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COX: Haku Sushi in Santa Rosa

  • Yakisoba, a dish of seafood, wheat noodles, sauteed bell peppers and onion seasoned with an intriguing house sauce at Haku Sushi in downtown Santa Rosa. (BETH SCHLANKER / PD)

Sonoma County has three top-notch Japanese restaurants as you drive north on Highway 101. At the south end there's classy Hiro's in Petaluma. Cotati has the impressive Shige Sushi, and now Santa Rosa has Haku Sushi, which opened a couple of months ago in the Brickyard Center.

The owner is Han Soh. Mr. Soh is a kidder, as his signature rolls attest. He named them and makes little comments after their names on the menu. For example, there's the Afternoon Special, “Where we learned about life ... and rolls.” And the Alex P. Keaton, “Every high school had someone like Alex ... it was probably you.” His comment on the Date Night roll is, “Soy paper AND crunch?!? Someone's getting lucky tonight.” He's named rolls Little Death, Roll Me a Fatty, Silent but Deadly, and What She's Having, among others.

But while the names of some of the rolls may be funny, he's serious about his restaurant. Two sushi chefs know how to make each presentation beautiful. The fish and other ingredients are as fresh as you dream they should be. Dishes are assembled with refinement and the flavors are delicate rather than obvious.

As a sucker for merriment, I ordered the roll called Release the Kraken ($13, 3 stars), a catch phrase usually proclaimed with mock solemnity by college kids referencing the over-the-top action movie, “Clash of the Titans.” While the name may be a running joke, the roll itself is a lovely piece of work. Avocado, crab and yellowtail are draped with black nori, over which sticky sushi rice is laid. A long, thin filet of seared white tuna covers the rice, sprinkled with ponzu sauce, ringlets of green onion stalks, and red tobiko, then sliced into 10 pieces and decorated with pickled ginger at one end and a thick lump of green wasabi at the other.

The kitchen has a habit of sending out little un-ordered treats as small gifts. Two slices of California Roll were the best I've ever had of this combination of crab and avocado covered with a special sauce that's firmed up quickly in a hot oven. Another was a small seaweed salad that reset my benchmark for this standard Japanese dish of wakame seaweed touched with a dash of toasted sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was served in a beautiful white, scallop-edged bowl.

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