I love sushi. While attending college in an isolated Indiana town where chop suey was considered exotic, my ex-girlfriend and I made a point of blowing our limited incomes on sushi whenever we visited her parents at her posh hometown near Detroit. I also enjoy a good pizza. The two are not, however, usually consumed in tandem, and any restaurant that boasts both on their tuk-tuk advertisements strikes me as curious.
Perched on the corner of Mao Tse Tung Boulevard and Street 63, Hanami Entertainment Restaurant’s all-you-can eat lunch and dinner buffet offers an eclectic range of Japanese, Khmer, Italian and Chinese food.
As the cartoonish ad hinted, I feared a mass-produced mess of artificial crab wrapped in seaweed, or a disappointingly plastic pizza.
The restaurant’s interior is kitschy, with a pink and beige colour scheme and waitresses dressed in kimonos. On a Tuesday afternoon, most of the customers were Cambodian families.
In the restaurant’s centre a rotating carousel offers sushi, with options labeled either as Japanese (fatty salmon sashimi) or American (chicken rolls). Pizza and lasagna are baked onsite in the Italian oven, while cooks at other stations prepare custom-tailored soups, tempura dishes, kebabs, Western desserts (the custard is highly recommended, it tasted like a proper creme caramel), pasta, and numerous other options from around Asia and Italy (although the Italian food is somewhat Americanised, with pizza reminiscent of the big American delivery chains).
The food itself is tasty, although nothing stands out as particularly original or inspiring. Still, the restaurant does not pretend to be a centre of culinary innovation– its primary appeal is the sheer variety of its bottomless dishes.
Customer service is where the restaurant shines the most. Even during the lunch hour rush on the buffet, the staff was attentive and prompt. As I examined the sushi carousel, a young server apologised that many items were still being prepared and asked what I was looking for. When I described the sort of roll I wanted, he immediately headed to the kitchen and delivered my request to our table before I made it back from the dessert line.
Basic drinks, such as Coca-Cola and Fanta, are free with the meal. The restaurant also has a wine list that ranges from $9 bottles of French rosé wine to $200 bottles of Kubota Manju Sake. A generous $1 all-you-can-drink Angkor beer special is also offered to accompany the restaurant’s opening.
Although I missed dinner, a waiter told me that barbecued meats and fish would be on the buffet line, as well as a chocolate fountain that I imagine could be disastrous combined with the beer special.
While food snobs may want to look elsewhere, Hanami is a great family dining restaurant with familiar menu options, such as pizza and spaghetti, while grownups will enjoy the raw fish and tempura offerings. With unlimited portions of decent food coupled with jovial staff, it is hard not to like the place.
The lunch buffet costs $9, while the dinner buffet costs $18. Although customers are welcome to eat as much as they want, an additional $9 fee will be levied if customers leave excessive leftovers.