Another fish in the pond?
I can remember when going out for sushi meant two things: no one would go with you because eating raw fish was gross, and finding a sushi bar was next to impossible. Not so anymore. Today, sushi is as common in Albuquerque as tube tops in a booty bar. Those who once squirmed at the thought of eating uncooked tuna and salmon are now old hands.
Which brings us to Burque’s latest addition, Sushi Hana. In a corner space on Central and Sixth Street, former Yen Ching owner Kathy Chao has made a cuisine switch from Korean to Japanese. Small and boldly decked in red and black, Sushi Hana—at least where looks are concerned—has no trouble fitting in with Downtown’s attempts at becoming a stylish contemporary Mecca.
Sitting at the bar offers a bird’s eye view of Hana’s sushi chefs and insight as to the overall approach to the venerable art of slicing seafood and rolling rice. Don’t expect any fancy knife-work or intensely attentive masters behind the counter. Hana’s fish flingers are focused on filling orders quickly and efficiently, leaving little room for creative flair.
On both visits, I challenged the men behind the counter to show me what they could do. My first such request was met with confusion and resulted in a bowl of edamame. I ended up ordering off the menu, much to their relief. My second attempt brought a selection that strongly resembled a variety to-go tray from the grocery store: California roll, rainbow roll and tuna, salmon, eel and imitation crab nigiri.
As far as quality goes, forgive me for once again comparing their efforts to a grocery store. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly didn’t stand out—as though a minimum of effort was expended to get it out. I simply got what I paid for and nothing more.
On the periphery, there was the usual miso soup, with its lone tofu cube cowering at the bottom of the bowl, and the typical condiments: imitation wasabi and pickled ginger. When it comes to following the well-established American sushi formula, Hana in no way strays from what's expected.
You’ll find all the familiar fishies on the menu in all the familiar rolls. Fatty tuna and sea urchin are available—once a rarity but now commonplace. What’s nowhere to be found is an exceptionally skilled set of hands attached to a passionate sushi crafter.
The service during my visits was uneven. At the bar, I had no complaints. Tableside was a different story. Though it was on the menu, my server informed me the restaurant did not serve calamari, which made ordering it a little tricky. Perhaps her unfamiliarity was a sign: the squid was so flavorless, I wondered if the Gorton’s fisherman cooked it himself. When it came time for the check, my server announced, “I’m going to the bathroom, so I’m just gonna drop this off.” Yummy.
So Hana's a plain-Jane sushi joint with a pleasant enough atmosphere. You’ll fill your belly, which makes it great for a quick lunch or a half-price sushi happy hour trip (served from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. weekdays), but this is a sushi restaurant for those who prefer straightforward to fabulous.