September 7, 2010

Hako (2 visits)

310 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(03) 9650 1881
Food: Japanese

My first visit to Hako was a while ago, but I still remember entering its raw, warehouse-like dining space and instantly feeling at ease from the ambience created by the mellow, romantic lighting, rustic decor and serene atmosphere.  The restaurant filled up as we progressed through our dinner, but it didn't feel over-crowded or busy, even though all the tables were occupied - only a soft murmur of chatter could be heard.

Classic Japanese dishes can be found on the menu, prepared in the most elegant and unpretentious manner, served on beautiful Japanese ceramics. The staff were extremely polite and softly spoken, but it was sometimes difficult for them to explain certain dishes when prompted, due to their lack of fluency in speaking English. However, with patience and basic communication, we were able to understand the details of various specials.

Cuttlefish Tempura - with fresh lemon and green tea salt

Gyumaki - Pan-fried, thinly sliced beef wrapped around asparagus

Daily Fish Special

A few months later, this year, I returned to Hako, bringing my friends with me to celebrate one of their birthdays.

Sashimi - aptly sliced, fresh raw swordfish, kingfish, Atlantic salmon and yellowfin tuna

Gyoza - fried pastry stuffed with minced pork, cabbage, with hint of pungent garlic

Daily Special - Grilled asparagus 'salad', boosted by a zesty sauce of egg yolk and Tosazu (Japanese vinegar)

Nasudengaku - juicy, deep-fried eggplant with a tangy miso paste

Chingensai - a heart-warming, sumptuous soya bonito broth with bok choy and earthy shiitake mushrooms

Okonomiyaki - Japanese-style, grilled pancake with a teriyaki glaze. The cabbage batter was mushy and too floury, but managed to deliver on tasty, savoury flavours.

Fish Special - Sea Perch braised with a sake, soya and ginger sauce, served with a bowl of steamed rice. I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of this dish, but was disappointed because the fish was dry, overcooked and didn't absorb in any of the nourishing broth

Unagidon - Delicately char-grilled eel, served in a box with miso soup and pickled greens. The ratio of the sweet, salty eel to the complementing fluffy rice was perfect!

Teriyaki Chicken - tender fillets of chicken, basted with a soy-based teriyaki sauce

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