I met a girlfriend for lunch this week at her favorite Glendora spot, . The dimly lit dining room was small but cozy. Sparingly decorated, it almost felt like we had entered a quaint Japanese home.
Our server, Aiko, contributed to this homey feeling by greeting us warmly and already knowing my friend’s usual order: the teriyaki chicken and tempura lunch bento, with spicy teriyaki ($7). I selected the nigiri sushi and tempura lunch bento ($7.50).
Each bento came with miso soup, a bowl of rice, salad, and four slices of a small California roll. The savory miso soup’s soothing broth was not overly salty and the tofu and scallions were fresh. The simple salad was also impressively fresh, with a mild Thousand Island dressing. The petite California rolls were the perfect size to pop in your mouth.
My friend insisted I try her chicken and she did not have to ask twice. The teriyaki glaze was ambrosial. As I have mentioned in , sauces make or break dishes for me. Although I felt the chicken might have been a tad on the dry side, the teriyaki sauce was immensely forgiving (however, I only had one piece because I did not want to be rude, so the rest of the chicken may have been perfect). The sauce made each tidbit sweet and slightly chewy, with almost a bit of crunch on the outside where the glaze had caramelized. There was just enough of a spicy kick to keep things interesting.
My nigiri sushi was traditionally sized, just enough to fit comfortably in the mouth with one bite. The fish was fresh, but what stood out to me was the sushi rice. Often times, sushi rice can be a fiasco, either too stale or stiff (think prepackaged sushi at the grocery store) or an overcooked, almost mushy, mess. Hana Haru’s sushi rice was perfectly seasoned, firmly packed into a bite-sized package, yet each grain of rice was distinctly separate from the others.
Hands down, the highlight of my bento was the tempura. Crisp and light as a feather, the batter melted in my mouth as each bite danced like a crunchy sugarplum fairy across my tongue. This was the antithesis of the heavy, greasy, over-battered tempura one finds in “Japanese” fast-food chain restaurants. The inner contents of each piece were cooked to its ideal—the shrimp until tender and just done, the vegetables until they were toothsome, but not dry.
Like most cuisines, Japanese food has taken on a different personality here than it has in its country of origin. Many of the sushi joints in Southern California give sushi their own twist, whether it is to suit American palates (think Philly cream cheese rolls and the aptly named California roll) or to bring their own ethnic experience to the plate (as sushi chefs from other Asian backgrounds sometimes do).
This does not necessarily mean the sushi is any less delicious. After all, I would be loath to give up my sushi dynamite and crunchy open-face sushi dishes; it solely means it might be less authentic. I do not know if it is the humble dining room, the bite-sized nigiri or the cute bento boxes that make me want to eat more daintily, but of all the places I have tried in Glendora so far, Hana Haru feels to me like it comes the closest to authentic Japanese dining in our town. Kampai (Cheers)!
Address: 956 S. Grand Ave., Glendora, CA 91740
Business Hours: Tuesday – Friday, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.; Tuesday – Thursday, 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.; Friday – Saturday, 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Sunday 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Phone Number: (626) 335-0417
Price Range: $6 - $14
Type of Cuisine: Japanese
Standout Dish: Spicy Teriyaki Chicken, Tempura