Authentic Japanese food

Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMom

My family is always looking for something different and unexpected, especially when we return to a place that we have visited a lot of times before.

This time I was looking for a different kind of restaurant to try out on our visit to the Atitlan Lake area of Guatemala. I must say that I have been eating a lot of local food lately. It is very tasty. But after four years I think it’s time to have something else. As always my best bet when searching for restaurants was Tripadvisor.

I didn’t find a lot of options for this area, just the typical Guatemalan, Pizza, Pub food, American, etc… But as I scrolled down I noticed Restaurante Hana Japanese and Sushi. After digging a little deeper about what it offers I decided it was perfect for us. My oldest boy just decided that he loves sushi and that’s exactly what the restaurant offers along with other traditional Japanese cuisine.


Sushi wasn’t a new thing for us. We have found a lot of restaurants of this sort in Antigua and in Guatemala City. But there aren’t many restaurants that are actually run by Japanese chefs and this one was. The same thing happens in NYC, where I grew up. When you think about it, anyone can roll up rice and call themselves experts but few are.

So, as soon as I learned that the chef is a Japanese native I had to go for a visit. I would have never thought that we could find authentic Japanese food in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan.

Guatemala Restaurants on Lake Atitlan – Authentic Japanese Food and so Much More

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Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMom

I sent an email to the owners to see if we could make a reservation. One of the owners replied and said that they could receive us but his wife (who is Japanese) wasn’t going to be able to greet us in the traditional way. It would have been a great experience but just the idea if trying authentic Japanese food was enough for me.

It is the end of the rainy season but we got lucky. The sun was shining bright. I know this isn’t an important thing when it comes to restaurants. But I got pleasantly surprised to see that Restaurante Hana has a huge courtyard. A big plus was that Jon, the owner, had a football waiting for my boys in the courtyard.

If you are a parent you know that many restaurants, even the ones that are fid friendly, don’t give kids the option to run around. But knowing that they can to do it here allowed me to relax.

Once we all ordered our dishes I decided to explore another fun part of the restaurant. The house where it is located was once owned by a Swedish Countess back in the 1940′s. And the owner loves to collect old photos of Guatemala, from as far back as 1890′s. The photos are displayed in a sort of museum. The combination of the old building and the photos really transports you back to the old days.

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Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMom

Lunch is served.

Each dish is served with fresh Miso soup. Once my baby tried it, it was all he wanted to eat. In fact he ate all of ours.

My oldest boy ordered sushi rolls – Ebi Furai – they consisted of fried shrimp with fresh vegetables. It was a huge hit!

A bit earlier as we picked our food the owner recommended to us a few dishes that aren’t your typical tempura or sushi. He said that they where what Japanese people ordered. We had to order them. How could we not do that?

My husband, a fish lover had: Maguro Don – Raw Tuna dipped in fresh ginger soy sauce served over sushi rice. It must have been amazing because he ate it so fast that I didn’t get a tiny bite.

I got a dish that consisted in deep fried pork with egg, onions, green onions and sweet soy sauce over the rice called Katsu-Don. I don’t eat a lot of pork but the preparation had this uniqueness to it that I loved.

Once the food was gone my boys had some more time to play football.

A little later Jon asked if we’d like dessert. Do you think that was necessary with kids around? Of course we said yes! He recommended chocolate mousse and a Japanese specialty, tempura Plantains with ice cream. It was stupid good, as he described it.

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Photo credit: Marina K. Villatoro /Gringa TravelingMom

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.