Tag Archives: sushi

Wagaya Melbourne

I was recently contacted by a global marketing agency, aiming to promote Japanese restaurants and culture. After working on the Sydney scene, they’d moved on to Melbourne and I was kindly invited to try Wagaya in Melbourne. Continue reading

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Sushi Hotaru


I was finally able to try a sushi train the other week, after debating over which one to try. The mixed reviews for Sushi Hotaru made me a bit reluctant but many people I know gave me firsthand accounts of liking it, so it felt like worth trying.
20140606_174624It’s a place you have to know about to find, as it’s up a few levels in Mid City Arcade on Bourke St, between Swanston and Russell St. Just go up the escalators and you’ll eventually see it (and perhaps a line in front of it)!

It doesn’t take bookings and I’d read that it would be quite a wait if you get there after 6pm. We managed to get there a bit after 5.30pm, thus we were given a number and we were only subject to a fifteen minute wait until our number was called.20140606_180006After we were called in we were promptly seated at two stools. You don’t really know where to put your jacket so I saw a lot of people just sitting on theirs’.

The novelty of the experience is the iPad touchscreens for where you are sitting. You’ll find most dishes on the train become repetitive but this is why you should take advantage of the iPad.

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The system is quite easy to use, with the menu divided into comprehensive sections such as hand rolls and nigiri (where the meat/fish is on top of the rice). You also use it to order drinks or call the staff – when we ordered water it came in a mere few seconds.

Furthermore when you order from the iPad, the staff in the centre of the room are continuously making fresh sushi to put on the train and also the ones that have been ordered. In a few minutes, they will hand it directly to you and the iPad will show a symbol to indicate it has been delivered. Technology!

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Each dish is $3 unless you see a sign indicating they are a special gold plate – they cost about $7.90, but I didn’t have any. You’ll get typical sushi such as salmon and crab drifting past you, but they look a bit plain compared to the gems you could order on the iPad.

It’s hard to remember what everything was, but I think the above was a spicy seared salmon nigiri, whilst the below seemed to be the salmon and onion nigiri. I love Japanese seared food so they were really enjoyable with their subtle, smoky flavours.

20140606_181418The hand rolls were also good value for the same price, the one we chose below was the obvious choice to us – soft shell crab! I enjoyed that this came out freshly made and quite hot, preferable to the sushi that has been on the train for a few rounds.
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The same goes for this crunchy crumbed prawn – it came out nice and warm, so that the crispy exterior was really prominent.

20140606_182649It’s hard to remember what every dish was – this below dish kept coming across on the train and we finally decided to try it. I think it was just teriyaki chicken with a lotus chip on top, thus not very exciting.
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I didn’t take pictures of everything but another favourite was one of the scallop sushi whilst dishes such as the eel cream cheese (bottom right) were interesting, but not necessarily winning creations.

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I enjoy this concept and wouldn’t mind trying another train such as Sakura Kaiten Sushi or the new one at the Emporium. What’s good about this one is the cheap prices compared to these other options and despite negative reviews, service was swift for me.

The moment we clicked the call for our waitress on the iPad, she was over and ready to count our dishes for our bill. The experience was very efficient. The dishes weren’t amazing, but it’s hard for a $3 sushi plate to cause that many sensations.
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I would definitely recommend ordering a lot, rather than waiting for it to come around. Then you’ll even get the benefit of a hot dish being passed over to you.

The beginning is the only slightly confusing part, as there’s no sign indicating how the queue works. The door to the restaurant had a green “Push to open” button and makes it look a bit intimidating to walk in and ask. We did eventually go in and we were given a number. But if you never walked in, you would be standing outside in line without a number and a bit lost, so just make sure you are definitely in the queue!

Have you tried the other sushi trains? Comment below about your experience!

Sushi Hotaru is located on the first floor of Mid City Arcade, Shop 118 200 Bourke St Melbourne CBD. They are open Mon-Sun 11am-10pm.

Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon

Heirloom

In the mood for Japanese, but something different from your standard dons and bentos, I decided to try Heirloom, a bit of a higher-class and modern take on Japanese cuisine. When you pass it on Bourke St, you won’t realise it’s Japanese and might mistake it for an upper class bar.

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Well, perhaps it is, but with a strong focus on Japanese food and drinks. The service was prompt and faultless. Our waitress did not have the best English skills but she was attentive and willing to help. The overwhelming part was when she provided us with about five different menus. This might be an area that they want to brush up in. One standard booklet would be sufficient rather than separate sheets with her explanation of what each one was.

