Bistro R; Hana Zushi. 

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Hardly obvious to the uninformed eye, Bistro R is unassuming in appearance. The restaurant offers a quiet respite from nearby noisy Broad Street. Visitors enter and take a seat at the bar or in the smoking or nonsmoking dining areas.

For starters try a special, au gratin scallops with chili mayonnaise ($8.95), or the escargot sautéed with garlic, shallots, basil and white wine-reduction encroute ($6). The main event was a carnivore's delight. The Buffalo Hill Farm bison Napoleon ($25) consisted of layers of bison loin separated by asparagus, aged brie and topped with fried leeks. Julienned veggies came with the bison, as well as with the filet mignon topped with lobster and leek butter with bourbon shiitake demi-glaze ($24). Other entrees of interest were the lamb shanks, free-range veal, tuna, Chilean sea bass and pork tenderloin, all priced at $17-$25. For dessert try the key lime pie or a slice of blackberry torte a la mode ($4.50 each).

Bistro R is yet another example of a shopping-center restaurant that deserves more respect than it probably gets from customers headed across the street to Kinko's to copy their resumés. — C.B.

Simplicity, harmony, restraint: These Zen ideals along with the paramount virtue of freshness are the guiding stars of Hana Zushi.

Under the careful and skilled hand of master sushi chef Sato, who trained in Japan, the octopus is firm and not chewy with a touch of brine; the sea eel sweet and sliced paper thin; the tuna, generous, uniform and a clear and lively red. Sit at the sushi bar and you can watch the master at work — he's the one in blue. The two window-side tatami tables can also be fun — just be sure to remove your shoes.

Though most people go straight for the maki sushi, narrow strips of raw or marinated fish rolled in vinegar rice and nori, you can't hide a bad cut or poor quality in the chirashi presentation — several slices of various types of fish scattered atop a bed of sushi rice with daikon, wasabi and pickled ginger served in a decorative enamel bowl.

For folks still working on the transition to raw fish, there are plenty of other items on the menu from udon and donburi to tempura and teriyaki. — N.P.


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