All I’d heard about Haru—Reno’s brand-new Japanese bistro—was a promise of “real” ramen. Its still in the soft-open phase, but I couldn’t wait. My group was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of grilled delights and tasty rice bowls.
We started with yakitori ($5)—skewers and small plates of grilled meats. They were each served with individual sauces and takuan—a crisp, sweet and sour daikon pickle said to be invented by a famed 17th century zen warrior monk. First up were crispy, seared bone-in chicken wing flats, creamy chicken livers and bunched-up chicken skin that was fatty, a little gelatinous and reminiscent of pork cracklins.
Huge bacon-wrapped sea scallops were great, though I found the bacon a distraction to my favorite bivalve mollusk. Cubes of beef ribeye with a spicy chimichurri were medium rare and incredibly tender—the stuff of which meaty dreams are made. Thin pieces of karaage (Japanese fried chicken) were surprisingly moist and served with plain kewpie (extra rich mayo) as well as a super fiery version. Korean galbi (beef short rib) was tender and succulent. A skewer of bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes was great (and a buck less, at $4, than the yakitori plates), but I’d advise waiting a bit to allow the boiling hot centers of the tomatoes to cool off before popping ’em in your mouth.
All ramen bowls include roasted pork belly, bean sprout, scallion, fish cake, nori and ajitama (marinated, soft-boiled egg); you can punch it up with added seasonings. We ordered all varieties offered, including two with chicken-pork stock and enoki mushroom ($12 each) and two with pork stock and wood ear mushroom ($13 each).
Each broth had subtle differences owed to their tare flavor enhancers. They were all were rich and satisfying. The pork belly was tender, the veggies fine, and the noodles were definitely fresh and perfectly cooked. The nori (dried seaweed) is decoratively served on the side of the bowl. Some eat it crispy, but I let it soak in and add a hint of ocean spray to the dish. Ajitama is something I treasure, and I’m always disappointed when a plain, hard boiled egg is substituted. The creaminess and blend of flavors in good ajitama is transcendent, and Haru has it dialed in. I almost had a tear in my eye when a friend with an egg allergy offered me hers.
Of the four donburi (rice bowls) available, we tried two. Katsudon ($12) came with breaded pork cutlet in dashi (kelp and fish stock), shoyu (soy sauce), stir-fried onion, scallion and egg. Unadon ($12) featured two large, skin-on filets of unagi (freshwater eel) grilled with a thick, hickory-flavored sauce of shoyu, syrup, ground eel eggs and mirin (sweet rice wine). The eel was melt-in-your-mouth amazing. The golden brown pork was moist-yet-crispy—and the onion-egg mix a nice complement. Both came with piping hot miso soup and a choice of sides. We sampled kimchi and pickled shiitake. The fermented cabbage was crisp and more savory than spicy. The pickled ’shrooms were bliss in a bowl, with a similar pickling flavor as the takuan that leveled-up by the meaty, heady fungi.
Since Haru is so new, it’s no surprise there were a few service missteps, like tea served tepid and quickly replaced by very hot tea or eggs ordered on the side that were in the bowl. But the food was great, and new dishes are planned, including some vegetarian options. I imagine I’ll be back many, many times.