Prague's sushi scene isn't sensational but this Japanese/Korean restaurant in Žižkov is Brewsta's favorite

This article was originally posted on the Czech Please weblog.

Let's face facts. Prague is not a big sushi town.

Sure, there are plenty of sushi places. But, for one reason or another, top quality fish and top talent chefs are lacking. And, no, being far from the sea is not an excuse.

Still, internationalized palates demand a sushi fix. So, we search for the best available options.

I can't say I've got an encyclopedic knowledge of Prague sushi restaurants. I've only been to about seven: Miyabi, Yami, Millhouse Kaitan, Hanil, The Sushi Bar, Myslbek's Sushi Point, and Mashhana. There was one on Nerudova, but I didn't love it and forgot the name.

There have been things I liked about many of them. For example, Miyabi's sushi is OK, but their barbecued eel is what I go back for. Or Sushi Point's all-you-can-eat brunch.

But when I consider value-for-money, service, atmosphere, location, and other dishes beside sushi, my regular favorite is Hanil.

The restaurant does both Japanese and Korean dishes. It has a modern, clean-design dining room with blond woods and a sushi bar right by the door. I've seen quite a few Japanese diners eating here.

A meal at Hanil always starts off with a complimentary green salad. I love it. Sure, it looks pretty basic: Iceberg lettuce, cucumber, carrot, radish, and bean sprouts.

But what is really special about it for me is the soy-vinegar dressing. There is something about the sweet-and-sour balance. I can't get enough of it. I have to confess, I took a sip from the bowl after I finished the salad.

Yeah, I know. Say what you will, but it's just that good.

I asked our waiter how it is made. He made a big deal out of the fact that it is a secret. Then he told us the secret. It's pretty simple, really, with one ingredient I wouldn't have guessed. If you want to know, you'll have to ask yourself.

We both agreed our waiter, a Czech man with a goatee, is one of the best we've ever had in Prague. His name is Tomáš.

The guy is always there when you need him, but almost always unobtrusive. If your paper napkin gets a little soy sauce on it, he'll slide a new one next to your arm as he walks by. If you decide to share a dish with your date, he's there with an extra clean plate. He's always friendly, but not unnaturally so. He speaks excellent English.

On a recent visit, we didn't go too wild with the sushi. V got a mixed nigiri set for 240 CZK. These pieces are not so pretty to look at. They can do better. But they tasted fine. I will say that the tuna is not always the freshest, though.When tuna is excessively bright and pink, it means it has been treated with carbon monoxide, which is harmless to eat, but preserves the color. And it can hide the fact that the fish (and other meat) is past its prime.

I hate that producers do this, and it has become a common practice. Natural-colored tuna has become the exception. At the fish shop, I'll only buy tuna that has a normal, ruby red color.

I'm a big raw salmon fan, so I got the sake 7+3 set for 365 CZK. It is seven pieces of salmon nigiri and three salmon maki rolls.This looks a little better, and is one of the better bargains for sushi. The salmon was fresh and buttery.

For main course, we went to the Korean section of the menu. V got the champong for 310 CZK. It is a spicy seafood-and-noodle soup.There are plenty of mussels and some shrimp in there. V thought it was OK, but I quite liked it and helped her finish it.

I got my usual dish, the ojingo bokum spicy stir-fried squid, for 365 CZK. Every time I order this, Tomáš warns me that it is very spicy. And I always assure him that I know what I am getting into. It is hot, but it won't make you cry.It's served on an iron plate, but it does not come out sizzling, as with fajitas. The squid is cut into long, thin strips, rather than rings. The sauce is on the sweet side, but not cloying. I must say, I do tend to like sweet sauces.

However, it did benefit from a shot of soy sauce for balance. I wouldn't mind more of a sour kick. Fried onions are a dominant feature of the dish. They are mixed with green pepper, and zucchini. The rice comes on the side. I have found it is a little awkward to put the rice on the iron plate or put the squid on the rice in the bowl. Maybe I'll ask for an extra plate next time.

V drank white wine, Veltlínské zelené, which was 60 CZK for a 0.2-liter glass. I drank only Mattoni sparkling mineral water at 30 CZK for a 0.33-liter bottle.

At the end of every meal, complimentary sliced apples with little plastic forks are delivered to the table. I always find it an enjoyable ending to a meal at Hanil.

I've certainly followed a number of Internet debates about what is the best sushi spot in Prague. Some people say it is Nagoya. Some say it is Samurai. The Prague Post just gave a good review to Gozen. I'd like to try Planet Sushi.

What I can say for sure is that, after all the discussion, there is no consensus. And I still don't think any place meets the standard of a sushi restaurant in a major Western capital.

A convenient location is certainly a big part of the equation, but when I have to pick one place to go to, Hanil works best for me.

I know there is a wide variety of opinion here, so feel free to say what's best for you.

Restaurace Hanil

Slavíkova 24

Prague 3

Tel. (+420) 222 715 867

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