On Sawtelle, away from the long lines and commotion of popular spots like Tsujita LA and others, is Bar Hayama. Highlighted by a beautiful outdoor seating area, this bar offers four seating options and multiple menus worth of food. As a result, being seated and served takes far less time than eateries closer to Olympic. Still, as Hungry & Fit, the most important dining aspect is the food, but let’s take about what makes this fiery location worth a visit.
Being fanatics of Japanese food, Chris and I are always looking for new and yummy places. We have high standards for fish, we both come from coastal cities, so don’t blame us! One day at work, my boss took me out to Sushi Hana in Longmont (where I work…about 15 miles from Boulder) for a lunch meeting to get some work done. It’s this little place that would be extremely easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it. Luckily, I wasn’t driving.
We get seated immediately, after all we were there just around 11am–an early lunch. We get a hot pot of green tea to share which was perfect for a sunless, cold day. After much mulling over the lunch menu, I decide for a “sushi box” which is basically a bento box, but with sushi instead of tempura or a teriyaki dish. Overall, the fish was good (I got tuna) and the meal as a whole was very enjoyable. I got a lot of food for just $11. There was a maki roll on top of that, pork dumplings (didn’t eat), big thing of delicious rice, salad, soup, and an orange. Like I’m saying, ridiculous amount of food. The atmosphere is delightful: quiet, cultural, and peaceful. We stayed there for a while after we finished our food, and the polite, friendly server continued to fill our green tea cups. I left very full.
Usually when we do reviews, it’s of places Chris and I have both gone to. So what did that mean? After work, one Friday, I take him to Sushi Hana. This is a good sign–means I like the place enough to go back! Similar to the last experience, we were seated right away. I took the initiative to get us some green tea. This time, I ordered the salmon teriyaki box and Chris ordered the una-don (eel over rice). The salmon was cooked very well, and again, I couldn’t finish all my food (good thing I had Hungry with me). I also got the tuna-avocado maki roll which was really delicious and I preferred it without the soy sauce, another good sign. Chris said the una-don was good, but a little small. Good thing he had to finish mine!
Overall, Sushi Hana is a good spot, at least for lunch. It isn’t our favorite (see Kho’s or Korea House), but is definitely on our good list. If you’re in Longmont, hit up this spot for a great lunch special! Eat Japanese food to stay hungry and fit!
BONUS KITTY PIC
This is going to be a very happy post because it was a very happy day for everyone. One of (probably my absolute best, top 2 ^_^) my very close friends recently got married to a great guy. Memorial Day Weekend 2013, Laura and Tim Johnson were married in a beautiful ceremony at the nicest church in Santa Monica, CA.
First, Laura went to college and met Tim. Then when we went back to LA, we visited them at Pepperdine University and went out for Thai food. We didn’t get to hang out much but Tim seemed like a really nice guy and we got along pretty well. So, I was actually happy for Laura, which is saying a lot because she’s kind of family. (A slightly younger little sister) Later, she tells us they’re engaged and we get the save the date. Excited! We buy our plane tickets for Memorial Day Weekend and then it’s the big day out of nowhere. Here comes the good part!
Alana and I show up LATE to the ceremony. That’s right. We show up after the bride and have to slip into the church through a side door. Felt horrible but who wants a boring wedding? I don’t think it ruined anything and Laura seemed so into it (and nervous) that she probably didn’t even see. Too many important people there anyway. It was a short and enjoyable traditional ceremony. The priest was very funny and made the boring parts really fun.
It was just great seeing Laura and Tim up there. Stuff happened… and then they kissed! We cheered, they left, everyone left, we left. Then, we decide to go to the spot for the reception in a limo bus with her family and closest friends. Alana and I talked to her parents in the bus and they remembered who I was. Her mom has such a great memory and is the sweetest lady ever. Laura’s dad is super nice too. Then, when we get to Casa del Mar (nicest hotel in Santa Monica, great restaurant) we find out that the reception doesn’t start for 4 hours! Oops, we didn’t do our homework. So then we slip out the back door and make our way to Bay Cities for lunch. I texted Laura and Tim to see if they wanted any but it seems like they were too busy so no Bay Cities for them!
