Sherman's Food Adventures: Hanai Vancouver

Hanai Vancouver

So one of the newer restaurants on Commercial Drive isn't really all that new.  Hanai, which takes over the spot Ugly Dumpling used to reside, started out as a food stand, then a takeout spot.  So moving into a brick & mortar location is a huge step forward for owners Tess Bevernage and Thomas Robillard.  Vancouver is blessed with a variety of cuisines, but Hawaiian isn't well-represented (unless you include the countless poke shops...).  For me, I love Hawaiian food and I finally made it out to Hanai for their well-priced Ohana Menu for $60.00 per person.

As mentioned in my previous posts, the cost of eating out is through the roof these days.  Hey, I don't blame the restaurants as they need to cover their expenses.  So this family-style menu is a great deal in my books.  We started things off with the some soft bread with a delicious Tall Shadows Ube Buns & Limu Butter.  The buns were only lightly kissed with ube and were super-soft.  However, the star of the show was the butter.  It was so filled with umami and the taste of the sea, we wished there was more!  We would've eaten with a spoon...

Our next course consisted of 4 dishes including Whole Pig Pork Terrine with pickles, Crispy Smelt, Curry Dashi Squash and Purple Yams. Starting with the terrine, it was made with various parts of a whole pig, hence the different textures and flavours were pronounced.  Very meaty, a bit porky and definitely tender.  It was served with pickles and some gochujang.  Absolutely loved the crispy smelt as they were delicate and deliciously fishy.  Kewpie mayo was served with it.  The delicate sweetness of the squash was accented by a mild hint of curry while the naturally sweet purple yam benefited from the nuttiness of the sesame seeds.

In between the aforementioned course and the next, we were served the Cheesy Rice Cakes with gochujang and mozzarella.  Personally, I would've liked it with a some more kick, but this still had most of what makes this dish good.  Namely, the rice cakes were soft and tender while retaining a chew.  Also, the flavours of the dish included spice, sweetness and tanginess.  Lastly, can't hurt with all that ooey gooey cheese on top.

Onto yet another multi-dish course, we had the Potato Salad, Roasted Beet Salad and Manila Clams.  Featuring sieglinde potatoes, smoked bonito and kewpie mayo, the potato salad was chunky with some firmness.  It was creamy with a bit of smoky fishiness.  It was topped with a ramen egg.  I really enjoyed the beet salad where the beets were firm, yet tender.  Nice sweet earthiness complimented by the nutty and sweet sesame dressing.  The purple daikon and pickled wakame added even more texture to the salad as well as acidity from the wakame.  The best of the three was the Manila clams in a ginger & lemongrass broth complimented by cured Chinese sausage (Lap Cheong) and chili.  These little clams were buttery soft and briny.  I thought the saltiness from the sausage and the chili added depth and impact to the otherwise mild fragrant broth.

Okay, onto the literally the meat of the meal, we had the Huli Huli Chicken, Cropthorne Farm Carrots, Furikake Rice, Perilla Leaves and Two Rivers Pork Chop.  Now if the chicken looks suspiciously like Chinese soy chicken, you aren't far off since this was indeed cooked with sweet shoyu.  It was perfectly prepared where the meat (including the beast) was super moist and juicy.  On the side, there was a finadene sauce which added tang, sharpness and spice.  Equally moist and juicy, the bone-in pork chop was topped with an umami-packed fermented black bean butter sauce.  It was balanced where the butter tempered the saltiness of the black beans.  Not to be outdone, the roasted carrots were cooked through, yet still had a firm crunch.  They were naturally sweet and a bit earthy.  On top, there was a extensively briny XO sauce.  To compliment all the meats and full-bodied flavours, we had some furikake rice with a side of braised perilla leaves.  The leaves were great to wrap things with and had a nice herbaceous hit.

Finally, we got to our last course which was dessert.  We were served both the Banana Melt (consisting of banana cake, brown sugar coconut, Filipino cheese and fior di latte gelato) and Rouie's Guinatan (mochi, banana, ube and coconut milk).  We found the banana cake a touch dry, but it was still aromatic and just semi-sweet.  The cheese on top added an "it" factor to the dessert in terms of texture and savouriness.  A scoop of gelato from next door (Dolce Amore) helped add moisture to the cake.  Of the two, I loved Rouie's Guinatan the most as it was so creamy and aromatic from the coconut milk.  Those hand-made mochi balls were so soft and appealing.  This was just sweet enough and I could've had a few of them for myself.  Overall, this was a really good meal at a reasonable price.  There was more than enough food for all of us and we even had leftovers.  Proteins were cooked perfectly and the sides were equally delicious.  We will be back.

The Good:
- Well-prepared proteins
- Reasonable-pricing and generous portions
- Excellent service

The Bad:
- Seating is a bit tight due to the size of the restaurant 



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