Haiku brings to Riverhead a long-needed haven for Japanese food and sushi. The restaurant has lots going for it: good looks (raftered ceilings and handsome furnishings) and skilled chefs behind the sushi bar. Too bad the experience is diminished by a cadre of preoccupied waiters whose focus I have yet to figure out.
At lunch, my sushi-sashimi plate featured impeccable fish beautifully plated. My mate got a trio of spicy rolls, salmon, tuna and yellowtail - spunky, each and all.
One evening, the meal began with shared maki rolls. Best was the angel roll (seared tuna, avocado, salmon and eel with spicy mayo and a special sauce). A Christmas roll (spicy crunchy tuna topped with salmon and yellowtail) finished a close second. While I liked the rice-free Sakura roll (a variety of fish plus asparagus wrapped in soy paper), I missed the rice.
Good thing my main course was unagi don, a pillow of rice artfully topped with pieces of eel drizzled with barbecue sauce. While the chicken teriyaki in bento box B was a trifle overcooked, it was imbued with lovely smokiness, accompanied by a California roll, shumai (shrimp dumplings) and greaseless batter-fried shrimp tempura that crackled beneath the tooth.
Salmon teriyaki? Woefully overcooked. Nabeyaki udon (soup as a meal, made with chicken, an egg, vegetables and fat noodles, shrimp tempura on the side): flavor deficient. A request for the traditional togarashi (7-spice powder) elcited, instead, a saucer of black pepper.
For dessert, there was only fried ice cream and fried banana. We ordered the former and excavated green tea ice cream from its leaden batter crust.
Allow time for service lapses and fixate on the fine sushi.