Looking for something totally new and different and least expected? My family and I always do, especially when we are returning to a spot we have been to many times before.
This time my search was all about restaurants on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala located in the Solola department. Truth be told, I’m a bit over eating traditional Guatemala food. It’s tasty, but living in Guatemala for over four years, I’m ready for something totally different. As cliché as it may be, my best search for restaurants on Lago Atitlan was via Tripadvisor.
I haven’t found too many detailed directories for restaurants in this area and had to go with what they have. Mainly the options were the usual: Guatemalan, Pizza, Pub Food, American, etc… That is, until I noticed Restaurante Hana. My oldest boy recently found a new love for sushi and I decided to dig a little deeper to see what they had.
We have tons of sushi places in Antigua and Guatemala City, so this wasn’t a new find. However, looking over their website, I realized that at least one of the owners was a native born Japanese. Living in NYC for years, there are tons of Japanese restaurants, but very rarely are they actually run by a Japanese native. It’s just something no one does, and that’s NY where the best of the best is. So don’t even get me started on Guatemala. Anyone can roll up rice and call themselves a pro sushi maker. And most people will believe it, too.
To say the least, this immediately piqued my interest. Who would ever think that you can get authentic Japanese food in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan.
Restaurante Hana on Lake Atitlan
I wrote the owners to see if we can make a reservation. And Jon, one of the owners (not Japanese) wrote back saying no problem, but his wife (Japanese native) wasn’t able to greet us in the traditional Japanese manner. But he did say that the food was 100% Japanese style. I was totally fine with this, getting a Japanese greeting was a treat even too large for me to comprehend in Guatemala.
Even though it’s the rainy season, we got super lucky with the weather and when we arrived for lunch, the sun was shining brightly. Why is this important? Because I was most surprised with the courtyard. It was absolutely huge. Knowing that I’m arriving with two kids, Jon had a football waiting for us and it was used. This alone made the restaurant a winner for me and we didn’t even sit down yet.
There are practically no restaurants that gave my kids an option to run around like crazy while waiting for the food, allowing me to relax and not bother me every five seconds asking when is the food coming.
After we ordered our meals with my kids occupied, I got to explore the other fun part of the restaurant. The owner of the building where the restaurant is located, which used to belong to a Swedish Countess back in the 1940’s, loves to collect old photos of Guatemala, especially Lake Atitlan from as far back as 1890’s. When you enter, there is a little museum with all these photos and walking around really transports you back to those days.
Lunch is served.
Each dish is served with fresh Miso soup and my baby only wanted to eat it. And a lot of it. He ate all of ours.
The sushi rolls – Ebi Furai – which my oldest ordered was fried shrimp with fresh vegetables was a huge hit.
My husband and I opted to try the other side of Japanese food. Not your typical tempura or sushi. As the owner said pointing to items on the menu, these dishes are what the real Japanese order when they come here. How can we NOT order them after hearing that.
My husband is more in to fish dishes and he had: Maguro Don – Raw Tuna dipped in fresh ginger soy sauce served over sushi rice. He ate it so fast, I didn’t even get a chance to have a tiny bite.
I got a bit milder – Katsu-Don – Deep fried pork with egg, onions, green onions and sweet soy sauce over the rice. I’m not a pork fan, but I have to say this was really unique and super flavorful.
After lunch, the kids went nuts again with more football while we digested.
Then Jon came around and asked if we’d like to have dessert. Like that needs to be asked when kids are around? This time he recommended the chocolate mousse.
And a Japanese speciality – Tempura Plantains with ice cream. The way he described it was: “It’s stupid good.”
Fun and Useful information about Restaurante Hana:
To get a good idea of what is offered, here’s the menu.
Also, the Japanese theme doesn’t end there.
Every Wednesday night you can come in and watch a Japanese movie with subtitles.
Plus, every month there is a fun special for the food.
The restaurant is more of an experience, not just a quick bite to eat. You kids can release energy while you enjoy the food, conversation and so much more.
Authentic Japanese Food On Lake Atitlan, Guatemala