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REVIEW: Haru Pushes Itself to Deliver a Superior Ramen

By Kyle Young
Published: Last Updated on

Haru, a Japanese bistro, first opened its doors to Reno in the final quarter of 2018. On January 14, 2019, Haru announced that they would temporarily close due to staffing issues and other instances of restauranteur chaos. They reopened on February 5, 2019. Haru serves different varieties of ramen, donburi (rice bowls) and yakitori (grilled skewers of meat, organs, seafood and vegetables). New to the menu, diners will enjoy a vegan miso ramen and a vegan mapo tofu.

Haru Faced Hardship Early On

Duc Du owns Haru as well as AYCE sushi gem, Hinoki Sushi. Owning and operating two beloved restaurants is no small task.

Despite ample praise by the Reno News & Review and the Reno Gazette Journal, as well as well-deserved praise by the community at large, Haru encountered tumultuous times early into its origin story.

The restaurant faced one of its first challenges with an unexpected closure due to issues with their natural gas pressure. During that time the budding eatery lost a bit of its momentum. Thankfully, the problem was remedied before too long.

As if technical issues weren’t a sufficient challenge, Du later encountered difficulties of the human variety. When one of his restaurant partners with Hinoki left the partnership, Du was forced to put in more time at the sushi joint while navigating the hardships at Haru.

Bacon-wrapped enoki mushrooms at Haru. Image: Kaitlin Young.

Many of us have come to recognize that especially trying obstacles often come in threes. Du named his third main obstacle when he discussed retaining a well-trained kitchen staff. Performance issues and a local drought in ramen-prep knowledge made it difficult to keep the kitchen on point.

Du shared these challenges publicly, but some may not know that the reasons for the latest closure ran deeper.

What Was Haru Up to During Its Hiatus?

Amidst equipment malfunctions, staffing issues and partnership changes, Du also had to absorb biting criticism of his food.

It’s no secret to most of us that Yelp can be a tool for good and evil. In our current age of pseudo-anonymity, trolling and tactless criticism, restauranteurs get bombarded with 1-star and 5-star reviews each claiming that the restaurant is unfathomably wretched and meticulously masterclass. With such impulsive and poorly described feedback, I imagine that it’s difficult to sort out which foods and processes need refinement and which foods are right on track.

Diners begin to fill Haru on a Friday evening. Image: Kaitlin Young.

Du graciously shared with me that in addition to operational concerns, he temporarily shut down Haru due to a lack of confidence in his craft. He didn’t allow that doubt to become an impediment. Instead, he consulted with friends, ramen phenoms and other restauranteurs about how to better his dishes.

Du left a desk job of ten years to pursue his dream of serving superior Japanese dishes. Some fulfilled dreams only benefit the dreamer, while others benefit entire communities. We owe Du a debt, because he chose and continues to choose a difficult path that enriches our lives.

Is Du finished honing his craft? Not even close.

Du hopes to attend ramen school in Japan as early as next year. He advised that the rigorous, two-week program teaches chefs new techniques and how to begin cooking Japan’s trendiest ramens. Fish-based ramens are trending right now, so look for menu changes at Haru swimming in the deep.

Vegan Foods Are Advancing at Lightspeed

I’m finding it easier lately to find legitimate satiety in vegetarian and vegan dinners. I found one such dinner at Haru. My wife and I ordered the vegan miso ramen for $12, the Tori Paitan ramen for $12 and the bacon enoki for $5.

The vegan miso ramen and the Tori Paitan ramen at Haru. Image: Kaitlin Young.

First to arrive were the enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon, skewered and then hit with high heat for some nice char and crisping. The fungi are long, thin and white when cultivated commercially. They remain white due to the lack of sunlight while growing. Wild varieties can look drastically different in both color and shape. The shape of cultivated enoki are perfect for grilling. The mushrooms picked up most of the char, and the bacon stayed tender and fatty on the inner pieces. I highly recommend the salty, well-textured yakitori offering.

Both bowls of ramen arrived soon after. I ordered the vegan miso ramen with a heat level of 5. The kitchen can make every ramen variety with heat on a scale from 1 to 5. My wife ordered her Tori Paitan ramen with a heat level of 4.

The vegan miso ramen included mushroom kelp dashi with soymilk and miso tare, tofu skins, spinach, beansprouts, enoki mushroom, green onion, nori and yellow corn.

There’s a lot to unpack in the ingredients. Dashi, as I understand it, is the savory stock component that serves as the base for ramens and other dishes. You can make common dashi varieties by extracting the umami properties from kelp, dried fish, fermented fish and mushrooms. Tare refers to the ramen’s seasoning, and the most common varieties include shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce) and miso (fermented soybeans). Nori refers to the crunchy green sheets made from dried red algae.

Du explained that it was a challenge to prepare his vegan miso ramen with vegetables that didn’t make the dish too sweet. I thought the balance of flavors in the dish was fantastic and complex. Part of that magic is owed to the chili components associated with ordering a heat level of 5. The chili ingredients include Sichuan peppercorns, Korean peppers, three kinds of chili paste, garlic and onion. The noodles were wonderfully springy, and the heat was robust. The Sichuan component was especially tasty, endowing the soup with a tingle and a tang. I was particularly taken with the additions of soymilk and tofu skins. The variety of texture was excellent.

The Tori Paitan ramen featured thick chicken stock with shio tare, chicken breast, ajitama (seasoned, soft-boiled egg), Woodear Mushroom, spinach, fishcake, green onion and nori. The chicken was tender and flavorful. I loved the salt component of the soup. The ajitama had the right balance of viscosity. The chicken, fishcake, mushroom and nori all added great savory flavor. The noodles in this soup seemed to be of a different variety than the vegan soup, but equally as springy and delicious. The heat level of 4 added the same great chili flavor but with a reduced Scoville number.

Haru’s Mess. Image: Kaitlin Young.

We concluded our meal with the only dessert on the menu, Haru’s Mess ($5). Haru’s Mess riffs on an English dessert named the Eton Mess. As the story goes, a beautifully ornate merengue dessert was about to be served to some group of royal descent and the food runner dropped the dessert. Despite broken merengues, the staff served the dish anyway and the guests loved it. Haru’s Mess consists of small, somewhat caramelized meringue pieces tossed in a house-made matcha (green tea) whipped cream and topped with fresh strawberries and a raspberry sauce. The bitterness of the matcha and the acidity of the fruit balanced out the sweetness of the chewy merengues. My wife and I absolutely loved this one.

Haru’s Details

Visit Haru at 5210 Longley Lane, #500, Reno, NV 89511 in the Longley Town Centre. They are open 11:30am to 2:30pm and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Note the break between lunch and dinner. Haru is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Give Haru a call at (775) 507-7355.