Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Having Japanese food with a vegetarian and a non-fish eater can be a bit of a challenge, but Hikarai restaurant on Liberties walk always makes what could be tough a litle easier. Friendly waitstaff and a gorgeous interior design add to the appeal of this restaurant and sushi bar.
As always, we over ordered. I blame myself. I like to order lots of dishes not only to experiment with new things, but I also like to photograph everything and then share the best of the best with you, dear readers. We started with the Nagimaki, thin pieces of beef wrapped around scallions, grilled, and served with a sweet and salty teriyaki sauce. I liked the sauce and the onions imparted a nice flavor to the beef, but the meat was a bit chewy. That aside, I'd order this again simply because the flavor was so good.
The seaweed salad was also good. At some places, I feel like seaweed salad is an afterthought or at most just a side dish, so minimal effort is put in to making it taste the best. Not so at Hikari, this salad had the perfect balance of soy, rice vinegar and seasame.
It's hard to go wrong with gyoza. We opted for the fried vegetarian variety, and they were good, but could have used a little zip. I would have loved a little siracha to dip them in instead of the soy, but just because I love it on everything, doesn't mean it's an appropriate condiment for everything.
It was hard to object to the Yaki Tori, as it was so similar in flavor to the Nagamaki. White meat chicken was skewered with green onions and grilled, then served with teriyaki sauce. This dish was just as tasty as the beef version above.
Shannon tried the Tempura Udon. Udon are soft thick noodles served in a mild broth. This was the first time Shannon had this kind of noodle and found them a bit too soft for her tastes. I adore them when served like this, but also enjoy them as a replacement for rice in stir-fry dishes.
The udon soup came with tempura vegetables that you could float on top of the soup and eat with noodles. The tempura batter was light and crispy, exactly as it should be.
Definitely try the Yasai Maki, spring greens, cucumber, avocado, asparagus and kanpyo (dried gourd shavings) make a light and fresh roll with tons of crunch and crispness.
My favorite of the night was one of Hikari's speciality rolls called the Sprunchy. A spicy tuna roll is topped with avocado, tobiko (bright red flying fish roe), crunch, and spicy sauce, then beautifully arranged with seaweed salad as an accompaniment. Don't miss this roll, it's so delicious!
Hikari has also been expanding their menu to include more vegetarian, as well as Korean items. We tasted one of these new dishes and I recommend you try it too. Jap-Che is a noodle dish made with thin glass-like noodles laced with seasame oil, mushrooms and lots of other veggies. This was Liz's favorite dish of the night, so I'm sure we'll be ordering it again and again now that it's on their menu.
We ended the night with a refreshing vegetarian sushi that was a bit on the sweet side. Mango, avocado and mint were rolled inside of a thinly sliced cucumber and then drizzled with a sauce of honey, lemon and soy. I was wary, but it was lovely and made me feel cleansed after eating as much as I did at this meal.
If you're in Northern Liberties and hankering for Japanese or Korean food, check out Hikari on Liberties walk.
1040 N. American Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123