Finally we come back for the reception and it was top-notch. Casa del Mar and the host families did not disappoint. The cocktail hour included a free open bar, SUSHI, oysters, sliders, and more. You can see the pictures, including one where Alana tried her first oyster off the shell. Then we all got moved inside and we were seated at Table #2, which had all couples that were basically all from Pepperdine. The only person I know besides those 4 already mentioned was Evi, the maid of honor. I never got the chance to say hi but she made an awesome speech, along with the best man, all the parents, etc. Really heart-felt and nice warm reception. The food was all amazing, especially the filet mignon. On to the entertainment.
They hired a very talented band of all kinds of musicians and vocalists that covered tons of songs. We went from Motown to hip hop to country to GREECE! There was a Greek-Armenian (I think) artist who was hilarious. He had such great charisma and energy and we could tell that everyone that could understand him was loving it. So we were loving it too. They danced traditional Greek dances to traditional songs and we watched. Alana was jealous that she wasn’t Greek. It was a great mix of a traditional American and Greek wedding. Everyone had a great time and we left a little early because we were getting a ride home from Alana’s generous father around midnight (what, are we in high school?). The best part of the night for me was getting to give Laura and Tim a good bear hug and get a picture with the bride. I snuck in and out while they had ten free seconds in between events and songs. I barely made it but I’m glad I did and I’m super happy for them.
Hopefully we get a chance to visit them in their new home soon! Congrats you two and we better have reunions in Jersey, LA, and everywhere else! Cant’ say enough about that day and wish everyone could have been there! Good luck Laura and Tim. We’re here for you if you need anything! The big picture is that if you are really close and care about certain people then you can just see them after years and it’s like you never missed a day without seeing them. One of Alana’s clients who is an absolutely lovely lady told us that yesterday and it’s so true. Always be there for those good friends because having those extra support systems can mean the world to people. Loving your real family and friends can give you the support to stay hungry and fit!
(P.S. – I haven’t seen any of the Twilight series movies, nor do I plan on seeing them anytime soon. However, Laura and Tim’s first dance was to Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” and that was my favorite part of the night. Love that song)
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This review is long overdue considering the fact that we went to Izakaya Den back in November. These lists of posts really stack up and we try hard to get them out but it’s not easy! So here you are… a review of what we have so far found to be the HIGHEST QUALITY SUSHI in Colorado. When we went, Sushi Den was closed for construction. Sushi Den is supposedly the more expensive and higher quality of the two but they are one in the same according to what we have heard.
Here are the many positives and few negatives of our trip to Izakaya Den. The restaurant is in one of the most quaint and quiet communities in Denver. There are not neighborhoods like this in New York City and it’s nice to have such an escape in another busy city. The restaurant itself is pleasant looking on the outside and there is plenty of parking in the suburban-like neighborhood. We did go for a late lunch on a Holiday weekend with Fit’s parents so it was very empty, which meant quick service and the opportunity to explore. There were five of us in total and we were seated in a beautiful sun-room with plenty of table space.
The service was again very quick and polite. It was months ago but I can’t think of a single complaint aside from the fact that the waiter was somewhat of a know-it-all and tried giving ME a lesson about sushi. Jiro… of course. Random Caucasian college student from Colorado… no thanks, no offense. The lunch menu was actually not very expensive even though the restaurant is known to be somewhat pricey. For the quality of food, the price was absolutely right.
We had a vegetarian, two spicy food lovers, myself, and someone with very specific and limited dietary needs. Everyone thought their meal was delicious, made them feel great, and most were full. (Me… not so much.) Plus, the bill was reasonable. Instead of talking too much about the food, I will say that everything was VERY good. No major complaints. You can look at the pictures. Oh, and obviously I am picky about eel quality but this was worthy of no complaints and just praise. Everything from the sushi rolls to sashimi to appetizers and dishes were all great. On top of that, the restaurant is spacious, exceptionally decorated and capable of entertaining every group. Whether its large groups, families, couples, or people who want to go to a bar… they have it. Izakaya Den earns our highest quality food stamp for the Denver area in Asian foods. That doesn’t make it our favorite, but it’s so damn good. Feast your eyes on these pictures. We will let you know how Sushi Den is when Alana passes her NASM exam (she doesn’t know about this… well now she does).
