One of my most favourite places to eat Japanese food has to be Hako
mainly because I love their beef and their ice-cream. So when the opportunity came to have lunch there (again), I didn't hesitate in ensuring I got my fat ass to 310 Flinders Lane, CBD
For those who have never been to Hako before, it's near the corner of Flinders Lane and Elizabeth St, And it's one of those places that could easily be missed as the sign is quite small.
I may love the food but I'm not too sure about the decor. Not much has changed since it's opening. There's nothing wrong with it but it almost feels a bit naked perhaps it's got such high ceilings. It doesn't look half as bad during dinner time, but then anything looks nicer with dim lighting.
The other thing that hasn't changed is the friendliness of the staff (one of the waitresses is the owner) who are more than happy to come over to suggest things to eat and ensure that your glass of water is never empty.
We(my partner in crime and myself) decided to order an entree (on the suggestion from the waitress) to get the blue swimmer crab and tobiko with shiso leaf wrap
. The only complaint that I do have (other than having taken such a crappy photo of the damn thing) was that it was just a mouthful and I wished that there was a lot more of the crab which was broken down in tiny pieces and had this nice creamy texture which I suspect is tobiko (what the heck is tobiko?!!?!?)
This was a dish usually served only during the dinner however it's been since bumped up to the lunch menu too.
I decided to order the "Hako Set"
which apparently is selected by the chef of 6 different dishes. It comprised of (top L-R):
-a creamy mushroom based soup: which was nice and funnily enough would work wonders on a steak
-a tempura prawn: which was lightly battered and tasted quite fresh
-salad: One of the things I love about Japanese restaurants is the ability to make salads tasty, enough so that even an anti salad person as myself would eat it
-meatballs: it was nicely flavoured and properly spiced. I've had some meatballs in the past where someone went pepper crazy and the whole thing was ruined because it was to peppery and spicy.
-chicken: this had to be the biggest disappointment out of the set. I can't put my finger on why I disliked it so much, maybe because the chicken wasn't hot, or maybe it was almost tasteless.
-salmon w rice/avocado/fish roe wrapped in rice paper rolls: my complaint was the dipping sauce was in a little container that smaller than the wrap itself which made it very tricky to dip into (almost near impossible)
You also get rice and miso soup with the set. I'm not a fan of miso soup but oddly enough I decided to squeeze lemon into mine and it made the miso soup taste nicer. It's not to say that Hako makes BAD miso soup, their miso soup is actually nice, taste fresh unlike some restaurants where it taste like it's come from a packet of some kind.
Overall I was extremely disappointed with the lunch set that I ordered and for the price that I had to pay ($38). I expected a lot more from my dish but I didn't get that. Yes, there were 8 dishes in total but the chef's choices.... I would have to say ... was a poor choice.
My partner ordered the "steakdon set"
($24.50) which comprised of aged eye fillet steak cooked medium rare with daikon puree sauce served with rice and light appetizer (which happened to be pickled food). I didn't try the pickled food but I did have some of the steak. True to Hako style, the steak was perfectly cooked. This is the kinda steak that I wish half the steak houses were able to replicate (but can't) but it's the kinda steak that with each piece that you eat makes you sad as you realize there's less of it.
This is the lunch set I should have gotten but didn't want to get the same as my partner but boy.. I wish I did, instead of having to watch someone else eat something you know is fantastically awesome (and yes I did get some.. but some is never the same as ALL)
For dessert, I got a simple scoop of Black Sesame ice-cream
. Such a simple scoop of ice-cream brings me so much joy. Hako, is the ONLY place I've been to that has in my mind perfected the Black Sesame ice-cream. Sure I'm no expert of what it's supposed to taste like but it's one of those ice-creams that I just know that I love. I've tried this at many different places and no one makes it as nice as Hako does. The ice-cream itself could ALMOST forgive my poor lunch choice.
I have to say, I probably wouldn't be going back to Hako for lunch in a hurry considering it's competitor Izakaya Den does lunch just as well but at a MUCH cheaper price (starting at $18.00). Although it was pointed out to me that I haven't had dinner at Izakaya Den yet and for all I know it could shift things a bit and I might not enjoy Hako as much as I usually do. But then again, Izakaya Den doesn't do steak and ice-cream as well as Hako does. Nice but not awesome..