Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park
Chef-owner Ken Tominaga is famous for his pristine Japanese cuisine, at one of Sonoma County’s best – if not the best - eateries since opening his Hana Japanese Restaurant in Rohnert Park in 1990.
In August of 2015, the chef expanded his restaurant due to popular demand, nearly doubling its size and adding a sake lounge. That means that while reservations still are necessary, there’s a much better chance of getting in on a busy weekend night. Such bliss, since visitors come from San Francisco and beyond for this superb experience.
The look: The best place to sit is at the gleaming steel-and-glass fronted sushi bar, to drool over the rainbow array of beautiful fish in front of you and interact with the friendly chefs. Here’s where you can see the specials board, too, such as akamutsu (gnome, or perch, similar to black cod), kohada (gizzard shad), house cured saba, and kamatoro (succulent, fatty tuna cut from the collar of wild bluefin).
Next to that is a wood board menu of classics like maguro, hamachi, and ebi, plus specialties like mentaiko topped in marinated fish roe.
The main dining room shares the same room as the sushi bar, and is elegant with white linen napkins on dark wood tables, shoji screens and a glass encased wall of sake leading to the lounge. In back is a second dining room and a secluded patio, making each seating area feel like an intimate experience. There’s a new private dining room, too.
To eat: The Japanese-born chef offers some trendy sushi (like the sashimi, fresh fish is market priced), such as the Crispy Spicy roll of yellowtail, albacore, scallion, and tobiko with tempura/unagi sauce and spicy sauce. But he’s mostly a traditionalist, impressing us with the spectacular simplicity of pristine ingredients like a graceful Umeshiso roll of pickled plum and shiso leaf that’s cool against the warm rice, a Sakekawa of salmon skin, kaiware daikon radish sprouts, and gobo burdock root, or Negihama, which arrives as silky slabs of yellowtail dressed with delicate shaved green onions.
Our group also split a Yummy roll. It’s a silly name, but a marvelous marriage of salty-sweet tuna poke with crunchy seaweed salad, prawn tempura, avocado, and glittering tobiko.
The magic comes from the kitchen, too, where soba noodles are hand-cut for their bath in hot broth with Asian mushrooms ($14), and the Black Angus wafu steak is cooked sous-vide style then sent out sizzling on a Mt. Fuji stone ($32), for us to pick up by the thin slice with our chopsticks.
Nabeyaki udon ($15) is another stunner, the thick, slippery noodles laced with shiitakes, egg, and vegetables in rich broth, all served in the pot. I immediately remove the topping of prawn tempura and set it on a side plate - it’s taboo to do this in Japan, but whatever, I like my tempura crispy.
Tonkatsu tends to be everyday food in Tokyo, as simple pork breaded and plated with rice, shredded green cabbage and a thick, sweet soy-ketchup sauce. But here, my server explains it’s made with center cut Kurobuta pork loin ($18), and to be sure, the prime pig makes the dish extra flavorful.
Black cod misozuke is an elegant rendition, as well, grilled to a crisp skin and moistened in Saikyo Miso, a mild, slightly sweet fermentation of soybeans and rice ($24) Like all entrees, it comes as a full meal served with miso soup, tart-sweet Japanese pickles, sunomono salad, and rice.
To note: Given the ingredients, sophisticated cuisine, and generous portions, this is one of Wine Country’s best dining values. Tominaga is a remarkable talent, working with some of the Bay Area’s best chefs. In 2014, he opened Pabu in San Francisco, partnering with celebrity chef Michael Mina.
Dessert: Dessert is usually an after-thought at Japanese restaurants, but here it’s well worth the calories for fluffy soufflé cheese cake ($7) and handmade black sesame ice cream imbued with gentle smoky notes ($7).
To drink: This is a terrific wine list, spanning Sonoma County but also other sushi-friendly wines from Spain, France, and beyond. Sake is a must, suggested by the staff sommelier for sips like Kakurei Junmai Ginjo Ume-Shu ($9).