The SO travels to Melbourne regularly and often returns to torture me with descriptions of you-have-to-try-it meals he had during his trip. He roams far and wide for his meals, but one restaurant name pops up time and time again, and it’s Hako Japanese Restaurant and Bar.
On our last trip to Melbourne, we managed to squeeze out a little one-on-one date dinner between our busy work schedules to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Despite my tired and sore feet, we opted to drop in on Hako Japanese Restaurant and Bar and I would finally understand why the SO visits them so regularly.
Being on Flinders Lane means there is heavy competition on the restaurant front. If your (the restaurant) don’t match up to the standards, you generally won’t last long. My expectations were reasonably high, especially given Hako‘s been around for quite awhile.
Walking up to Hako Japanese Restaurant and Bar was a bit of a ‘huh? This is it?!’. Its exterior is industrial and nondescript, with little on the outside to tell you there is an eatery behind its large heavy doors. A copy of Hako‘s menu is pressed against glass, but it is most definitely discreet. So with the restaurant elevated from street level, it is very easy to simply walk past without batting an eye if you’re hunting for a feed.
The SO kicked us off with one of the sakes on Hako‘s respectable list. It certainly helped to ease the day’s tension and set the tone for the meal.
The meal was beautifully presented and I found little fault in the flavours, which were bright and fresh. With the exception of the crispy chicken thigh fillet and vegetable tempura, which was tasty but nonetheless lacked in excitement, each dish was savoured for their delicate balance of flavours. The yellow fin tuna cappacio, prawn tempura and cuttlefish tempura in squid ink were my favorites.
Eggplant (or aubergine) is notorious for being a sponge when it comes to oil, so I was worried how this particular might turn out. For one, I’ve tried making a baked version in my own kitchen a year ago and failed miserably.
Hako‘s version had a texture like silk and tasted incredibly light texture-wise. Any reservations about it being oily went out the window, so I have to applaud the chef. We had no trouble picking it apart with chopsticks and savouring that salty and sweetness from the miso sauce.
I can see the appeal of Hako Japanese Restaurant and Bar. While their dishes are Japanese, it is not strictly traditional. Their menu might be considered pricey, as their portions are not particularly large nor fanciful. But for food that is both comforting and pleasurable, I would visit Hako again.