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Sauce

Haru in the Prudential Center is a fresh face on the sushi scene

The decor and lighting at the new sushi restaurant Haru are slick. Despite being a chain, the sushi is surprisingly good. The decor and lighting at the new sushi restaurant Haru are slick. Despite being a chain, the sushi is surprisingly good. (Wiqan ang for the boston globe)
Email|Print| Text size + By Wesley Morris
Globe Staff / November 30, 2007

According to this newspaper's website, there are at least 39 places in the Boston area to eat sushi. This does not include Shaw's, Market Basket, Whole Foods, or Haru, the new expensive-looking place that just opened at the base of the Prudential Center. A reasonable sampling of most of the old places declares the new spot a big winner.

The fish doesn't taste frozen. Served as a slab of sashimi or wrapped in rice and avocado, then covered with a sliver of mango and crowned with shimmering gold leaf (the Dice-K roll), it's redoubtably fresh. (Dear Haru, if these feelings of freshness are false, please keep the truth to yourself.)

This is a vaguely cool place to have Japanese food. Haru has one location in Philadelphia and a smattering around New York (look out Wall Street, you're next). Do the owners dream of becoming the Morton's of raw fish? The point is: This really good sushi happens to belong to a chain, one where you can imagine the dudes from the firm of your choice cruising the "Gossip Girl" aspirants who sip their mocktails and pick at their Kiss of Fire roll (tuna, salmon, wasabi, and a double ply of jalapenos).

This Copley location is like eating at a hotel in an old Jay McInerney book. All apologies if that sounds cool. The decor and lighting are slick: a little bit sci-fi Wall Street with a polite bow to Japanishness - a bamboo-shoot print on the drapes in a doorway, for instance. One could say similar things about Oishii, which is a neighborhood over. But there it's like having dinner in the Batcave, and that's a little cooler. Of course, unlike a few of Haru's well-regarded or simply popular peers, it's not stodgy, exorbitant, pretentious, delusional, poorly ventilated, or prohibitively crowded (yet).

A lot of what's on the menu at Haru is what's on the menu everywhere else. (One Rainbow roll, please.) A combo sushi plate looks pretty ordinary next to the Busby Berkeley flamboyance of something like the Spicy Titanic roll (tuna folded into a blanket of salmon, avocado, caviar, topped with tempura flakes, the crack cocaine of sushi prep). But it's tough to recall anything so plain-looking so easily melting in your mouth.

The sashimi salad - tuna, salmon, whitefish, shrimp, crab, very special sauce - is a find. The little dipping bowl it's served in isn't so little, either; the portion is deceptively large. A carpaccio of quickly cooked yellowtail was, by local standards, unusual - light, firm, and briny. And the lobster ceviche managed to quell the suspicion of the Peruvian who had a bite. She was used to Japanese-Limeño fusion, but this was something new, even for her.

Of course, she was also the first to discover that the tempura doesn't work. The breading is soggy and too thick. But call Mr. Ziegfeld, the eggplant in the chicken teriyaki deserves a show of its own.

Adding an element of intimacy to all of this is the spacing of the tables and insulated interiors. Voices carry; but they don't assault. Incredibly, the best seats in the house are at one table toward the back of the dining room. It's a virtual island and confers upon whoever's dining at it the illusion of public privacy - you are free to survey and be surveyed, but at a polite remove. The lack of contiguousness is pretty exhilarating. For people who make ecstatic noise when they have a good piece of fish, this is the most functional of tables. No one can hear you moan.

Haru, 55 Huntington, 617-536-0770. Entrees $19-58, for a lot of sushi for two.

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