The charm of Hokano Japanese Restaurant lies in its homely warmth, writes Tan Bee Hong
THERE is an intangible feel about Hokano Japanese Restaurant. For those of us used to the impersonal, almost clinical joie de vivre of trained smiles in fast food restaurants and global franchise chains, the intrinsic charm of the small, family-run eatery may even feel a little overwhelming.
It’s impossible to ignore though, not when the food is served by the affable Mrs Ho, wife of chef and restaurateur Terry Ho. Or, when customers flood in, her godson, Sean Chan, still wearing his chef’s jacket, leaves the kitchen to help take orders.
In the kitchen, sons Alfred and Kah Chun are busy grilling, frying and arranging sushi and sashimi into treats for both the eye and the palate.
Any Japanese restaurant worth a visit can be judged by its sushi and sashimi. At Hokano, the fish is so fresh you can almost smell the sea. Sashimi is available for appetiser as well as a main course and sushi, nigiri sushi, temaki and hand rolls are offered individually.
Hokano takes pride in its sushi rolls, with a list of 21 items (from RM5 to RM30). Popular items include Hokano roll, cut into eight pieces and topped with tobiko (salmon roe). The roll has rice with tempura prawn, grilled eel, avocado, crabstick and cucumber. We also love the Philadelphia roll, with smoked salmon, cucumber and chunks of cream cheese.
I love sanma. Also known as Pacific saury, this slim, long fish is best grilled with salt. The flesh is sweet but do watch out for bones in the belly area. For meatier fish, saba shioyaki (RM13.50) is a satisfying portion of grilled mackerel. A value-for-money lunch set comprises grilled saba with appetiser, salad, rice, miso soup, chawan mushi and water melon for dessert at only RM17.50.
Another popular set is katsu curry chicken with potato and carrot.
The tori shogayaki bento (RM26.90) makes a lovely meal with sashimi, salad, rice, deep fried chicken and a portion of saba shioyaki as well as miso soup and chawan mushi. There are other choices of bento as well, including sashimi and unagi.
Alfred, 21, loves the chicken teriyaki (RM13.50). “It’s my all-time favourite. After all these years, I haven’t grown tired of eating it yet,” he says, smiling.
Learning the ropes from his dad from the tender age of 16, Alfred says he enjoys working in the hot kitchen. He’s proud of his beef steaks (moromiso steak, rib eye teriyaki, beef shogayaki) which customers keep coming back for.
At the next table, a family is enjoying ebi tempura (RM18.80) with great relish. The three young sons have fun holding the large prawns up by the tails, dipping them into the sauce and popping them into the mouth.
Do ask for the daily specials. These are not on the menu because, says Mrs Ho, “it depends on what I can get fresh at the market the same morning”. She makes the selections personally to ensure freshness.
While we are there, it’s clam soup, sauteed mushrooms and spicy squid. The soup is a delight. The clams are sweet, cooked in clear dashi stock with a dash of cream and sprinkled over with chopped dill. There’s some noodles in it too.
We counted at least five types of funghi in the sauteed mushrooms too. But what really grabs us is the spicy squid. Cut into rings, the squid is cooked in a scrumptious garlicky sauce with chilli and a dollop of mayonnaise. Timing is imperative when cooking squid as overcooking turns it rubbery. But Terry has taught his sons well and the squid rings are cooked just right.
NOODLES & RICE
Hokano serves a variety of rice (with eel, beef and chicken) and noodles. Of the latter, I love the cold noodles (from RM7.50) best, with a choice of udon and soba. Tenzaru Inaniwa (RM17.50) is cold noodles with a selection of tempura items on the side, including prawns and vegetables.
Hokano Japanese Restaurant
74, SS21/35, Damansara Utama
Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Tel: 03-7729 5325
Noon to 3pm, 6pm to 10pm.
Sunday 6pm to 10pm.
Facing LDP, near Maybank.
Sashimi, chicken teriyaki.
About RM30 per person. Value set lunch menu from RM17.50.
Cosy warmth of family restaurant.
Friendly and efficient.
Go give it a try.