Haru occupies an uncertain place in the city’s dining scene: The space is attractive-yet not threatening-enough that people in the mood for a passably good sushi meal and an hour or so in the heart of Old City won’t be disappointed. But on the other hand, its charms are wholly different from, say, Morimoto’s, which just oozes sex appeal. In this sense, at least, Haru is what we might call Old City Lite: Cool but not intimidating, sexy but not off-putting.
The food falls in the same state of in-between, or in this case, liteness. Despite the protestations of its harsher critics, I’ve never had an awful meal there. Of course, I haven’t had a truly spectacular meal there, either, but I’m not sure that’s the point of the place.
I think it’s more like we go there to feel moderately hip for an hour or so, eat some decent sushi and rolls, and then get on with our lives.
Ms. Martini and I began with the edamame ($5). The portion was large enough for both of us to nosh to our stomach’s content, and salty enough that we didn’t want to stop even once we had reached that point. The only problem, really, was that the salt dulled our taste buds, and we needed a bit of recovery time before we were ready to taste the sushi.
I did, however, find that a few sips of nigori sake ($6), a milky, almost coconut-tasting rice wine, calmed down my palate and readied me for the more subtle flavors of the sushi.
As far as pieces of sushi, we tasted the smoked eel ($3.50) and the striped bass ($3). Both were tasty and well-prepared, striking a nice balance between fish and rice. And while they only came one piece to an order, the prices reflected this, and were altogether fair.
We also decided to take our waitress’s advice and taste the live scallop ($13). The presentation was beautiful: a single scallop-ostensibly alive just a few minutes earlier-arrived at our table sliced into translucently thin pieces, garnished with red tobiko, and replaced in its shell. The presentation was beautiful and the flavors were pure, buttery, and utterly delicious. It was, indeed, the highlight of the meal.
We also had the ling roll ($15) a construction of king crab meat and avocado topped with salmon and Japanese mayo with a bit of sugar and masago mixed in. The top was then torched, glazing the roll and lending it a deeper flavor. The whole thing was garnished with tobiko, scallion, and that wonderfully sweet eel sauce. It was over-the-top in appearance, which obviously lends to higher expectations, and the dish didn’t disappoint.
And the kamikaze roll ($7.25), which, despite all the drama its name implies, was a simple, tasty combination of nothing more than spicy tuna and tempura flakes with a coating of tobiko on the outside.
The only trouble we had, really, came with dessert. Ms. M. loves her red bean ice cream, and she orders it whenever she has the chance. But between the time she asked for it and the time it arrived, nearly 15 minutes had passed. And when it arrived, it was topped with chocolate syrup, not only an odd addition to the red bean flavor, but also something that had not been noted on the menu.
Dessert may not have been what we expected but the bill, which rang in at $65.72, was. Luckily the cost of feeling moderately cool for an hour isn’t overpriced.
Haru, 241-243 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, 215.861.8990; www.harusushi.com
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