Hayashi Sushi & Sake Bar
447 Turnpike St., Easton
Hours: Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday, 4 to 9 p.m.; closed Monday
All major credit cards
Operating a restaurant is no easy undertaking, so when a small, ethnic restaurant remains open for years in a suburban strip mall, diners can be confident about the quality of its food. Hayashi Sushi in Easton is one such place.
Young Suk Yeom opened Hayashi in September 2004. A native of Korea, Yeom worked in fashion marketing before coming to the United States to study business. She said she envisioned opening a Japanese-French fusion restaurant, but when she settled on the tiny Easton space, her plans had to be altered. The decor, however, dominated by large black-and-white photographs she took of Japanese models at a Paris fashion show, reflects her original vision.
Thanks to a thoughtful design, the 900-square-foot (and that’s including the kitchen space) restaurant doesn’t feel cramped. The dining area can seat about 20 people and another five at the sushi bar.
Yeom started the restaurant with her then-boyfriend, a sushi chef named Hayashi (hence the website address of ilovehayashi.com). He designed the menu and provided the sushi expertise. The Korean recipes are from Yeom’s mother, who ran a traditional Korean restaurant in Seoul. Also, “Hayashi means forest in Japanese,” she explained, “and I wanted to provide a natural, calming place for my customers.”
The restaurant is also a labor of love. Yeom is the manager, decorator, webmaster, caterer, hostess, and even chef when necessary. “I do everything by myself,” she said, now that the restaurant’s namesake is out of the picture.
That love is reflected in the dishes she serves, which are consistently delicious.
We started with a pizza maki ($13), an oven-toasted roll made with shrimp, crab salad, cucumber, avocado, cheddar cheese, and sprinkled with fish roe and tempura crumbs. I was expecting a pizza-shaped dish instead of a roll, but just one bite banished any qualms. And yes, cheese does go well with sushi.
A chef’s special roll, called Long Island maki ($16) here, is not on the menu, but it’s something worth asking for. The roll is a feast for the eyes: slices of raw tuna and salmon arranged on a flat bed of deep-fried nori-rice layer, topped with multihued flying fish roe, black sesame seeds, and tempura crumbs, and drizzled with a spicy mayo sauce. It’s also a feast for the taste buds: The warm confection exploded with contrasting textures while melding harmonious flavors.
Another interesting appetizer was the hamachi-kama ($10), broiled yellowtail collars served with teriyaki sauce. The two meaty collars, lightly salted with a sweet sauce, were quickly picked clean by my teenagers.
Our entrees, which came with the standard miso soup, were also satisfying. The seared tuna teriyaki ($18) consisted of succulent chunks of seasoned tuna expertly cooked so that the insides were still rare. It was served with vegetables and rice, and drizzled with light teriyaki sauce that didn’t overwhelm the fresh fish.
The beef and vegetable bibimbap ($15) was a heady combination of marinated slices of beef, vegetables, and fried egg over rice. My only disappointment with this signature Korean dish was that while the rice was kept warm by the stone pot, it didn’t have the expected crunchy layer.
A dish of hae dup bob ($17) was an assortment of raw fish slices and vegetables on a bed of vinegared rice. A squeeze bottle of Korean chili sauce is provided so diners can adjust the heat to their comfort level.
Hayashi offers lunch specials Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. We had the tempura udon ($11), a bowl of thick noodles and vegetables in a fragrant broth accompanied by two large deep-fried shrimp, all of which were devoured quickly.
The tempura sushi combo ($13) was a pretty combination of fried shrimp and vegetables, three pieces of sashimi, two pieces of sushi, and six pieces of California maki.
While we found the food excellent, service can be spotty, especially when all the tables are occupied. On a busy Friday night, our waiter forgot to bring a glass for a can of beer, even after being reminded. An order of uni never arrived, and it wasn’t until halfway through the meal that he apologized, saying they were out of the sea urchin roe.
In a phone interview, Yeom said she has many loyal customers who think nothing of helping her clear tables when she’s backed up. Every community deserves such a high-quality neighborhood joint.