Visit Izakaya Den to stay hungry and fit!
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I love sushi! My favorite food is probably a toss up between sushi and ramen. It’s hard to say depending on how I feel, one being hot and one being not so much. If you’re going to find warm sushi anywhere in Los Angeles, it would be Sugarfish. I talk about the movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi all the time. It’s one of my favorite films of all time and it highlights the way that traditional sushi is made. The rice should be fresh and warm, the fish is fresh and cool, and the combination is not tainted by the addition of soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi. Any of those are applied only by the chef so that they compliment the fish perfectly. Sugarfish follows these standards and, although the have those condiments on the table, they recommend not using them. So let’s back track and start from when we entered.
Editor’s Note: WARNING: DROOL ALERT AHEAD FOR ENTIRE POST
Fit’s family and I, along with Fit’s brother’s girlfriend (confusing right?) stopped by Sugarfish in downtown Los Angeles at 11:00 a.m. right when it opened on a Sunday (I think). Kai had recommended it and knowing that we are in Boulder where good fish is hard to come by, he decided to treat us to a nice meal. Not nice–amazing is more like it. Their quality control in their recommended dishes is second to none. The six of us were seated immediately and service was very good throughout the meal. It was quite empty but they took dirty dishes immediately and all of our dishes, or nearly all, were delivered warm. One hand roll had soggy seaweed but the rest were crisp and well toasted.
Nearly all of us got the recommended “Trust Us” with one person ordering a la carte, one getting the Trust Me Lite and me getting the super trust me (extra… for hungry, as always). The meal is not fresh in my head but nearly everything was great. The tuna sashimi salad was one of the highlights. Its dressing was spectacular and I must have licked the plate clean. The edamame was normal and the rice was always warm. The nigiri was all high quality with the exception of the unagi, which was just slightly off for me. Not quite sauced or toasted properly, but still tasty. It just didn’t match up with everything else. The seaweed on the handrolls were almost all toasted and I even enjoyed the blue crab handroll, which is typically something I would not order. Fit said it was the best hand rolls she had ever had. We drank water and it was refreshing and helped keep my mouth cool and fresh.
All in all, I would say that Sugarfish is a very high-quality restaurant that utilizes the Nozawa style of creating simple but elegant sushi. If you are interested in complex rolls then you should venture elsewhere. If you are looking to get full on a budget, this is not the place either. The atmosphere is unfortunately very industrial and cold, despite efforts to warm it up. The concrete ceiling is hard to cover so I would advise couples that romantic dates might not be the best here, but they can still be great due to the food. It probably looks nicer at night so that might be a good time for a date. If you find yourself here I would almost certainly tell you to only get either the Trust Me, Trust Me Lite, or the Nozawa depending on how hungry you are. I did the math and the amount of food you get on the Trust Me for nearly 25 dollars would be over 35 dollars if ordered a la carte. Not only is it their best deal but it also highlights the dishes they do best. That is what I got out of our visit and I hope it helps you on yours.
The obesity rate in Japan is over 30% lower than the United States so eating sushi is certainly one way of staying hungry and fit!
Editor’s Note: I made sure to keep all the pictures nice and big to emphasize the drool effect. Can’t wait to eat there again. -Alana
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You’re an old man now (24 to be exact). So, I’ll direct you to this post for what we did over the past weekend (kind of our birthday weekend/week). That was all a bunch of fun, definitely some good times. His exact birthday was yesterday, September 12th.
Anyhow, two nights ago we decide to have a joint birthday dinner. I ask Chris what he wants for dinner and he says (can you guess?)…SUSHI! So sushi it is! We invite Marga, Ben, and Megan to meet us for a 7:30pm dinner at Sushi Tora. It was nice on the interior and very busy. We arrived in the rain, and were lucky enough to find a spot right in front! A very rare occurrence anywhere near Pearl St. Once everyone arrived, we started off with some Magic Mushrooms–a very popular appetizer there. I believe it contained salmon, mushroom, and some sort of other flavor. Looked good.
