Princetonians, if you haven’t been by the old Sunny Garden location on Farber Road lately, you’re in for a surprise. The family who has owned it for the last few years has beautifully redocorated the restaurant, re-named it Hanami, after the annual Japanese cherry blossom viewing parties, and inaugurated a spiffy new Chinese/Japanese/Fusion menu. Don’t worry, you can still dash in for a quick and inexpensive Chinese meal (or takeout or delivery), but now they also offer a raft of interesting and creative dishes – foie gras fried rice anyone? – that make for a special night out.
The upscale ambience is set with dramatic décor that features a glittering cherry tree sculpture in the main dining room. Asian influenced music from around the world, a tea bar with unique bubble teas and smoothies, and a nice sushi bar complete the picture. No liquor license, but of course you can BYO.
I expect great things from their sushi and sashimi, if the yellowtail with serrano pepper I had at my complementary “practice dinner” there the other night is any indication. We also enjoyed exquisite Japanese oysters (photo) on the half-shell with ponzu (I know, carbon footprint issues – does it help that I’m doing all NJ cheese trays for two holiday dinners?), rock shrimp with rosy aioli, a fantastic (and gorgeous) seared cuttlefish dish (photo), rare tenderloin with shitakes and snow peas, and prawns with XO sauce (photo). Desserts included a good vanilla creme brulée and gelatos (I had pistachio, and it was the real deal.)
Hanami’s dinner specialties start at $12 and lunch specials are $10. They also serve prix fixe meals and a six course tasting menu called Chef’s Omakase. And those chefs have high-powered pedigrees from places like Nobu, Megu, and Tao in Manhattan!
I was also impressed with the energetic owners, Eric and Danielle. They have a lot of restaurant experience in their family, so that plus their youthful enthusiasm (and good food of course!) should go a long way toward making Hanami a popular new dining destination in Princeton.