Hana Garden1605 Sullivan Ln.
Sparks, NV 89431
In light of the current tensions along the 38th parallel, I hope it doesn’t come off as tacky to review a Korean restaurant, because the recently opened Hana Garden in Sparks provides a slick novelty where the service is quick, the price is right, and the food is a fresh and delicious addition to the respectable but seemingly homogenous local Asian cheap dine-in market.
Hana Garden has taken over a previously vacant slot on the corner of Greenbrae and Sullivan in Sparks. It’s overhauled the interior with nice tile flooring, hip art, and a well-lit and clean dining space. It’s nice to see some commerce return to this little shopping center.
I visited with my colleague Rick, who worked in Korea as an English teacher, his knockout wife, Sue, a native of Taegu just a few hours south of Seoul, and their three children, Gunnar, Hana and Jonah. Most of our other fellow diners on a reasonably busy weeknight were also Korean, which I cautiously took as a good sign, although Hana Garden is, to my knowledge, the only game in town if you discount places that have a Korean menu only as a concomitant to some other cuisine.
It turned out to be a fun night and a great place to dine. Rick’s bride and brood worked the egg rolls with chicken ($3.95), while my husband and I sipped the scrumptious miso soup ($1.95), and we all shared in the calimari tempura ($5.95) that had just enough batter to soak up the excellent tempura sauce without adding an untoward surfeit of oil. (It’s my understanding that in general Korean cuisine deemphasizes the use of oil relative to Chinese cuisine, and our experience on this night would support that.)
For main dishes, my husband had a Pavlovian reaction to the words “spicy squid” ($7.95) with stir fried vegetables, while I sampled the jjamppong ($7.95), a noodle soup number with crisp veggies in a light broth. I loved both our dishes. Conservative use of oil and a converse application of the chili paste and garlic made a delight of the squid, and both dishes benefited from flash cooking of the fresh vegetable accompaniments. Rick, Sue and the youngsters shared and enjoyed a variety, including their own helping of the jjamppong, and specially ordered oodong (Japanese-style fish and noodle soup) and jajangmyun (noodles in a soy bean paste sauce that Sue fondly remembers as a common comfort food from her youth and beyond). The kids playfully fidgeted and fussed as the adults ate, took breaks, shared tastes, discussed the world and enjoyed ourselves.
We all garnished our main dishes with bites of the complimentary house kimchi. I’ve had lousy kimchi, and I’ve had awesome, fresh, tangy, made-with-top-notch-cabbage kimchi, and Hana Garden’s rendition ranks among the latter.
I asked Sue if this was “authentic” Korean, and she confirmed it was, with the minor qualification that “back home” there would have been a longer procession of appetizers preceding the main entrees. If you don’t require this level of authentication, you could just take it from me: It tasted really, really good.