Feisty, Fresh, and Fishy 

Le Hana Experiments

Le Hana touts itself as a French/Japanese fusion restaurant, which seems to me like the odd pairing of a fat person and a skinny person. But I've seen fat/skinny relationships work out just great, and so I wasn't going to judge Le Hana before I understood what made it tick. Perhaps they were onto something.

I'm on a budget, so I showed up before the restaurant's weekday 2-6 pm happy hour ended, knowing I could score a few staples for cheap. My date and I shared some $2 spicy tuna and spicy salmon rolls and were impressed with the freshness and flavor of both. The fried tofu with sweet broth was cheap and delicious, as was the crispy salmon skin salad.

On the dinner menu, Le Hana offers unique and unheard-of appetizers, like sea urchin and Japanese basil tempura, sea snails bathed in a garlic fish bouillon, and monkfish liver pâté. I adored the Ume Ton Katsu, which delivered pork, wrapped sushi-style around a piece of sweet Japanese plum and deep-fried. Other easy-to-swallow starters include the rich shrimp-and-goat-cheese gyoza, the screamingly fresh tuna and avocado tower with creamy wasabi, and the Kobe flat iron tataki. The tataki is a must-order if you like your beef raw and bloody. The outside is flash seared and the meat is served cold, and when it sat on my tongue I thought this is what they should serve you when you stand in that line at church.

I was reluctant to order the watermelon soup with fresh crab, but had to because it sounded like something I could dazzle guests with at home. Nope. Not the case. It was definitely the worst item of the evening. The soup was too sweet and didn't work with the crab, which couldn't help but absorb the flavor. Much like dating a musician, it was an experiment worth trying, but not one worth repeating.

Nearly stuffed, my companion and I decided to split a dinner entrée and debated at length over the rack of lamb, the Strawberry Mountain rib-eye, or the sake diver scallops. We both wanted to try the Kobe beef tenderloin, but $41 was too pricey, so we decided on the mahi mahi. The dish was reasonably priced at $15, but not great. The fish was overcooked and tough, and came served in a sweet, nutmeg-y butternut squash sauce that clashed with the fish. The fried rice that came with it was great and served in an inventive pyramid shape, and the fried eggplant side dish was oily but tasty. I took two bites of everything and retired to being pleasantly full rather than stuffed.

The menu at Le Hana is huge, so trying everything would take a year of visits. The sushi menu, though, with inventive rolls made with lotus root, passion fruit, cashews, and sweet potatoes is worth exploring, as is the creative and bizarre appetizer menu. Don't dismiss Le Hana because the food sounds strange, because much like every weirdo you've ever dated, it really does have something unique to offer.

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