There are, unfortunately, very few options for sushi on the North side of Edmonton. Sure, there are Tokyo Expresses and Mt. Fujis galore, but they’re a cheap alternative to the good stuff. We might not have West or East Coast quality sushi in our landlocked city, but there are still some excellent Japanese restaurants throughout Edmonton.
Hakone Japanese Cuisine is neither terrible nor great – it sits entirely in the middle. It’s average.
The restaurant is located in the most unusual of places, squeezed between a Money Mart and a nail salon, just a stone’s throw away from 127 Street’s Lucky Supermarket. We’d never have known it was there if we hadn’t happened to drive past it once several months ago. We made note of it and made a point to eat there recently.
Hakone’s interior is cute, clean, and simply decorated. There are only a few tables because the space is quite small, but it’s intimate and pretty. I was immediately hopeful.
My hope ebbed slightly when the young server came over to drop off some menus. There wasn’t a hint of a smile on her face and she seemed irritated that we’d come in to eat – it had just turned 5 and the restaurant was empty. She left us with the menus for a few minutes while we browsed.
Hakone’s menu isn’t extensive, but it’s fair. There are the regular maki, sushi, and sashimi options, along with some great-looking bento boxes. The prices were on par with Kyoto/Mikado, so I expected everything to be of the same quality.
When we were ready to order, we were told they were out of the Dragon Eye roll which, from what I’ve seen, is one of their most popular items. They didn’t have Clamato juice for a sake caesar (I’m not sure they actually carry it on a regular basis), so I resigned myself to a bottle of hot sake, which was great. The waitress said that she didn’t think they had any crab for the crabstick sushi, but didn’t come back to confirm.
We ordered miso soup, two half-orders of salmon and tuna sashimi, rainbow rolls, and a bento box with chicken teriyaki and sushi. The maki were pretty good and the bento box was extremely generous. Both of those items were satisfying.
The sashimi, though, wasn’t great. Both the salmon and tuna were chewy and cut really thickly; while eating them, I kept thinking of Japonais Bistro’s pillowy-light tuna sashimi with longing. I’ve had much worse, don’t get me wrong – at least Hakone’s sashimi wasn’t frozen – but it was average at best.
Halfway through our meals, the server brought over my crab sushi, which I hadn’t known to expect. Throughout the course of our dinner, the service actually became friendlier (we got a smile), which I thought was weird until I noticed that there were, at that point, several other tables in the restaurant.
At the end of the day, the meal, including 10 oz of hot sake, cost about $90. In my opinion, this was too pricey for average sushi, indifferent service, and a menu that wasn’t complete. We ordered a lot of food, so I understand why the bill was so high. When I think of spending almost $100 on Japanese food, though, our average experience at Hakone means that this likely won’t be my go-to sushi restaurant in the future, even if it is on the North side.
Hakone Japanese Cuisine
13907 127 Street
Edmonton, AB T5L 4Y5