Pride Makes Haruki Rhode Island's Best

Cranston -- Homemade miso is a source of great pride among the Japanese. There's even an expression "temae miso desu, ga," which basically means "I don't want to toot my own horn, but . . . ." Certainly, The miso soup at Haruki Japanese Restaurant is worth bragging about. But why stop there? The list of boast-worthy goodies goes on and on.

What makes Haruki so good?
First, you need to understand that in Japan food is as important to the soul as it is to the body. Despite its relatively small size, the country has spawned one of the most influential cuisines in the world, renowned for its ultra-fresh ingredients and meticulous preparation.

Unfortunately, this dedication to detail is sometimes lost by the time this cuisine makes its way to America. Japanese food is often misinterpreted in the United States -- a point well represented by the fact that almost every restaurant from a steakhouse to hardcore Italian now serves sushi.

In Japan, it's the philosophy behind the preparation and care taken to make the sushi that is most important, not the mere fact that everyone loves to eat it. And it's the adherence to this philosophy that makes Haruki the best Japanese restaurant in Rhode Island.

A broad portrait:
The food here encompasses a broad portrait of Japanese cuisine, from misoshuro (miso soup) to sushi specialties, as well as soba, teriyaki, katsu don and bento boxes. And it doesn't just cover or highlight dishes -- owner Haruki Kibe sees to it that the kitchen prepares them very, very well. An excellent example of this, and a good place to start, is the sushi. Some of the maki rolls are familiar, such as the ubiquitous California roll with cucumber and crab. But other selections show off the more adventurous and cosmopolitan sides of sushi chefs Yuji Suzuki and Alen Sung. The Philadelphia roll, for example, is neatly filled with fresh salmon, cucumber sticks and creamy, tangy cream cheese.The result is
the perfect fusion of Asian and American ingredients.

Meanwhile, spicy tekka -- a roll of velvety smooth tuna, cucumber and smooth avocado -- is laced with a hint of peppery sauce, just hot enough to warrant a sip of Japanese beer or plum wine but not enough to sound any alarms. The spiciness harmonizes with the tuna rather than overpowers it -- so well that this roll is one of the best of the many varied selections. The sushi bar practically stretches the length of the entire restaurant -- giving singles and couples ample room to sit comfortably and watch the line of sushi chefs cut and roll their offerings on bamboo mats.

Just for starters:
Exploring other parts of the menu is as much fun as the sushi. Starters that shouldn't be overlooked at Haruki include a deep-fried soft-shell crab, crackling hot and speckled from its crunchy batter -- so hot, juicy and fleshy it burned my lip. Served with a ponzu sauce (made from soy sauce, rice vinegar and citrus juice) the dish is light and delicate, full of slightly salty flavor.

A personal favorite -- and one that is often missing from Japanese menus in Rhode Island -- is oshinko, an assortment of tart, crisp pickles. Haruki serves them beautifully with crunchy cucmbers, eggplant, sliced daikon, and a special root vegetable (it looks like a baby carrot) with a deep earthy flavor and snappy crunch.

Sunomono is a term that is used for a variety of "vinegared things" -- at Haruki, this means an exquisitely presented hodge podge of razor-thin cucumber slices, thin slices of purple-and-pink striped octopus, a juicy, jumbo, butterflied shrimp, seaweed (wakame) and a sweet-tart sanbaizu dip of rice vinegar and soy sauce.

If it's difficult to decide what to have -- and the interesting selections make this a definite reality -- a bento box is an excellent way to peruse the menu in one shot. Most include Haruki's delicately flavored misoshuro and a Japanese lettuce salad garnished with rustic, robust ginger dressing. The shiny black-laquered boxes are perfect at lunch, and also include a choice of teriyaki or katsu (a thin slice of battered pork or chicken that is deep-fried) as well as the exquisitely fresh sashimi -- buttery, bright red tuna, shrimp, white fish and soft, briny crab.

There is a special selection of appetizers and entrees, and the sesame tuna is worth a detour from the traditional menu. A medium-thick cut, the tuna is merely seered on the outside, with a pink-red center, its outer layer encrusted with nutty-tasting white and black sesame seeds. A Western-style salad accompanies the fish.

Appetizers and other starters are $1.50 to $7. A la carte sushi items such as maki, sashimi and nigiri are $2.50 to $10, with two to six pieces per order. Dinner bento boxes, entrees and entrees form the sushi bar are $6.50 to $19.50. There is a full bar, with Japanese plum wine, saki and a good assortment of Japanese beers available.

Journal Restaurant Critic

Though the exterior is unassuming, the inside of Haruki offers a quiet serenity thanks to tasteful paper screens that ensure the sights and sounds of busy Oaklawn Avenue don't interfere with the subdued Japanese decor. Seating is limited to a dozen tables and 16 seats at the bar, but the menu is big. Sushi--from maki to sashimi--is the main draw; regulars often branch out to specialties like soba noodles or pork katsu.

Haruki is a Japanese restaurant featuring a smorgasbord of sushi and authentic Asian cuisine that keeps diners coming back for more. The menu has a list of seafood entrees and signature Japanese dishes for the adventurous diner. The casual ambiance welcomes couples, families or the crew from work for fine dining and a memorable meal.

Haruki Cranston
1210 Oaklawn Ave.
Cranston, RI 02920
Telephone: 401-463-8338