We stayed there for a few hours and ordered a lot off the menu (well, Chris did at least). I got some delicious tuna and smoked white tuna sushi (nigiri). I didn’t really like the smoked flavor of the white tuna, just because I’m so in love with white tuna (it’s my favorite, just so you know)
Megan and Marga then split a DELICIOUS tempura-battered brie with sliced apples (or were they pears?) with honey. Very very good.
We then ended the night with banana tempura, which was extra delicious. Very sweet and under a base of caramel, mmm! Overall, this place was good, not great, but still an excellent time with family and just enjoying the night. The price didn’t quite match the value, but it’s a big step up from Japango. Our next Sushi adventure will be at Sushi Zanmai, which is supposed to be superb. Can’t wait to try it out!
We went to bed full and happy, having had a really fun night. The next morning, we woke up to wet grounds outside and a steady trickle of rain. I looked at the forecast: 57 degrees alllll day. I knew Chris would be happy. He likes the cold. I don’t quite like the cold (sorry, I’m from SoCal), but I do enjoy my rain and it gives a great reason to stay inside and be happy. Which we did when we could. With the looming chore of the DMV before us, I wanted to take Chris out to a place that had good croissants for breakfast. So I put on my jeans and my NZ gumboots (rare recently, due to it being a usual 90 degrees and all) and we drove to Spruce Confections.
It was delicious (see above). We got two croissants, one mixed berry with chocolate scone, hot chocolate, and Bhakti Chai. We really enjoyed the croissants–they were fresh, buttery, and had a perfect taste. The scone was good, but didn’t compare to the croissant. The hot chocolate was soul-warming, but needed to be a tad bit sweeter, but we will definitely again. Now, the Bhakti Chai was intense. It had the strongest ginger flavor I had ever tasted in a chai before! If anyone is sick, pick up a cup of this stuff! Well, anyhow, it was an adorable little cafe/bakery with quirky girls working the shop, rain dripping down outside, and a couple of cute dogs hiding under tables waiting for their owners to hurry up with their drink. They will definitely see us here again. We can’t wait to go here during the winter, I have a feeling the scene will be perfect.
I then spent the next 3 hours in the DMV, getting a Colorado license while Chris happily sat in the car, playing a new game I got him for his birthday on his 3DS. We then both had work, but by the time 8pm rolled around, we were hungry. Chris picked me up and we discussed dinner. We had recently walked to Marshall’s and on the way, our noses were hijacked by the most wonderful smell…wafting from a big Indian restaurant (Jai Ho). So, last night, we decided to go. It was very good, very quiet, and very atmospheric. We had samosas, garlic naan, a mushroom dish, and a curry dish (which was spicy even though the waiter insisted it was the non-spicy one Chris could get). I guess we’ll need to say “non-Indian non-spicy” next time.
He also got a lot of great birthday loot, including some video games, music, checks, and cards, so thank you everyone!! Cheers
P.S.- Sorry for skipping a day, beloved readers, as you can see we were very busy yesterday and the night before. Thanks, as always, for reading!
(Basically a review of Japango)
What a weird and pointless way to start what I want to say. So it’s Tuesday night, we just did some cardio (I swam 1650 yards, ask for the workout if interested, and she did the elliptical and bike) and then a get-back-into-shape-kinda lower body workout. Now Fred (Alana’s cousin [Megan]’s boyfriend from New Jersey) had mentioned that Japango has an all-you-can-eat-sushi night every Tuesday. Wait. Hold up one second. Did you just say all-you-can-eat SUSHI? Here in Boulder? Landlocked Colorado? Intriguing.
One of my absolute favorite things in the world and my favorite post workout meal… conveniently after our first night back in a real gym. I forced Alana to go (she didn’t put up much of a fight). So we jump in the car in our workout clothes and drive over to Pearl and Broadway, park the car for free since it’s past 7 p.m. and find the restaurant. We enter at about 9:05 and we know that is closes at 10:00, but that won’t be a problem… we’ve never had problems with all you can eat places closing early. (!)
