HANA DON with its Markham location at Cachet Centre(Woodbine x 16th Ave) has really struck a note with those who know good seafood. They are renowned for their exquisite Donburi, which are comforting rice bowls seasoned with a slightly acidic vinegar, and adorned with treasures of the sea. HANA DON‘s philosophy is to embody the authentic simplicity and decadence of Japanese cuisine.
Much of their ingredients actually come direct from Japan, but also bring the best of local yields. That commitment to quality has been a success story, spawning a second location at North York’s Fairview Mall, which after some delays due to the Pandemic, finally just had its official grand opening. Those south of Markham are in for a real treat.
The modern space on the south side of the mall (facing Sheppard Avenue) carries with it some of the clean elegance its Markham location has, with several of their greatest fan favourites returning for the 416/647 set.
We had the pleasure of trying Customer Top Pick TOYOSU DON. This is a bowl of Sushi Rice, topped with seared premium fish (today it was salmon and white fish), a quail egg and Thai Spicy Mayo. Already armed with a potent ball of Wasabi, all you have to do is stir-in a bit of their premium Soy Sauce with a spoon, and it’s ready to serve. And how perfect is that little Tamago (sweet egg omelette) donning their branding? Simple, flavourful and with balance of fire, it is easy to see why this is a fan fave.
While one might not think to come here for anything but Seafood, we also were able to try the SOUS VIDE BEEF DON. The product of a slow-cook on low heat and vaccum suction, the beef accompanied by peppers and mushrooms, was breathtakingly tender and flavourful, never out-competed for a moment. The beef is the undisputed star of the dish, and a hidden treasure on the Menu.
If you love Uni, HANA DON is just for you. Their famed UNI DON is part of their Premium Don Menu and loaded with local Sea Urchin and a gold leaf. And their real showstopper is their LOBSTER BOOM DON, which is topped with a fresh Canadian lobster and cheese sauce, giving their Don a real Hong Kong-style flare.
Everyone knows a bowl of rice is made perfect by an Umami bowl of Miso Soup and theirs is a delight. Each Donburi comes with a bowl.
The Fairview location also has an outdoor patio, offering additional seating options when the weather is great this Summer. Though this new addition to the family is still finding its rhythm like its big sister, it makes it awful convenient for you to experience some of that HANA DON magic if the venture north is a bit far.
…and guess what? We love HANA DON so much that we ventured back north to the Woodbine x 16th Avenue location in Markham again for another visit! And true to form, they set the benchmark for excellence. Such a special night out celebrating my Mom’s Birthday, and she also was so impressed.
Some of the exclusives available only to this location we tried.
The PEARL ROLL is absolute perfection. This roll contains assorted fish, tobiko, avocado and a cruchy topping with chopped Toro (Fatty part of the Tuna) and Scallion. But what ties this all together magically is that special Yuzu Miso Sauce. I literally could just order this and be incredibly happy.
Another exclusive to Markham is their SHICHIMI-FRIED SOFT-SHELL CRAB, which is a breaded fried Soft Shell Crab on a base of chilis and peppers. You know how much I love spice and heat, so this was just right for me, though it is a nod to Cantonese cuisine if you love Salt & Pepper Shrimp.
But of course, onto the heavy hitters. While local Uni supply was limited on my visit, fortunately there was enough to ordera HOKKAIDO DON, which is a Donburi topped with Uni (Sea Urchin), Ikura (Red Caviar), Hokkaido Scallop, Shiitake, with a ball of Wasabi and Tamago. Such a harmonious balance of flavours and textures, a masterpiece. So satisfying.
The real showstopper though is the LOBSTER DON, which comes with a Chef’s Recommendation. And we tasted exactly why. Each meaty, perfectly-picked Canadian Lobster weighs-in at 1.5 lb, and baked with a tangy Cheese Sauce. If you love Tomalley (that fatty, green substance found in Lobster), there’s a little pocket of that nestled-in there. Again, a nod to Cantonese cuisine and simply sensational.
The ambience here is versatile in that it can be a date night, a night out with friends or a family dinner, all the same. The level of Customer Care is fantastic, with staff knowledgable about the Menu and open to offering recommendations based on your tastes. They even brought my Mom a slice of their Mango Cheesecake, knowing it was her Birthday. Beyond gracious!
Spicy Peach California Rolls. We had forgotten how fun it is to make Sushi at home! These are simple and while it might take a couple tries to perfect a nice tight roll, this is totally worth it and fun to do with others.
1 1/2 cups Botan Calrose Rice 4 sheets Nori 2 eggs, beaten 4 strips of Surimi (artificial crab), halved length-wise 1/4 cucumber, sliced into thin strips 1/2 avocado, sliced into thin strips 4 tbsps seasoned rice vinegar 2 tbsps organic raw sugar 3 tbsps black sesame, toasted Sea salt
Sriracha-Peach Mayo: 1 peach, skinned and sliced thin 1 tbsp organic raw sugar 3 tbsps Mayonnaise 1 tsp Sriracha
1. Cook rice in rice cooker with 2 1/4 cups of water. Unplug once cooked and cool for 10 minutes. Stir-in vinegar, sugar and salt to taste and set aside. Sprinkle sesame seeds and mix gently into rice.
