John Yoo and Sunny Kim opened their Japanese restaurant Hanabi in an unassuming space near the Northcross Wal-Mart in October. The name translates to “fireworks” in Japanese, and while some of the dishes at the moderately priced sushi restaurant explode with fresh flavor, several suffer from a failure to launch. The expansive menu features hot and cold appetizers, hot entrees and noodle dishes. But, as with most sushi restaurants, the thing people want to know about is the fish.
How is it at Hanabi? It seems to depend on who is doing the cutting and what pieces you order. Fresh pieces of hamachi ($3) had a light sweetness amplified by a drizzle of honey and the slight sear of Thai chili ringlets that exhibited the subtle imaginative touches executive chef Dong Ho Choo (formerly of Afin) brings to his creations. A shimmering bite of silvery shime saba ($2.50) expressed its pungent vinegar flavor with little adornment. The citrus-splashed o toro ($8) was the prize of the bunch, the fatty tuna rippling like striated cotton candy across a dwarfed bite of rice dabbed, like all the nigiri at Hanabi, with a tiny shmear of wasabi.
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2525 W. Anderson Lane. #120, 512-407-9000, HanabiAustin.com
Rating: 6 out of 10
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Wednesday; 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; noon to 10 p.m. Sunday.
Prices: Appetizers, $7-$14; sushi pieces $2.50-$8; entrees $10-$25.
What the rating means: The 10-point scale is an average of weighted scores for food, service, value, ambiance and overall dining experience, with 10 being the best.
The Bottom Line: Hanabi delivers traditional sushi and entrée options with some creative flair, but sometimes the culinary results don’t match the earnest enthusiasm.