As we’re greeted, relatively quickly for the small staff and decent sized crowd, we ask about the deal. What’s the deal? Well, in fact, it is $29.99…! What?! Thirty bucks? Oh man, have we been spoiled having it for way cheaper in New Jersey, but it’s worth it, or so we tell ourselves. The hostess continues, you can have all these hand rolls, these sushi, these special rolls, and these dishes from the kitchen. Cool. Not that we have ever been to a place that doesn’t include non-sushi items, but we started taking it for granted and to have it taken away now would be really heart-breaking. So we’re seated in a TINY table that we knew would NOT be able to fit all our food, but we didn’t bother to have it changed. The nice waitress comes, we order waters, and look at the menus/checklists. We start tallying stuff off, Alana orders a red wine sangria, we hand in the checklists knowing that we might only get one round’s worth of food because we showed up so late, and we wait for the kitchen stuff to come. (That’s right, I said stuff, so you can replace it with any word you feel is more intelligent because I love being not-intelligent sometimes)
We start with some house salads with ginger dressing. They’re big, and the greens are dark and there’s spinach! But the sauce is weak, tastes more like ranch than ginger. Bummer, I eat it all. So does she. Next, we get tuna salad! A bowl of the same greens… with three pieces of tiny seared tuna on top. But the sauce is amazing and has a nice zing to it, so naturally, I eat it all, and finish hers. Alana ordered me seaweed salad; how nice of her. And they even included three kinds of seaweed. It was good; they didn’t make it too spicy like other places often do! Next is the “tuna steak” or six-or-so pieces of the same tuna in the salad, but in more of a teriyaki sauce and it is lick the plate good! She ordered spicy calamari, which I can’t eat, and it was VERY spicy so she finished it all. She also got mussels, which were like cheesy clams casino and Alana had all three. I love cheese, but when it’s time for sushi night, cheese better stay out of the way. So far, it’s on track to be a good investment, but now the moments of truth are about to begin. (By the way, the sangria was very iced-down, very juiced down, very weak, etc. Didn’t last long but tasted good… but not worth six bucks).
Okay so, here’s my issue. I read in the Boulder Daily (I think that’s what it’s called) that Japango’s all you can eat sushi is world famous! It said the Daily Camera named it best sushi in 2010 and 2011, AND best Asian in 2010. And now I become a food snob. This was garbage. I should post a video rant because I can’t put it in text. Did they only try one place and not require that it had to be good…. or even decent? Best sushi? I’ve had tuna from my college’s cafeteria at 1 a.m., 16 hours after it was delivered from the sushi restaurant in downtown Manhattan, that was fresher than this tuna. And I didn’t just try a few things. I tried EVERYTHING (just about). Even the quail eggs. The squid, octopus, scallops, red clam, tuna, salmon, smoked salmon, white tuna, yellowtail, white fish, halibut, mackerel, etc. And to top it off, their orders are a two-piece minimum, so I got to taste two of everything. We also had eel hand rolls, tuna hand rolls, avocado roll, the Las Vegas roll, the New Orleans roll, and the Boulder roll. You can see for yourself, in the picture, what we ordered. I’m rambling, which is how I present my rants because I don’t like to prepare arguments all the time. Let’s continue.
Now, Alana does not like wasabi. Or horseradish. Anything along those lines. I know that a sushi chef does sometime have the tendency to smear some wasabi paste in between the rice and the fish, but in all-you-can-eat? With this horrible quality of fish? Are you trying that hard to mask the not fresh flavor of the fish with something so strong?
I eat sushi like this: I take the piece of sushi and put it right in my mouth. No soy sauce, no wasabi, no ginger. Why? Because that is how it’s supposed to be done. The chef should prepare a fresh piece of fish and properly cook and vinegar his rice, potentially brushing a special mixture of soy sauce and seasonings on top to compliment the flavor of the fish. Not kill it. Now I could care less what you do with your maki, hand rolls, special rolls, sashimi. I put whatever on all of those too. But sushi is sacred, the relationship between the rice and fish is crucial, and Alana doesn’t like wasabi, so don’t assume all fifty pieces of sushi should have it without asking!
