There aren't many things for which Hornsby is well known. There's the water clock fountain, which has been featured in a sum total of one TV series and one TV commercial; there's the shopping centre which is dominated by the big "W".
More often than not, Hornsby is a stopping point between the city and the Central Coast and most people who travel there insist on taking a packed lunch as though it were out bush somewhere (as it once was)!
Well recently, we found a place to dine which measures up to any City establishment.
Hanaya is located on the ground floor of an apartment complex alongside shops and offices which are set back from the frontage behind a series of pillars, so if you aren't looking for it, I'm pretty sure you'd miss it. I'm guessing that the majority of their customers are the building's tenants and that would be a pity as it offers some of the freshest and tastiest traditional Japanese cuisine this side of the North Shore.
It is located on the Pacific Highway between the turn-off towards Thornleigh and Hornsby Station. Parking is a little awkward as the road outside is a clearway however there are some sidestreets which are walking distance to the restaurant. (You'll appreciate the walk back to the car or station afterwards!)
What struck us immediately upon being seated was how clean and new the place is. The tables are well spaced out and unusually the service counter is the same height as the tables. There was one person serving and we saw only one other person emerge from the kitchen but the food came out quickly and efficiently. (Admittedly we were the only customers - apart from a take-away order - on a Sunday but hopefully this will change.)
Now the exciting bit! As I mentioned earlier, the food is traditional. The menu doesn't try to be "moderne" or cutting edge or anything other than traditional Japanese cuisine as we know it and, if it also happens to be sublime, there's nothing wrong with that! As we were a large party, we ordered two of each entree - Edamame,
Agedashi (deep fried) Nasu (eggplant), Agedashi Tofu ,
Nasu Dengaku (fried eggplant with miso) ....
and Beef Tataki (beef carpaccio).
Then it was onto the mains and everyone chose what they wanted - which ended up being a combination of Donburi (rice bowl dishes), Udon (wheat noodles) and Sashimi and Sushi.
Of the latter, we had to try the Soft Shell Crab Roll - it was everything that a good soft shell crab should be, crispy with just enough creamy sauce.
The Tonkatsu Donburi - perfectly crispy deep fried pork fillet with sufficient sauce but not too much and on a bed of perfectly textured rice.
The Eel Donburi - I have to admit, I'm not a big fan but I didn't hear any complaints after the meal so I'm assuming this was fine too!
Salmon Sashimi - the fish was very fresh and delicate (no stringy bits so well prepared) and beautifully presented! My favourite, the Tempura Udon - perfectly crispy batter which softens into a sponge-y goodness, yummy stock and lots of seaweed (most restaurants never have enough) and very al dente (or the Japanese equivalent!) udon - all delivered piping hot to the table.
There weren't enough of us to try everything on the menu but this gives us an excuse to return in the near future!
Oh and our reason for coming to this fine establishment? It was a birthday celebration and a good excuse to try out the icecream cone cupcake recipe! Admittedly not beautifully decorated as there wasn't a lot of time but I just wanted to prove that baking ordinary cake mix in a cone (as seen on the internet!) would work and it does! Look out for some more variations soon!