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Sushi Hana's Fish Conquers Ignorance

Sushi Hana

Address:6 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Towson, MD 21286

More on Sushi Hana.

By Susan Fradkin | Posted 2/9/2000

Moses Maimonides, a medieval scholar and physician, once wrote a treatise called A Guide for the Perplexed. Such a guide would come in handy on those occasions when I visit a sushi restaurant. I become so perplexed that I always pray the server will distribute, along with the inevitable steaming towel, a treatise explaining the mysteries of sushi and how tekka maki got its name.

The staff of Sushi Hana Japanese Restaurant does a good job of deciphering most of its Greek-to-me menu, although I'm still not sure what a tuna belly is, or how a sweet shrimp differs from a garden-variety prawn. But when I spy an offering called Traffic Light, I am completely at sea. Sushi rolls appear to have a logic of their own. I've finally learned what constitutes California roll, but what of Alaska roll, Boston roll, dynamite roll, spicy roll, and rock 'n' roll? Oh, yes, our sweet server tried to help; she was the soul of patience. But we pelted her with so many questions, it's no wonder she couldn't manage to suppress the occasional sigh.

I was particularly anxious for our luncheon to go well, as my sister Linda and her family were in attendance. The last time my Rockville relatives were slated to join us for a restaurant meal Linda and her husband, Arnold, spent several hours looking for the appointed place—and finally wound up getting a burger at Mickey D's. I wanted no such mishaps this time, so we all crowded into C.C.'s van—along with Linda and Arnold's kids, Staci and Mike—and headed to Towson. I figured the adults would opt for something other than sushi, but would the kids try it? We were about to find out.

The first thing that grabs your attention at Sushi Hana is the koi pool. Koi are the specially bred Japanese carp famed for their dazzling colors and their longevity. The average life span of the koi approaches 40 years, and there are stories of carp that have lived much longer. It's very calming to stare into a pool of koi. I don't know if fish experience stress under these peaceful pool conditions, but they appear to have the relaxation thing down pat, especially considering that their close relations form the bulk of the culinary offerings being eaten in their presence.

Sushi Hana's lunch menu is small but accommodating. It offers a good selection of tempura and teriyaki, some sushi and sashimi, and una don, a bowl of rice topped with broiled freshwater eel. I guess this last item won't have broad appeal with our party, and it doesn't. Everyone, however, agrees to try some sushi roll. We sample Maryland roll ($5.95), which contains (no need for a guide here) real crab; Florida roll ($6.95), a combo with cooked eel, Shiitake mushroom, and crab; and soft-shell-crab roll ($8). My niece and nephew try everything, and my sister comes through bravely, although she can't get past the Florida roll's eel, even though it's cooked, not raw. Arnold, who thinks the only good seafood is cooked seafood, declines all offers and resists both entreaties and taunts.

The lunch specials here come with miso soup, a small salad, and a side of rice. Staci orders scallop tempura ($7.95), Mike chooses chicken tempura ($6.95), and their mother gets the shrimp version ($7.95). All are bountiful, beautifully presented, and nearly grease-free. Arnold's beef teriyaki ($7.95) features a large piece of lean meat accompanied by bean sprouts and red pepper, and he makes short work of it. C.C., who has become quite the devotee of cooked sushi, orders a combination platter of shrimp tempura and California roll ($7.95). My combo includes California roll and the tiny steamed shrimp dumplings called shumai ($7.50). My niece promptly relieves me of the dumplings, but C.C. thoughtfully offers me a jumbo shrimp.

Over a steaming cup of green tea, I survey all I see. Sushi Hana's setting, with its recessed lighting, lacquered bamboo tables, and hanging lanterns, is certainly conducive to a relaxing meal. Music, the plucking of a stringed instrument, proves soothing, too. An adjoining room contains a low table for diners who prefer to sit on the floor, Japanese-style. A large hanging of a sumo wrestler marks the entrance to the rest rooms. Service is attentive and polite. The only jarring note is the presence of the microwave, source of those pre- and post-lunch steaming towels.

Alas, there probably is no guide for the sushi-perplexed. I'm seeking a modern day Maimonides in vain. Perhaps the solution is to keep a little notebook of definitions as I eat my way through the list. So much raw fish, so little time.

Open 11 A.M.-3 P.M. and 5-10 P.M. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 A.M.-3 P.M. and 5-11 P.M. Friday, 3-11 P.M. Saturday and Sunday.

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