For some reason, I rarely venture beyond Islington & Highbury Tube Station along Holloway Road. I finally found the chance to when our desperation for The King's Speech drove us to catch the movie at Odeon Holloway Newbies showing. For the uninitiated, the Newbies showing is exactly like the Baby Club at Screen On The Green. That's probably the only reason why parents with little screamers remain sane.
Two hours later, we were out on the street feeling a tad peckish. "Was searching on Urbanspoon and saw that some Japanese restaurant by the name of Hana is nearby," Wife volunteered, "Fancy some Japanese?"
We took a turn along Holloway Road into Seven Sisters Road and proceeded up along the road. In all honesty, the vicinity, with its motley mix of shops, looked hardly the place for a Japanese restaurant much less a decent one.
We did eventually reached Hana, which was located at the far northeast of Seven Sisters Road. Imagine our surprise when after walking past some dodgy looking Chinese takeaways, Hana turned out to be a proper well lit restaurant with ambience that would give some of the better known Japanese cafe cum restaurant in London a run for their money.
With soothing Japanese songs, which sounded suspiciously like lifted from the tons of Japanese serials I lugged from back home, Hana looked every bit like where you would like to unwind after a long day at work. There was a small sit down bar just in front of the sushi where customers getting takeaways could grab a beer while waiting.
The gentleman who served us was all smiles when he brought us the menus. I found out later that Hana was family run. It figured though; the service was really personal and our little one just couldn't stop giggling at the lady proprietor, Mrs Song.
Let's talk food shall we?
In a bid to stick to my diet, I went for the chicken karaage and tofu teriyaki.
Hana's chicken karaage (£4) though generous in size reminded us of the disappointing one that we had at Sa Sa Sushi. It looked and tasted powdery; instead of chicken thigh meat, Hana used thin slices of breast meat, hardly appetizing and a far cry from Necco's.
The tofu teriyaki (£5.80) was likewise nothing to shout about. Thin slices of deep fried soft tofu doused with teriyaki sauce, a sprinkling of sesame seeds with a handful of stir fried beansprouts and sliced onion cushioning beneath them, the dish could be right out of the 'zi-char' dishes at the coffeeshops back home.
Two good size shrimps and a couple of vegetable tempura coupled with seaweed and strips of fried tofu skins in udon, I thought that Hana's tempura udon at £8 was quite good value. Its soup was subtle, just the way I liked it. Wife was certain that its udon was factory made though. These days, every single udon dish that she cane across had to be benchmarked against Koya's.
We also got ika sushi (£3 for two) and ikura sushi (£4 for two). While the salmon roe was fabulous, the sushi fell apart quite easily showing that the rice weren't soft enough.
The golden chestnut ice-cream (£3.50) came highly recommended by Mrs Song. The ice-cream tastes of golden syrup - I should have realized by its name. There were bits of chestnuts interspersed in the two scoops of ice-cream, which added some texture to them.
While Hana is a pleasant Japanese restaurant bar in Holloway vicinity, I get the feeling that it is more of a local eatery albeit its wonderful ambience and friendly service. That said, Hana remains a shining beacon in that part of Islington.
The Toby Carvery, South Croydon
9 hours ago