Hanami Japanese Restaurant is just one of the many dining options in College Park MD. Rated one of the top in town, showcasing delicious sushi creations.
This is the first year since 2007 I’ve been able to go back to Maryland for Thanksgiving. Normally we have a home football game either Thanksgiving weekend or the week after. However, our home season ended early this year, and Maryland football had a home game the week after Thanksgiving, so I took the opportunity to visit.
I was running errands and catching up with former colleagues in College Park, and had some time to myself in the middle. There are a lot of restaurants in College Park that I’ve never heard of or been to, so this was a great chance to try something new and different. I looked online, and was really surprised at the number of ethnic restaurants in the area. I don’t remember that being the case when I lived there…or maybe I just didn’t look very hard.
Hanami Japanese Restaurant is rated as one of the top restaurants in College Park. I hadn’t eaten sushi in ages and and since I had never been to Hanami, I decided to try it out.
In College Park, I don’t know addresses; I just know where things are, or what they’re near to. I eventually found Hanami, in the same strip mall of one of my favorite restaurants.
Hanami is very small, with 15 tables and a few seats around the sushi bar. It’s open daily, for both lunch and dinner. There were only a few other people in the restaurant, which is usually not a good sign. However, I arrived at almost 2PM, and it was 2 days before Thanksgiving…in a college town.
First impressions are huge, and unfortunately mine was negative. The hostess/server was not nice when she greeted me. Not rude, but very disinterested. After a couple of minutes she came to my table and said “ready”? I’ve never experienced that before, so I was really surprised. But Hanami has to be the #2 restaurant for a reason, so I was determined to see it through. As the visit progressed my server became much nicer, and helped me make decisions.
The Hanami menu is surprisingly substantial, featuring sushi & kitchen appetizers, soup, salad, kitchen & teriyaki entrees, sushi, rolls, hibachi, noodles, and lunch specials. A very unique concept is that they offer Chef’s Signature rolls with themed names during the Christmas holidays. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.
I was starving, and don’t do well with large menus, which is a bad combination. While I decided on sushi, I began with the Haru Maki, the deep fried Japanese spring roll.
Man, this was excellent! The skin is light and crispy, and the roll is bursting with flavor. I love sweet chili sauce; I think they added extra pepper seeds, because it has a kick I’m not accustomed to.
A few minutes after I arrived, a Japanese couple sat at the table next to me; and then a few minutes later, moved to a table closer to the sushi bar. They ordered the Hanami boat, and when it came out I realized why they moved closer.
This isn’t the actual Hanami boat, but it gives you an idea. I wanted a picture, but I felt weird asking so I found this one online. Holy wow that’s a lot of sushi! 15 pieces of sushi, 36 pieces of sashimi, and 2 chef’s rolls. It is $78 but, for the amount of sushi, not unreasonable. They got the boat while I ate my spring rolls. They talked almost the entire time, but still finished the boat before I was done with my one sushi roll.
I had my first taste of sushi in Maui in 2007. I tried a bite of raw eel, and swore I would never eat sushi again. I gave in and tried cooked sushi about a year later, and haven’t looked back since. I’ve become more adventurous, and eat rolls with some raw, but still prefer most of the roll to be cooked.
My server gave me 3 sushi recommendations, and I finally decided on the Sunny roll
This roll is huge! It’s only 8 pieces, but with the crab on top it becomes much larger. Hanami should have easy access to fresh crabmeat, so I was disappointed to see fake crab. The roll is still delicious, and the flavors work very well together. Real crabmeat would make the roll outstanding.
Hanami offers a “Fall Harvest” menu, which I didn’t notice until late into the meal. I didn’t go overboard on the appetizer or roll, and the desserts looked good. My server came through again, and helped me decide on the green tea cheesecake.
My goodness, this was outstanding. The crust is tempura, providing a very light coating. The cheesecake itself is very creamy, and has a wonderful flavor. You can taste the green tea, but it is not overpowering. The cheesecake at the narrow end was very warm, and got colder towards the outside end. The whipped cream with sprinkles is an interesting accompaniment, but it works with the dish. The dish reminds me of the fried food you find at the state fair.
Will I go back to Hanami? Definitely. The server definitely warmed up throughout my meal, which made the experience good. The food is delicious, and there are many more rolls that I want to try.