Haruko's is a small, authentic Japanese restaurant run by a shy but nice couple from Japan. The decor is simple, but tasteful with a tiny sushi bar. We've occasionally seen children in the restaurant, but the customers are usually adults. The atmosphere is quiet. There is Japanese music playing softly in the background, and it's easy to have a conversation with the people at your table.
After they seat you, they bring a hot towel for you to clean your hands with--it feels SO nice on cold days. Their prices are moderate, not cheap, but cheaper than some other Japanese restaurants we've been to. We enjoy their food so much that we feel it is well worth the price.
I've eaten fresh sashimi all my life. Before coming to Haruko's I wouldn't eat any other sashimi than ahi. After I tried Haruko's sashimi I felt like I'd never eaten sashimi before. Their ahi is good--but it often pales beside the other fish on the plate. The salmon melts in my mouth. The snapper is exquisite--and the maguro--OMG it's to die for! The chef certainly knows how to pick and prepare the fish for maximum flavor.
Their tempura is also very good. The batter they use is a more traditional Japanese batter--very light and crisp. The tempura always arrives hot, with a dipping sauce and the shredded radish and ginger (for the sauce) on the side.
I'm Japanese American and I'm VERY picky about my Japanese food. Haruko's makes the grade. My husband and I have probably eaten here at least 50 times in the last 3 years. All times (except once--a few years back when the chef was sick) were excellent. I'm confident about bringing out-of-town guests here--all of whom have been satisfied with the food.
There are many items on the menu, but there are some Japanese favorites that they don't have (I don't think I've seen oyako donburi). Tempura and or sashimi is usually what we get. (And if you can't decide between them, you can get them as a combination.) A few years ago, I also tried their miso butterfish--the flavor was excellent, but I thought the portion was too small, so I haven't ordered it again. A friend ordered their scallop udon. He enjoyed the flavor and was amazed by the number and size of the scallops in his bowl (I think he said that other restaurants he'd been to would only put one scallop in). Other friends have tried and been happy with Haruko's teriyaki.
If you order sashimi you will get an assortment (chef's choice). We've been happy with what he's served, but if there are some things you don't want to get (like octopus, squid, prawns, etc.) or some things you want to be sure to get--it's best to mention it when you order.
The meals come with a bowl of thin miso soup, namasu (tasty slices of crisp cucumber with a vinegar dressing) and a small fruit cup as dessert. Rice is served by the bowl (as opposed to having a large serving bowl that you scoop from). The portions are moderate--if you have a hefty appetite, you might want to order some sushi on the side.
If you like sashimi and are near Mercer Island--check this place out. It's easy to get to (just a few minutes from I-90), with plenty of free parking.
One drawback is that the place closes early (around 8:30pm) and isn't open on Sundays or Mondays.
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