This place is so discreet that thousands have driven past and not even noticed it. A concrete wall, and overlapping entrance that hides the doorway, leads to a traditional Japanese gate of hanging fabric. Behind is an ornamental pool surrounded by trees, heavily in flower, the tables and chairs underneath almost an after thought.
The food is typical commercial Japanese, all the dishes and combinations that you are used to seeing in Japanese restaurants the world over. Except that at Dahana their excellent attention to detail in the kitchen is evident. Everything is nicely presented and the taste is better than usual even though there is a predominance of soy in almost everything.
The Pirikara can be vegetable, fish pieces or those of assorted seafood, all having been pre-marinated in lemon and chilli. The lemon taste is strong, the chilli just an after taste. Gyutaki is lightly grilled beef in lemon and soy, sitting on Cresson [watercress].
My all time favourite Japanese snack, Gyoza, can be stuffed with just vegetables or vegetables combined with prawn meat. These pan-fried dumplings that have been previously steamed are of Chinese origin, imported and improved upon in Japan. At Dahana they are almost delicate, having been made and cooked with care, devoid of the common over-cooked dry side. Harumaki are pencil size rolls of rice paper stuffed with a mix of celery, salami and cheese or prawn meat, lettuce and coriander, both lightly grilled and served warm. The cheese taste predominates, a great snack.
The salads are always fresh and as well as the basic green version you can also have seafood pieces added or lightly tossed with fresh seaweed. The standard Daikon Salad is well prepared here; paper thin slices of radish tossed with watercress in a sesame dressing.
Traditional Sashimi Set serves are available in two different sizes depending on whether you are eating alone or sharing, as is the Sushi although with it individual plates can be ordered of Eel, Tuna, Prawn and different fish. The chef?s own version of Chirashi-Zushi [scattered sushi] is also served, a bowl of assorted sushi and vegetables. Another variety on a theme is a Temaki Set, so you can roll your own sushi!
Maki-sushi is sushi rice stuffed with a variety of ingredients and wrapped in Nori [seaweed]. In the post-war Japanese culinary invasion of California the Americans did not take to eating seaweed so the smart young Japanese Sushi Chefs, trying to establish themselves in the USA, created Uramaki, making the rolls inside out, with the rice on the outside usually covered with toasted sesame seeds or tobiko instead of the seaweed. Strangely enough what is served as ?Californian Rolls? everywhere today is usually the original version rolled in seaweed. Dahana has California Rolls as well as other Maki Rolls, mainly stuffed with a variety of finely sliced vegetables.
Agemono is food that has been fried. It includes deep-fried squid balls, fish fillet in breadcrumbs or prawns the same way. The prawns are good-sized with tails left intact for a finger-food respite from the chopsticks, the dipping sauce; a very sweet soy. Tonkatsu is a boneless pork cutlet served with shredded cabbage, and then there is the ever-popular Tempura. Pieces of seafood and vegetables dipping in a tempura batter rice flour that has been only lightly stirred so as to maintain its unique fluffy crispness.
Yakimono is food that has been sautéed in the pan or wok. The Chicken Breast has been marinated in lemon and soy then coated in breadcrumbs before cooking. Served cross-sliced to facilitate the chopsticks the strips are so soft and tender, the taste of the marinade coming through. The sweetness of Teriyaki makes it universally popular, the sauce [soy, sake, mirin and sugar] is basted on the meat or fish before and during cooking. At Dahana as well as Chicken they offer salmon, marlin and tuna options as well. Yaki Tori is served here as a main meal, large skewers of chicken, well soaked with a tare similar to that of the teriyaki. Its origin was once of little birds on sticks but ease of supply and taste attraction has seen them replaced by chicken pieces in the modern era.
Dahana serves Okonomi Yaki. A dish that is constantly referred to on English language Japanese menus as a Japanese Pizza. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality it is more like a Japanese omelette although served in the similar flat round pizza shape. It is a favourite dish from Japan?s west, particularly Osaka, and consists of finely shredded cabbage [as common in Japanese food as soy] which is tossed in egg and shreds of almost any meat or seafood ingredient that you fancy. A very filling dish, although rarely eaten alone.
For the solo diner there are the usual array of Noodle [Soba and Udon] and Rice Dishes, where the noodles, or rice are served in a bowl topped with meat or seafood in all the usual ways they are cooked as separate dishes; bread-crumbed meat, raw or cooked seafood. Soba noodles are thin and made from buckwheat whilst the Udon are much thicker and made from conventional wheat flour. Cold Noodles, on ice, are also available.
The setting is so romantic, even during the day, but especially so at night. The food is tasty and of exceptionally good value. It is just a shame about the service. If you sit close to the kitchen entrance where they seem to exclusively congregate you are more likely to attract their attention.