Thursday, 29 August 2013

Sushi Hotaru

Shop 118 200 Bourke St 
Melbourne, VIC 
3000

What do you get when you combine a food blogger and the resolve to eat healthy? You get a very, very frustrated Chris trying to find a good restaurant that ticks all the boxes, and on a budget to boot. Thankfully I had recently heard about Sushi Hotaru, hailing from Sydney and serving a large range of sushi for $3 per plate – perfect.




I’ve heard that you need to rock up early to avoid a wait but, I didn’t expect the long train to already be at half full by 5pm. Looking at the rainbow of plates choo-chooing past however, I understood why everyone was as eager as we were. Unfortunately, my camera was bizarrely out of batteries (they were fully charged just the night before; I think it may be karma getting me for not coming here with K first – I’m sorry!), so I had to rely on my iPhone for some happy snaps. It caused me physical pain not to be able to use my camera on these beautiful morsels, but at least it freed up my attention to actually concentrate on eating said morsels. 



But wait, there’s more! If you’re not satisfied with the sushi going around, a couple taps of the iPad above each table will yield the full menu, made to order. That includes hot side dishes, extra types of sushi, hand rolls – you name it, and all at $3 a plate. There are also some larger meals such as udon on offer, and sashimi slices which go for $7.9 per plate. All in all, you have a whopping 200+ items to choose from.


Scallop Nigiri ($3)

The first item I plucked off the train was a plump pair of Scallop Nigiri ($3). The two delectable morsels were silken and decadent, with a faint brininess. 


Seared Salmon and Scallop Nigiri ($3)

Then came the Seared Salmon and Scallop Nigiri ($3). This was a complete and utter winner, the plump scallops smoky but light, and the fatty salmon caramelised to a charred butteriness. 


Tempura Prawn Roll ($3)

I’ll admit that I picked up the Tempura Prawn Roll ($3) because I was enamoured by how pretty it looked, but it was actually very generic The prawn was cold and a bit greasy, though its generous size meant it made for a good filler.


Soft Shell Crab Hand Roll ($3)

Sophia, the friend who told me about Sushi Hotaru, insisted that I must try the Soft Shell Crab Hand Roll ($3). She was on the dot with this one – the giant crab claw protruding from the mix of rice, lettuce and tartar sauce was piping hot and very light, and the crisp, nutty nori made all the difference. 


Takoyaki ($3)

I swear to god the Takoyaki ($3) looked a lot better than this before I accidentally flung them off the plate. These were made fresh with chewy pieces of octopus inside, but I did just come back from Japan, and they had nothing on the ones over there, which were larger, creamier, and completely drowned in sauce – just the way I like them. 


Seared Salmon Nigiri ($3)

The pair of Seared Salmon Nigiri ($3) was rich like you’d expect, but perhaps not as fresh as it could be.


Eel Nigiri ($3)

I eagerly grabbed the Eel Nigiri ($3) as it came by, but it was a little disappointing. The pieces of eel fell apart quite easily, but were mushy as opposed to melty, and a bit too sweet.  


Chicken Kaarage ($3)

To appease Chris, we ordered a plate of Chicken Kaarage ($3), which were crisp and juicy, but I found to be a little flavourless. Nevertheless, it was quite enjoyable dipped in the kewpie mayo. 


Salmon Nigiri ($3)

I had to have a plate of my favourite Salmon Nigiri ($3). It wasn’t the liveliest pair of sushi I’ve ever seen but the salmon was of a good quality, silken and rich. 


Wagyu Tataki Nigiri ($3)

Having heard good things about the Wagyu Tataki Nigiri ($3), we grabbed it eagerly off the train. Shame the beef was tough and flavourless, and the raw slivered onions pungent enough to bring us to tears. 


Seared Scallop Nigiri ($3)

Everything was made better again with a pair of Seared Scallop Nigiri ($3), which had the same briny plumpness of the raw ones, but also a fragrant caramelisation that added a level of richness to it the raw ones didn’t have. It was a gorgeous ending to the meal.

I also enjoyed a fantastic Squid Nigiri ($3) at one point, but as always, there must be one plate I forget to take a photo of in my excitement. In this case, the white drape of squid was wonderfully creamy and chewy, perfect when enhanced with a dab of soy. 



Sushi Hotaru isn’t quite like Japan, where the fish is sliced fresh and thick, and the rice is still warm. However the variety available here more than makes up for it, and the quality is a generous distance away from average. I really liked how you can have everything made to order by simply tapping on the iPad, and the Japanese speaking staff definitely added to the ambiance. I would highly recommend Sushi Hotaru for almost any occasion.

Rating: 15.5/20 – almost japan.

This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. And how much I miss Japan. 

Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon


Strawberry Hazelnut Waffle ($10)

And woofles at Cacao Green! The Strawberry Hazelnut Waffle ($10) is where diets go to die, but I couldn’t care less when the crispy pockets are filled with Nutella and frozen yoghurt, all topped with syrupy strawberries, chocolate sauce, and icing sugar.

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