2. In sauce pan, cook peach slices with 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp water on medium heat till softened (about 5 minutes), stirring often. Once cooked, transfer to a bowl and mix-in Mayo and Sriracha and whisk with fork till smooth.
3. Set toaster oven to 200°F. Toast Nori for about 1 minute, careful not to toast too long as these burn quickly. Set aside.
4. Grease skillet and fry beaten egg, folding over with spatula 3-4 times as it cooks till it forms a narrow rectangular bar. Set aside once cooked and slice into thin strips.
5. Line plastic wrap on bamboo sushi mat. Once rice cools down, divide into four equal portions. Use clean hands and pat rice down onto wrap. Flatten rice with hands until you have enough to cover about 3/4 of a Nori sheet. Occasionally rinse hands with water if too sticky. Place Nori sheet on-top of rice, shiny side facing you.
6. Line avocado, cucumber, artificial crab and egg strips length-wise in rows.
7. Carefully lift edge of Nori and roll it over filling. Continue to roll over about 2-3 more times over and cover it with plastic wrap. Take bamboo mat and wrap it over the sushi roll. Roll 2-3 times tightly, careful not to press too hard.
8. Using a sharp knife, cut each roll in half. Then take each half and cut three pieces. Rinse knife with water if it gets too sticky.
9. Arrange pieces on plate. Top with small dollop of Sriracha-Peach Mayo and a small bit of avocado. Serve with wasabi and soy sauce if you like. Yields about 24 maki.
Feast for a King. We’ve been on our best behaviour and it’s time for a feast! This combines all our favourites, Rib Steak, Sushi, Jumbo U.S. Spot Prawns and of course Uni (Sea Urchin), which is only available at points in the year at your local seafood market. We were so lucky to come across some so we thought we’d splurge a little! Incredibly creamy and umami, Uni might be an acquired taste for some, but it is the most amazing thing we’ve ever tasted. This feast is simple, sophisticated and elegant. And we’ve earned it!
Finish this off with a dead-simple Blueberry Tiramisuwhich you prepare the day before. No baking – just simple easy-to-find ingredients.
1 lb Jumbo U.S. Spot Prawns 10 oz Rib Steak 10 pieces fresh Uni/Sea Urchin 1 cup Botan Calrose Rice 3 tbps Seasoned Rice Vinegar 1 tsp organic raw sugar 1/4 tsp sea salt 5 sheets Nori, quartered and toasted Ground Pink Himalayan Salt Ground Peppercorns Olive Oil
Soy Sauce Wasabi
1. Season steak with Himalayan Salt and Peppercorns, refrigerate for about 3 hours and bring out about 45 minutes before cooking. 2. In rice cooker, prepare rice. Rinse once and add 1 1/2 cups water. Cook fully and unplug once finished. Open lid and season with rice vinegar, salt and sugar. Mix gently and leave lid open to breathe. Once slightly-cooled, scoop into a serving bowl. 3. Pre-heat oven at 200°F. Place Nori on baking sheet (ungreased) and bake for about a 1-2 minutes, careful not to burn. You are toasting til crisp. Remove tray from oven right away. Stack on plate for serving. 3. Clean shrimp. Bring pot of salt water to boil and add prawns. Cook medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes till cooked. Remove from heat and rinse under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and arrange on plate. 4. Rinse Uni in cold water gently. Pat gently with paper towels till try. Arrange on plate and keep chilled till ready to serve. 5. Pre-heat Air Fryer at 400°F for 3 minutes. Brush steak sparingly with olive oil and fry for about 8 minutes. Once cooked, remove from Fryer and slice into thin strips. Season once more with Himalayan Salt. Arrange on plate. 6. In shallow small dish, combine Wasabi and Soy Sauce to taste. 7. Serve by taking Nori sheet, with one spoon of rice scooped-on. Dip Uni, Steak and Prawns in Wasabi-Soy and wrap in Nori and rice. Eat with hands.
24 Nilla Wafersor about 16 Ladyfingers 473 ml carton of Whipping Cream 250g tub of Mascarpone/Cream Cheese/Smooth Ricotta (room temperature) 2 tbsps Coffee Liqueur 2 tbsps high-grade Instant Coffee (brand suggestion: Davidoffor Maxim) 1 cup fresh Blueberries 3 tbsps icing sugar 1 tsp Vanilla Extract 3 tbsps Cocoa Powder
1. In small bowl, mix equal parts hot water and instant coffee. Add coffee liqueur. Stir well and set aside.
2. In large bowl, use handmixer to mix whipping cream till stiff peaks form. Mix-in cheese, vanilla and icing sugar until smoooth and creamy. Do not over-mix.
3. Dip Nilla Wafers in coffee mixture quickly and layer along bottom of loaf pan/dish.
4. Spoon cream on-top. Stack with layer of blueberries and then coffee-dipped Nilla Wafers. Layer again with remaining cream.
5. Sift Cocoa Powder on-top. Cover with wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight.
6. When ready to serve, scoop onto dish and top with more blueberries.