Each ingredient in Hana Kitchen’s teriyaki mango tacos played its role without overshadowing the others. Stephanie Gerson / Daily Nexus

Westward from campus cycling through Pardall Road are familiar names like Starbucks and The Habit Burger Grill, unflinchingly standing and bustling with gauchos. But amidst these popular eateries, Hana Kitchen, though somewhat enigmatic in its decor, stands out. The minimalist interior features a cryptic message, “Do you remember when…” and a looming Bruce Lee portrait, creating an atmosphere both intriguing and perplexing.

Despite my assumptions of Hana Kitchen being a standalone establishment, the intrigue was reason enough to explore further. Raised in South Korea, I, like many of my Asian peers, approach the concept of “Asian fusion” with skepticism. Often, the addition of soy sauce to a dish does not justify the label. Setting aside preconceived notions, Hana Kitchen’s teriyaki mango taco became the focus of my culinary exploration, priced at $4.50.

I’m not a fervent enthusiast of mango, even in its artificial form. Because of this, the prospect of pairing it with teriyaki sauce left me cautiously optimistic. I enlisted the company of a good friend, Mimi Mogen, for a Friday lunch, unsure if I could conquer the taco solo.

As Mimi indulged in their best-selling chicken bowl, served with a grilled chicken leg on a bed of white rice, broccoli, cabbage and carrots, we patiently waited for our orders. The teriyaki mango taco, presented on a corn tortilla adorned with tomato, onion and cilantro, offered a visual and aromatic spectacle. 

The initial bites revealed cilantro as the dominant flavor, generously sprinkled as the final touch. Those averse to cilantro should take note. To my relief, the mango wasn’t overpowering in any capacity. The true star of the dish, Mimi and I unanimously agreed, was the impeccably marinated grilled chicken. Its savory-sweet profile complemented the other ingredients, creating a satisfactory blend of flavors and textures.

The teriyaki mango taco turned out to be a delightful surprise, with the mango exhibiting a more neutral taste than anticipated. Each ingredient played its role without overshadowing the others. Do be warned that the tortilla doesn’t hold for long under the weight of the taco. Without a fork and a to-go box, there wouldn’t have been a way to eat without a mess. After getting halfway through the taco, it’s easier to consume as a teriyaki mango salad.

It is vital to note that Hana Kitchen does a 2-for-1 special for Taco Tuesdays. Future visits are on the horizon to take advantage of this deal and reevaluate this intriguing Asian fusion dish. I recommend visiting on a sunny day like I did to fully appreciate the outdoor seating and ponder the significance of the cryptic wall messages.

A version of this article appeared on p.15 of the February 2, 2024 version of the Daily Nexus.