346 First Avenue
New York, NY 10009

Since the Rents paid for the last few outings, the time had, unfortunately, come for the favor's return. DudeMan has an aversion to travelling more than a few blocks for his caloric intake, so it meant staying within the old hood. One of the newest arrivals in this nameless place between east Midtown and the East Village, between Gramercy and the balmy depths of the landing pad we call the East River is Hane, a Japanese restaurant with roots about two miles uptown.

Hane was packed and we had to be seated in the uncool, darker rear. So we four: Me, Bro, DudeMan and Shrink immediately got into an argument (or as I call them, stern debates) about why we didn't just wait. 'Cause we were hungry, that's why. I guess it doesn't really matter, but I wanted to take better photos. Luckily for us and the tables nearby, Hane managed to soothe our savage beasts... with their two-for-one alcohol list. That's right. If you order one beer, you get a free refill. You order sake, you get a free refill. You order wine, you get a free refill. So, of course, we ordered some beer, sake, and wine. And then later on, filled up again. The way to someone's heart may be through their stomach, but the way to their wallet is through their liver.

DudeMan and I started out with some pre-appetizer courses, out of sheer hunger I assure you. This is what happens when you look at a menu on an empty stomach. You order way more than you rightly should. I like to think of the Miso Soup I got as my breakfast. This way I don't have to feel quite so guilty. There's something about walking around in the frigid cold (this evening it was around 25 degrees out) that makes you really want a nice hot soup. This miso soup was that nice hot soup. The soup itself, besides being piping hot, was damn good. Not too thin and not too salty. DudeMan got a Kelp Salad, which I thought would taste like a salty, rotting compost, but actually tasted like sesame noodles. I'm not saying I loved it, but it wasn't bad.

For our actual appetizers, I ordered Ika Yaki, broiled squid with the "chef's special sauce," a sauce similar to the eel sauce you find on sushi. It was large and I liked it, but it was admittedly somewhat rubbery. DudeMan and Shrink were less than impressed. DudeMan ordered Shrimp Tempura, two large, batter-fried shrimp. How could you not like fried shrimp? You can't. It's physically impossible. There are people out there with shrimp allergies who would die if they ate this thing, and even they like it. Shrink's appetizer was the Pork Gyoza, pork dumplings. These were pretty good fried dumpling with a dipping sauce. I liked them. So did she. Finally, Bro ordered Shrimp Shumei, boiled pork dumplings that we pretty much all thought were too bland for their own good.

For dinner, Bro and I went for a some rolls. He chose the Salmon Avocado Roll , the Negihamachi Maki, a scallion and yellowtail roll, and the Sweet Potato Tempura Roll. He liked all of them and so did I. I was surprised at two things. First, that I enjoyed the vegetarian sweet potato rolls, and second, that Bro ordered the sushi rolls at all. See, Bro has an aversion to raw stuff that ain't salad... or a raw bar. I ordered the Dragon Roll, which is eel wrapped in avocado and topped with roe (see above). These are always good, and this was no exception. In fact, I seem to get it constantly. It's probably the least healthy roll out there, other than the Rainbow Dragon Roll, which has shrimp tempura mixed in. I also ordered the Spicy Tuna Roll and a Philadelphia Roll. And yeah, I know that Philadelphia rolls aren't Japanese. Not really, anyway. But they're just so damn good. I don't think anything with cream cheese can taste bad.

DudeMan and Shrink are both opposed to raw fish, though to their credit they did try each of the rolls we ordered. DudeMan ordered the Sha-Cha Jumbo Prawns, grilled shrimp in a Japanese barbecue sauce, pan-fried with spinach noodles, a delicious dish if you like something Japanese that almost feels Italian. Tangy and tender. Shrink ordered the Seafood Combination Platter, a mix of broiled shrimp, scallops, squid, and whitefish in a butter and teriyaki sauce. All the the seafood that was combined in this platter were very good, with the exception of the scallops, which I don't like in any dish whatsoever. Don't let my personal preference on that dissuade you from ordering them. Shrink finished it all off, but skipped the dark green vegetable sides. When I was growing up, if I didn't want my dinner, she would never say "just finish your vegetables". It was always "just finish your meat". She was probably the only parent outside of a third-world country to say that. But I guess there are always multivitamins, right?

The staff at Hane were very nice. And how can you complain when you pay for four drinks, but get eight? Even though we sat in the darker rear section, the atmosphere is bright. Usually, inexpensive Japanese restaurants are pretty stale. They're either simple, boring sushi bars who exist merely to doll out rice-wrapped raw fish, or they're simple, boring restaurants that went overboard on the bamboo theme (they must all order decor from the same catalog). Not Hane. Up front are blinking multi-colored lights in an atmosphere so laden with faux marble that one almost has to laugh at how over-the-top it is. To top it off, around in the rear of the restaurant, where we sat because they ran out of front tables, is this bizarre Greek theme (see an example below).

But that just adds to the fun of the place.

New York Magazine just profiled a tiny little takeout-only place a few blocks from where I live called Tokyo Teriyaki. They have a hot dog roll and a Spam roll. They sound vile, but are apparently pretty good. I therefore think that Hane here should try a gyro roll. Lamb meat and cucumber, wrapped in rice and topped with a drizzling of tzatziki sauce. Actually, that sounds pretty good.

So, two large Sapporos, two hot sakes, two cold sakes, two glasses of plum wine, one soup, one salad, four appetizers, two entrees, and six rolls came out to $147 including tax and tip.

Also, you better like chopsticks. There aren't any forks and knives here. Extra points.

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