Hanabi Japanese Cuisine in Duluth, MN

Eric Faust / Heavy Table

“People up here seem to be more adventurous than people in the Cities,” says Sean Martin, who has helped chef and owner Jack Hang open, and is the front of house manager at Hanabi Japanese Cuisine. “They are willing to try new things and let the chef make something up for them.”

After being open only a month Martin and Hang have already hired four new chefs to keep up with the demand. They have only relied on word of mouth for advertising. News of the new sushi restaurant has spread quickly, as the only other option for sushi is the Zen House in Hermantown and downtown Duluth. “The Zen House is more like home-cooking style sushi, where we are trying to go for high end,” says Martin, adding that he enjoys the Zen House, but wants to bring a different style of sushi to Duluth.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

Jack Hang has been training as a sushi chef for six years, but Martin notes, “most sushi chefs in Japan study for eight to ten years.” Before coming to Minnesota, Hang worked at Haru on Wall Street in New York. Martin and Hang met and began working together when they helped open Osaka in Coon Rapids. Martin encouraged Hang to open a restaurant in Duluth. “There is the Thai place [Thai Krathong] but that is all there is up here for a higher end Asian place,” says Martin.

The menu includes both traditional sushi and modern Asian cuisine. “We put on the menu a lot of kitchen food because we were not sure how receptive people would be to the raw stuff,” says Martin. “There are some fish you can freeze because it won’t change the texture, you don’t want to freeze something like tuna.” Hanabi sources fish from JFC and True World in Chicago. They are able to get fish delivered fresh, unfrozen, and multiple times a week. “We can order fish that are not in season, but we prefer to keep what is in season,” says Martin, who is a big fan of Aji, a horse mackerel that is currently in season.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

The North Shore Roll ($13), one of the most popular on the menu, is known as an “S roll” in other parts of the country. Salmon and avocado are tightly rolled in sticky rice and topped with seaweed and five types of roe. The roll is dressed with spicy mayo and eel sauce. There are four colorful tobiko types of roe (small eggs harvested from flying fish) and one salmon roe. The tobiko roe are sweet with a gritty sticky texture, where the salmon roe has a waxy shell that can be broken to allow the inner fluid to fill you mouth and accompany the taste of the sushi.

Jena Modin / Heavy Table

Sake is the focus of Hanabi’s bar, but wine, beer, and a full bar are also available. “Grades [of sake] depend on how polished the rice is,” so Martin has put together a sake menu ranging from $9 to $65+ for 100, 350 or 750 ml bottles. “Sake is drank warm when it is cheap to hide the impurities,” says Martin, and thus Hanabi serves the majority of sakes cold. Since most people coming to the restaurant are new to sake, numbers have been included on the menu to aid customers in selecting a sake suited to their taste. Positive numbers indicate a sake that is drier, more acidic and lighter in body. Negative numbers indicate a sweeter sake with a heavier body.

Hanabi Japanese Cuisine
Rating: ★★½☆ Good
Japanese cuisine in Duluth

110 N 1st Ave W
Duluth, MN 55802
218.464.4412
HOURS:

Sun-Thur 11am-10pm
Fri-Sat 11am-11pm
OWNER:
Jack Hang
RESERVATIONS:
Preferred
BAR:
Full
AVERAGE ENTREE:
$10-$15

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9 Comments

  1. Went there last night with some of my friends. You know there is something to say about service…well should I say their service. Hmmm…it was terrible. I am a chef, done FOH, but we got a too cool for school server with a I am so emo haircut. Ignored us and flat out said she wasn’t listening to my friend when he was ordering something. I underdstand if your restaurant is filled and your in the weeds, but we were 1 of three tables in the joint. The sushi was alright, the only complaint was the tuna sashimi, who wants a room temp thick fatty slab of tuna? My girlfriend had to spit it out. All in all we should of just tipped the kitchen and not our final fantasy looking server.

  2. I went there this afternoon. After being at the zen house and being from the cities. I feel at home with the environment and they have an amazing lunch special that i will go back for! and its the best sushi i have ever had! i would like to see more of these restaurants open up! the service was good. Very friendly and helpful. I plan on taking all my sushi loving friends there. for sure.

  3. I was there with a large group earlier this week. It was only my 3rd time eating sushi and I have to say that the food was great. Everything was fresh, tasty, and looked beautiful. However, the service was horrendous. The hosts that greeted us were rude and our waitress was not only also rude, but inattentive. Keep in mind that we were only 1 of 4 tables in the restaurant. It took over 20 minutes for drinks that were ordered from the bar to be brought to us and then once our food was served the waitress disappeared. We waited about an hour until we saw her again and were finally able to get our bill. When one friend ordered a sake earlier in the dinner the waitress suggested a different sake and he took her up on it. However, the sake he originally ordered was $8 and the sake that the waitress talked him into ordering was $16, which the waitress did not tell him. The waitress did end up fixing my friend’s bill and only charged him $8 with his insistence, but again the waitress was extremely rude about this.

    It’s unfortunate that the service is so horrible because despite the food being delicious it is unlikely that I will go back.

  4. sara johnson 03/31/2010 Reply

    I LOVE HANABI!!! I heard about this site from a girl that works there, so I thought I would come on and post a comment. I am surprised to see the negative remarks. I had the most wonderful meal there, and the service was AMAZING. Everyone was really respectful and nice, my waitress even asked me if I wanted her to pack up the rest of my sushi- (I ordered WAY too much for my boyfriend and I) we had nearly two rolls left after pigging out! And since it was lunch, we got an amazing deal on our food. The best part was the music, instead of boring old people music it was young and up-beat, I felt like I could hang out there if there was a lounge or something. Overall, I LOVE HANABI!!! and we will definitely be back!

  5. Ate at Hanabi for the first time today, and it was excellent. Very reasonable prices for what you get. Ordered a relatively standard spicy tuna roll, and it was fansastic. Also got a bowl of Pork Ramen the size of my head. It, too, was delicious. The service was fine – nothing spectacular, but in no way negative. I will certainly go back. Maybe tomorrow.

  6. someone 05/08/2010 Reply

    Food was amazing but service was the worse I have ever had. Took them half an hour for a beer and the staff knows little english. The ONLY reason I still return is because the food is amazing!!

  7. Elizabeth 05/13/2010 Reply

    I love their food. It’s delightful. I always order their hot tea or just water, and everything arrives in reasonable time, though refills tend to be slow.

  8. Hanabi has something for everyone! I suggest starting with appetizers, Edamani- just eat the bean not the green shell, the second bowl is to put the empty pods in; also vegetable tempura is light and fresh. The beef Nagamaki is a great table appetizer but is also filling as a simple entre. When you order your sushi: vegetarian, raw or cooked it taste clean and weightless, but with the generous portions you can easily take portions home with you. Other entrées include is a variety of Teriyaki, and I can honestly say the Stake Habachi is, consistently, the tenderest steak I have ever eaten. Finally, don’t miss out on the Mochi, a delicious light ice cream dessert not to be missed. The service is at times a mixed bag. I do have to admit that many of the Caucasian servers are snobbish and appear to be too good for many of the local patrons, though I don’t think any of them are actually from the Caucasus Mountains.

  9. Hazel Stone 07/21/2010 Reply

    Just a quick word of warning, the sushi is good here but avoid the Nabeyaki Udon which smells like old socks (note to restaurant, don’t put broccoli in soup, yikes) and very, very bland. Just terrible.

    Otherwise, the place is nice looking the servers are friendly and the tempura is pretty decent.

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