The concept of fusion is unsettling. This is certainly not to say that experimentation in cross-cultural flavor is purely an exercise in bastardization, for there are flavors that have found each other in holy matrimony through the genius and globalization – miso cod, red bean truffle chocolate, bulgogi hot dogs. However, it troubles me when the restaurant concept appears more a creation of marketing, catering to the superficial tastes of someone who is enchanted by maki rolls only when it exceeds their tri-color requirement for attention. Label it something provocative, and somehow, it gets the people going.
I was conflicted then when I was invited to Haru. With restaurant week kicking off, they wanted us to opine on their menu. They obviously don’t read our stuff – but then again, odds are you’ve skipped to the pictures. Regardless, I was happy to oblige the poster child of fusion – at least it was the sake bar.
A much approved lychee martini was the first to start the night. The ice was coarse, the drink was mild, and the lychee was present. Other than the mild, really, it was an auspicious start.
The starters then came, mine, a pair of fish tacos (with apple yuzu salsa) and across from me, a bamboo steamer of king crab dumplings. My tacos were decent, but somewhat lackluster, as maneuvering the hard shell consumed the entirety of my attention. The dumplings though were a knockout, strangely reminiscent of a crab rangoon, this was much, much better filling than cream cheese.
Entrees were next, and to be as critical as I could be, I chose the sushi and sashimi set – and as they often so name this dish as regular, so it was. More excitingly perhaps were the rolls, one kiss of fire, and the other gramercy park. No fusion tuna roll is ready for consumption without promise of jalapenos and allusions to grandeur. Jokes aside, the roll was begrudgingly, quite flavorful, and a sizable portion. Gramercy park also had its novel claim to fame, a thin slice of lemon atop each piece – which I found refreshing, but overpowering.
Finally, cheesecake tempura. Really, frying, deeply or tempura style, can usually do no wrong, and indeed no crime committed here. The cheesecake had the wonderfully crisp, thin outter layer, with a rich heart of cheese. Definitely worth savoring.
The banana spring rolls were much more of a forced creation. With what could have been a crepe transformed into a Chinese take out staple, this was just too much food too late in the procession. Unlike the delicate shell on the cheesecake, this spring roll just obscured all the natural flavor of the banana – and the chocolate sauce left something to be desired.
Regardless of what my stougie view of the fusion landscape might be, I can still recognize warm and happy feelings as they occur. While there was some disappointments with the tacos and bananas, both somewhat formulaic takes on fusion – all in all, there was something thoughtful about their menu. It was playful, with the dumplings really making an impression and the rolls mozying their way to something special. Taking off my traditionalist hat, Haru’s not a bad place to end up for a drink and a roll – and maybe restaurant week will be the time for you to do so.
What does this rating mean?
From the Notebook: The meal was complimentary, though it did not affect my opinion, nor were we required to write.
1329 3rd Ave
New York, NY 10021