The all-important Phoenix roll ($16) is where Haru really shows proper respect. Your favorite weekly fishwrap starts with rice around spicy salmon, along with a couple of long tempura shrimp, cucumber, and lettuce. That’s a lot of flavor, whether you’re having lunch, dinner, or just ordering stuff at night. (Get it?) The lobster roll ($18) is a good maki, too, but a lost opportunity for wit. I would have had the chefs make something that visually resembled lobster salad on a hot-dog roll. This is wide enough, but has just lobster, lettuce, avocado, spicy mayonnaise, and cucumber in an inside-out roll. So it tastes like sushi, not like a lobster roll of the local kind. (Also, when promoting “Boston lettuce” on the menu, that’s Bibb lettuce. Grand Rapids lettuce is a leaf lettuce, but it’s not Boston lettuce, okay?)
Entrées are a better value, judging by the chicken teriyaki ($16). You get a good sliced-up chicken breast, a bowl of real Japanese-type short-grain rice, a slice of sweet potato with raisin sauce, steamed broccoli, and truly memorable eggplant cut into flower shapes and deliciously fried with a soy-garlic dressing. A sashimi entrée ($24) was attractively priced but lacked shiso leaves and the usual knock-out item. Well, maybe the knock-out was the sawara (mackerel), which was uncooked, very fresh, and good. Mackerel is usually served as a cooked sushi or sashimi, so those two slices were pretty special, but the tuna, whitefish, yellowtail, and salmon were merely fine, and the surimi (phony crab) is no premium, even when not mentioned on the menu.
Haru has a decent list of California and international wines, and a better-than-decent list of premium cold sake. On a winter night, we opted for hot sake ($7) and were well satisfied with a warm little crock and hand-glazed thimbles. Green tea is complimentary and served in individual iron pots (tetsubin), and made weak enough to be really delicious.
Desserts were surprisingly limited, though I never complain about mochi ice cream ($8), the mochi being pounded sticky rice that surrounds the cold center. It’s served on long rectangular plates, with each little bon-bon halved. This is a good idea, since the mochi part has the texture of something you might use in a self-sealing tire. Cutting it in half gets you to the ice cream (red bean, vanilla, green tea, strawberry) faster. Green-tea ice cream ($7) is served in an ice-cream cup and was richer than most. You could also have ginger or vanilla.
Service at Haru is very well organized and effectual, even when the large room is full. And it does fill up. I think what’s happened is that we are spoiled. There are so many places serving sushi — all pretty good — that they have become a commodity in Boston. Haru’s location, size, and attractive design make it worth the few extra (and not that many) dollars.