You’re probably curious as to what they were – they included small and large tapas, some degustation courses, sushi degustation, bar food and their drinks menu. She also pulled a sheet out of her pocket and started to recite the specials. It might be helpful to display this somewhere for forgetful minds like us!

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After pondering over the many menus and finalising our order, I realised I might want some greens. So our first dish we received was the tofu salad (above). I feel their menu is quite more extensive than their current menus online. I can’t remember prices but this dish was fairly cheap at $10 or less.

The dressing was light and the tofu chunks were large and cold. Thus the tofu was understandably plain but I found it the perfect dish to have on the side, especially to balance out any accidental tasting of wasabi. My friend on the other hand wasn’t a big fan. Usually, I tend to like cooked tofu in nice sauces, but this did the trick as a healthy side dish.

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The wasabi happened to be in our order of salmon sushi aburi shio nigri (top, $7.50 per 2 pieces). This means the salmon is slightly grilled and I really enjoy that Japanese style of cooking, which provides a subtle smoky feel. There were bits of wasabi hidden underneath the salmon. I know they are making it traditional but perhaps they should ask about it in the future, as I know a lot of people who prefer no wasabi (yes we’re weak).

I also ordered a drink but not wanting to splurge on a cocktail, I noticed that they had an offer of shochu (Japanese spirit) mixed with various fruity flavours and soda for $9. I picked the lychee flavour and both my friend and I enjoyed it, along with an actual lychee.

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Next up were the sliders. I was tempted to have these after seeing another friend’s photos. I think they were only $5 each or so. We had the ebikatsu (fried and crumbed prawn, left) and pork belly (right). They were both so delicious that we couldn’t quite figure out which one was our favourite. They are both complimented by shreds of slaw and their own, rich sauces in soft brioche buns. There’s not too much of anything and the sizes are perfect for a non-messy fare.

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After trying the nigiri sushi with the salmon on top, we went for the soft shell crab sushi roll (above, $14 for 4 pieces). Each end seemed to have a great deal of crab, whereas the middle pieces seemed to only have avocado and a tiny piece of crab. This wasn’t too special and I preferred the nigiri.

In addition, I almost we forgot we had the wagyu kaburi skewer ($4 for about 3-4 pieces of scotch fillet). By itself, the skewer is pretty plain. For skewers I would try somewhere like Pabu Grill and Sake, as it’s more of their specialty.

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We managed to remember one of the specials, so we ordered the teriyaki salmon ($18). It was served with orange/mandarin pieces, which I found a bit weird drizzled in teriyaki sauce. However, I really enjoyed the sauce, which seemed to have an extra sweet kick from the mandarins, and the salmon was cooked perfectly.

These dishes didn’t exactly leave us hungry or full so we dived in for one last dish – dessert. We went with the Houji tea sticky date pudding (below, $13). This included caramel apple pieces, vanilla ice cream, (Japanese) nikka whisky caramel sauce topped with a sort of biscuit. The staff were happy to provide the whisky sauce on the side, so my friend wouldn’t need to avoid the alcohol.

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The sauce had a strong taste of whisky. I enjoyed it as it still had a base of caramel, but I couldn’t have too much of it, otherwise it felt too rich and strong. I enjoyed the addition of the biscuit on top to provide some crunchier texture and to lessen the sweetness of the dish. The Houji tea (a roasted green tea) made the sticky date a bit drier but with an interesting taste, so the ice-cream and sauce provide the needed cover, and I think it was an innovative take on the classic dessert.

20140411_194519Overall, Heirloom really delivers the service and food for a good night. If you go by your instincts and order what sounds good you’ll most likely be fine. The lights provide a great setting whilst they project anime on a screen in the distance. Service is attentive and swift, so I feel like it’s always going to be a place where you know you will be looked after. It’s not the cheapest but we paid less than $50 per person, so I feel like it’s a reasonable price for the quality.

Heirloom is located at 131 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They serve a buffet breakfast (who knew!) Mon-Fri 7-10am and 7.30-10.30am on weekends.

They have daily specials for lunch, Mon-Fri 12-3pm and serve bar food 3-6pm. Finally, they serve dinner 6pm-10pm on weekdays and 6pm-10.30pm on weekends. Check out their menus here, but as I mentioned I think they have more items than this now.

Heirloom on Urbanspoon