Imagine this, it’s Friday 6.30pm and you’ve squeezed in a few quick drinks after work. Dinner approaches and you didn’t have the foresight to call ahead and everything that’s worth anything is booked/has 2hour+ waiting lists. You curse foodie hipsters, food bloggers, and the general Melbourne dining scene for upsetting supply & demand against your favour.
Do you cave in, down a few more drinks and call it a night at China Bar on Russel St – your face stuffed with Roast Meat combo – I like crispy pork & duck – on special fried rice? Yes you could do that, in fact, I have done that. BUT NOT TONIGHT MY FRIENDS, tonight we’re going to Hako.
Hako is a quiet achiever of the Melbourne dining scene, quietly winning over hearts like mine. Tucked away on Flinders Lane it’s a gem of a Japanese restaurant and you will still get a seat on a Friday night.
The food approach is similar to another Japanese favourite – Izakaya Den – with an emphasis on small plates and an adventurous spirit. Hako however makes me mumble “this is SO good” between mouthfuls more often. The dining room is elegant but it feels not quite finished and industrial, could do with a little more warmth and intimacy to liven it up. But onto the food, the glorious food.
BELOW L-R clockwise
Assorted Nigiri (Grilled Salmon, Tuna, Salmon) – If you want to know what it feels like to die and go to heaven without leaving your bar stool – eat Otoro (Tuna belly) nigiri from the Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo. I will dedicate a post to the transcendental qualities of Otoro, but in the meantime the nigiri at Hako is very very delicious. The rice is perfectly cooked and flavoured which to me, is not negotiable.
Blue Swimmer Crab in Shiso Leaf – This was a delight and one of my favourites on the night. The creamy crab meat was balanced perfectly against a crisp nutty shiso leaf.
Slow Cooked Beef Ribs – Oh yes, slow cooked ribs cannot go wrong. This rendition was dark, sticky, fatty and sublime.
BBQ Pork Belly Bun – Moreish, we ordered another. The pork fat yielded like a fair maiden for her prince charming. Delicious.
Kingfish Nigiri – Kingfish doesn’t have that visceral knockout factor that fatty fish has when it hits the tongue, but instead relies on a very true and pure flavour that goes straight to my heart.
Japanese Pancake – You must eat one in Osaka the land of Okonomiyaki before you die (if Japanese food is your thing). This version is more delicate – whist tasty I would say not memorable.
Chicken Thigh & Spring onion Yakitori – Delicious! A beautiful moment of grilled goodness, the chicken meat tender, the fat rendered.
Grilled Kingfish Collar – Succulent perfectly cooked Kingfish served simply with with lemon juice & salt. This dish is perfection and exactly what I want to find here, understated dishes that let the produce shine.
Hako gets a resounding YES from me. Go there with greed and adventure in your heart, and try as many plates as you can – this is one of the better Japanese dining spots in Melbourne. Sake is plentiful, the wine list is short.
310 Flinders Lane