wait. Unlike the Sashimi Set served at Hanari, this included plain rice (not seasoned sushi rice) and only one bowl of miso soup — so we were immediately underwhelmed. Our server gave us an additional bowl of miso soup on the house as we continued to wait for the arrival of the sashimi. When it did arrive, we debated whether to send it back. The fish was poorly cut and was too thick to eat in one bite. All of us found it unpleasant and turned us off to the raw fish offerings at Kasoku. For $50 we expected a much more professionally presented Sashimi Set. When I mentioned this to Sumin on the way out she told me that the head sushi chef was on vacation and they had someone less experienced filling in for him. What we were served for sashimi didn’t make me feel good about my choice of ordering raw fish that night — and there were some digestive consequences later that give me caution about returning. The service was adequate at Kasoku, but we found ourselves having to reach out to get our food delivered to our table. They seemed overwhelmed.

Given that we have a remarkably large choice of Japanese inspired restaurants in our area, my experiences at Kasoku and Hanari as a restaurant reviewer leave me somewhat conflicted. The setting at Kasoku is more traditional and warm when compared to Hanari’s dining room experience; but the prices and the quality of food at the latter give it the edge. Please understand that both of these restaurants have only been open for a few months and they are still working out some kinks. It’s obvious that my visit to Kasoku took place when the head chef was on vacation — and that had a significant impact on my experience of their food. But given how expensive it is to eat out, I think that consistency in food preparation and delivery is important.

As a diner I want to feel seen and heard and I want real value when I choose to eat out at a restaurant  — particularly because I love to cook! Each restaurant had high points and low points. I hope that you will give both Hanari Cafe and Kasuko a try — opening a new restaurant is expensive and risky and I want both of these places to succeed. I would love to hear about your experiences and let me know if there is a new place in town that you would like me to check out. My “dance card” has a few places already listed but I am waiting until the staff have their ducks in a row.

Hanari Cafe
3925 196th St. S.W., #104
Lynnwood
(Next to Ezell’s Chicken and Fork Mediterranean Grill)
Phone: 425-678-8190
Hours: Every day from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Kazoku
22618 Hwy 99, Ste 103
Edmonds
(Boohan Plaza)
Phone: 425-673-5477
Hours: Sunday–Thursday 4:30-9 p.m., Friday-Saturday 4:30-10 p.m., Happy Hour 8 p.m.-close daily

— By Deborah Binder

Deborah Binder lives in Edmonds with her family. She loves to cook from scratch using produce from the gardens she created and maintains with her husband. She attended culinary school on the East Coast and focused on desserts, pastries and bread. She’s worked for restaurants and caterers in the front and back of the house (kitchen) on both coasts. Her current interest in food is learning to eat for health and wellness, while at the same time enjoying the pleasures of the table. Deborah loves experimenting and developing new recipes. As Julia Child once said, “Everything in moderation including butter.” Deborah can be contacted at jaideborah@yahoo.com.

 

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