Hako holds a few little memories for me, the first time I was there, it was with Brad, possibly one of our first dinner dates after becoming 'official' (cue girly giggles here). It was also the first time I met his circle of friends at Robot which was just around the corner (which I was a little nervous about. It's almost like meeting the parents...).
That was over a year ago, how time does fly!
This time, I was visiting Hako with fellow food-loving-blogger Bryan aka. fatbooo! He had put up Hako on his long wishlist (I really honestly can't be bothered keeping one anymore...too many to keep track of!), on his blog 'let's get fat together' and I had enthusiastically volunteered to visit with him after reading about an anago dish they had in The Age at some point of time.
The interior hadn't changed from my visit, reminiscent of a zen garden as a room, with minimalist colours and embellishments, it was very tidy and calming. A tad dark for my liking still, but what can you do?
It was very soothing to be inside, with candles lit on every table, the candle light gleaning off the empty sake bottle magnums that lined the window sills.
The menu however, had received a makeover since the last time I was here. Gone was the giant black faux leather filo fax which looked like it was 5 times too heavy for the two pieces of paper in there.
Replacing it was a much sleeker, neater, self-sufficing printed menu on some elegant paper. The menu also looked quite a bit more extensive than last time.
Ah, there's always one thing fun about going out for a meal with other bloggers. Shameless, shameless, shameless, SHAMELESS, photo taking.
Bryan and I were totally at it once we showed off our wares and discussed our 'techniques', our cameras rarely stopped clicking.
Hence different angles for our ever so delicate and airy looking serve of sake. I've completely forgotten which one it was, but it was served refreshingly cold and was a nice little way to relax into our Tuesday night dinner.
Hako proved to be quite challenging for photos so this dish came out quite dark...
Our first dish was mom's baked pork belly with brown miso and sake. It's so interesting, as it's such a different take on pork belly! It came to the table wrapped and was unwrapped once placed in front of us. We're quite used to receiving pork belly with absolutely crackling skin, but this is a bit different, a little more homely, a little heartier almost. I found it a refreshing take as it wasn't oily or particularly fatty.
The meat sat in a small pool of broth, which was the brown miso and sake, which just had an absolutely moreish flavour, the miso was so aromatic! While Bryan kept sipping away it, figuring out and analyzing the flavours....I just ate it. Unrefined Ashley!
After our first dark dish, I told Bryan of the time Brad used his phone to try and provide lighting for me at Vegie Bar....then we realised that the both of us, with our iPhones could actually provide quite sufficient impromptu lighting for the dishes! Look at what a difference it makes! You should have heard us having a hearty chuckle over how silly we probably looked...but how much we really didn't care!
Our second dish was the omakase sushi set, the chef's selection of sushi. Unfortunately since it was only one piece of each of the 6 different sushi, we couldn't really split it very neatly. So three each it was.
I don't recall the sushi that well, but I'm pretty sure I had the tuna and was quite underwhelmed by it. For being the chef's selection, I found the tuna's texture a little bit rough almost, it wasn't as refreshing and velvety in my mouth as I usually like to have it. But overall, it wasn't too bad, the oyster with the fish roe was nice. I personally find it quite hard to get sushi wrong, and I'm trying to get better at being a bit discerning!
This was the dish that had me quite excited, the 'anago chirashi', shredded grilled sea eel with egg omelette with enoki mushrooms mixed with vinegar rice. Unfortunately this didn't quite live up to my love of anago expectations. I was even highly suspicious it was even the buttery, melt in your mouth anago that I have become accustomed to, albeit ever so rarely. It was covered in the sweet barbeque unagi sauce you typically get and was quite hard and not as hot as it could have been. And for $25.50, I felt the portion serving was quite small. Not too much for me to get excited about here unfortunately.
And of course, who would we be if we didn't have dessert? The special for the night was the black sesame pannacotta and to go with it, we got a green tea ice-cream scoop, which has never ever failed. So I don't need to comment on that.
The black sesame pannacotta was also a delight, it was a bit deceiving at first, coming out to us in a chawanmushi-esque cup, and in this light, it almost looked white across the top. Black sesame? My ass!
But wait! Once you dug in, you got the beautiful grey that is typical of black sesame ice-cream, and whilst thicker than your usual pannacotta, just bursting with flavour. I personally liked the denser texture, gave you more to swirl around with your tongue and enjoy. An absolute treat!
Overall, service standards here are still very good, the waitresses are attentive, polite and very friendly. The food, whilst not the best Japanese I've come across in Melbourne, isn't too bad either, albeit a little pricey, I do quite like their creativity with some of the dishes and the break out of the usual mould, that normally only quite upmarket places like Izakaya Den and Nobu might try.
Still with all that Melbourne, especially the CBD, has to offer, I don't think Hako is high on my list for revisits again for a while to come. At least I had good company and lots of laughs!
You can also read Bryan's recollection of the night here!