October 30, 2008

Hana Asian Bistro: A Scrambled CAKE restaurant review

Hana Asian Bistro
Fashion Square Shopping Center
9434 Skokie, Boulevard
Skokie, IL 60077
847-677-hana (4262)
Entrées are $10-$15.
Kids bento box meals $7-$8: choice of chicken teriyaki, dumplings, tempura, cooked sushi

A guest post by DH.

We may have found our new go-to Chinese joint at Hana Asian Bistro, just south of Old Orchard Mall (Westfield Shoppingtown, if you must).

Hana joins Kim's yearning for fresh sushi with a kitchen that can cook me fresh hot and sour soup.

The co-owner, Ray, said his architect partner painted the ceilings black, hung rice paper lanterns and built the dark hardwood paneled half-walls, which are topped with a faux oversize brick stucco pattern. Linen napkins lay atop dark hardwood tables with matching chairs that direct your focus to the centerpiece, an aquarium-style chest-high gas fireplace strewn with zen-like stones. Décor alone distinguishes Hana from our favorite Thai place, strip-mall neighbor Ruby of Siam, which simply nailed up some ethnic artifacts on the generic drywall. The boys loved their dragon roll (above), a sushi delicacy they've been waiting to eat again since our summer trip to DC. The beef and broccoli entree was several steps above a typical Chinese stir fry in a generic brown sauce. The beef was the most tender we've seen in ages, and the scallions and mushrooms rounded the dish off. The jalapeño tofu hit an ideal spicy note, but again, was a bit salty and was one of many misspellings on the menu. As a former menu designer, I'm saddened when a classy eatery like Hana slips menus into cheap plastic sleeves.

We were disappointed when this 2-day-old restaurant wouldn't accommodate our kids' special request for shrimp tempura. It didn't seem like a good way to build a loyal following.
Our chosen substitute, honey-sesame shrimp, was extremely sweet and a big hit with the boys, already stuffed from potstickers, vegetable tempura and spinach gomae. Kim had a problem with the shrimp dish in that she found several small pieces of hard, crystalized honey in her food, but no one else at the table had this problem. She's just lucky that way sometimes.

To apologize for the problem with the dish, the waiter offered us free dessert. I was alone in liking the green tea ice cream encased in rice flour cake, but I'm lactose intolerant, so it went largely uneaten. Kim said the green tea ice cream looked the food she prepared for the silkworms she raised two years ago for Pikachu's science fair project.

Our water glasses were constantly replenished. The floors, silverware and dishes were un-chipped. The bathrooms were clean and upscale as the front of the house. The boys were intrigued by the sink, a stand-alone metal basin (like a basket); the metal faucet looks like a hand pump with a bamboo chute to channel water. Kim notes a baby changing station is about to be installed in the ladies' room. The hand-cut cucumber, carrot and lemon garnishes (above with fresh potsticker) intrigued the boys and kept the plates interesting. The fusion bistro seems out of place in an run-of-the-mill strip mall. But Tyler Cowen in Discover Your Inner Economist (if you liked Freakonomics, check this out) argues that food sold away from bustling city centers offers a better value because what the owner saves on rent is often spent on better ingredients and chef's wages. Point well made.

Though we experienced a few bumps, we understand it's a brand-new establishment and Ray and his staff are working out the kinks. We are definitely taking to the road to Hana next time our Asian cravings strike, which should be in about a week.


Anonymous said...

Having grown up in Skokie, I'm trying to imagine where this place is and am drawing a blank. But then again, that whole area has grown and changed so much since I left.
This place looks great; we'll have to check it out when we're home in December. I loves me some hot and sour soup, and the boys love bento boxes (which makes going to our favorite sushi place here easy peasy). Thanks for the recommendation!

Naomi said...

Oh, I totally would have helped you with the green tea mochi ice cream... yum!

MJ Tam said...

If I'm ever out that way, Hana has always been our stop for meals.


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