I mean, you’re clearly not a real sushi chef if you’re willing to serve fish that bad! I could give you a grade of how fresh each type listed above was, but it’s not worth it. Some was fresh, some was kinda fresh, some wasn’t fresh at all. The hand rolls were okay but obviously someone didn’t rush to get them to us because the nori was soggy by the time I got it. (I always eat the handrolls first to prevent this soggy effect). The avocado rolls were ALL rice and no veggie. The specialty rolls were awful. Now, my number one rule of all-you-can-eat sushi is don’t get specialty rolls. They fill you up so you can’t eat the good stuff. These tasted like nothing. And they had a ton of great ingredients in them, on paper. But they weren’t fresh or prepared right and as a result I soaked it in soy sauce to eat it. Alana had white tuna, some avocado roll and some New Orleans roll. I ate everything else, or tried to.
Now, getting to the end. We knew that you get charged 50 cents for every piece left on the plate. I have NEVER been charged extra, but there’s a first time for everything. We got charged ten dollars, for 20 extra pieces. It was that bad. I wasn’t even full but I could not punish my stomach, who is so nice to me, by shoveling in more fish that was not fresh. I felt bad and was willing to pay. BUT we had fun! We had fun making fun of the guy behind us that was worshiping everything they put on his plate. Jiro Ono would have whooped that guy bad. The bill came and it was 30 for each of us, 6 for the drink, 6 for tax, and 10 for the extra sushi we did not eat. We gave the waitress, who was very good, a twenty percent tip of 16 dollars, and took our bag of leftovers home. (They let you bring the leftovers home, which they should because you paid for it.) And they sat in the fridge, and we threw them out the next morning. I felt horrible about it, but it was really bad. Now, could it be like this all the time? There’s no way! If it got those awards from the Camera, it must have it’s good days, but we’re never going back. And for me to not go to the only all you can eat sushi place where we live is a huge deal! Why’s that? Here’s why:
I have had sushi in the middle of the Atlantic, in Bermuda, in Peru, in South Korea, on top of a mountain in South Korea, in New York, in Los Angeles, in Miami, and tons of places in between. I’ve had all you can eat in three continents. In our last months in Jersey, we had it AT LEAST once a WEEK! We went to three places usually: Arigato in North Haledon (THE BEST!), Sushi X-1 in Ridgewood (PRETTY COOL!), and Gen in Ridgewood (Not bad!), and they cost us 20/22/20 per person. They offer more kitchen goods and sushi, free desserts, and the fish is fresh, most of the time! (LOOK AT THE PICS AT THE BOTTOM)
It must be that here in Boulder it’s hard and expensive to get fresh fish, which we understand! But if it’s not fresh, DON’T SERVE IT! Are you going to serve a raw filet at a steak house? I would hope not. It could get you in trouble. I wish the all-you-can-eat sushi crew was there to help us out. Dan Liwanag, the first person I had all you can eat sushi with, Scott Reiners, the co-founder of weekly all you can eat night, Allan Wu, aka Master Wusabi, who gets us the freshest fish by talking to waitresses in their native tongues, Scott Polhemus, the wind tunnel when it comes to downing Japanese alcohol and food in a way that would please a shogun, and Dr. Capitani for starting the original “sushi night.” (Adam and Aedan, future members of the crew, I salute you!)
We want to keep this tradition alive, but if Japango is all that Boulder can offer, that tradition will die soon. We will have to try other places and not get all you can eat to see who has the best in Boulder.
UPDATE: My weekly contest! Whoever can submit the best Japanese dining experience will be sent a special prize related to this topic. I don’t care if you’re in Malaysia or Philadelphia, I’ll get it to you for your efforts and dedication!
PREVIEW: I’ll be bashing the Boulder Daily Paper’s review of pizza. Obviously whoever wrote it and compared certain pizza to New York style isn’t from New York!
Thanks for reading! If you made it this far you get to use this free joke I stole from Alana who stole it from Twitter…
How come the T-Rex couldn’t shake hands?
Because it was dead!
(Oh, and here is the appendix, a graveyard of past, and better, all you can eat sushi nights with the individuals listed above and some extras who I apologize for not including, like Brit!)