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During the last week of February, I had noticed quite a few photos of people’s sushi train-eating efforts crop up frequently on my facebook newsfeed. These photos were always accompanied by the location tag ‘Sushi Hotaru’. Further investigation revealed that the popular Sydney restaurant had recently opened in Melbourne and as part of a special grand opening deal, the majority of plates were going for… TWO DOLLARS. Sorry folks, the deal ended on Feb 28th. BUT the plates are normally THREE DOLLARS anyway, which is still quite cheap.
Given my busy schedule that lessened to some extent on the 27th Feb with my last oral presentation, the only time I could fit in a visit was on the 28th. Being the last day for which the $2 deal was still valid, it was possibly the WORST day to pay a visit. I had rushed over after work and arriving at approximately 5.45pm, I was greeted with a huge crowd outside the restaurant. They had instigated a system where they assigned diners with a number. Getting a number itself involved a queue and another 5 minutes had passed before I actually got my hands on a number. I was soon joined by thehouseofem and Fred.
Unlucky number 3 (yellow). We had at least another 90 groups before us. Based on previous reviews, I was under the impression that we’d be waiting for two hours top. Call it wishful thinking or call it stupidity (I’m personally going with the latter), we stuck around for two hours… and longer.
This mini lolly bag was our saviour!
At 8pm, we should have thrown in the towel but thought surely not much longer. By 9pm, we were slumped against the wall and perhaps a little delirious from hunger. Aside from when a staff member walked out to call out numbers, in which case our ears would perk up, our minds were tuning out everything else. We had serious thoughts of leaving but there wasn’t much point since we had already come so far. And finally, after FOUR hours of waiting, we found ourselves seated, with 40 minutes to eat before closing time. EVERYTHING looked sensational and it wasn’t too long before our table area ended up covered in plates.
Like most other sushi train restaurants, there was a circulating ‘conveyer belt’. But we were surprised and delighted to see that there was also a touchscreen order system. Technology!
Onto the food… (prepare for an onslaught of photos)
Teriyaki chicken roll.
Standard but since it was the first thing we ate, it tasted AMAZING.
Tuna and corn salad.
Again, nothing special. A rich creamy mayo mixed through some cooked tuna, with a few corn kernels on top.
Salmon avocado roll.
Given my recent jump onto the salmon bandwagon, I enjoyed the freshness of the salmon.
Tuna and spicy tuna.
While my taste buds enjoy the taste of salmon, the same can’t be said about tuna yet. Personally, I preferred the spicy tuna since the subtle kick from the creamy spicy mayo helped to mask the taste of the tuna.
Dishes served on a gold coloured plate were the only exception to the $2 plate rule. Given the freshness and quality of the sashimi, forking out $7.90 for these dishes was well-worth it.
Prepared using a… BLOW TOUCH!
The pastry seemed more airy and light compared to other deep fried wontons I have encountered but the filling was spot on.
Soft shell crab handroll.
We dug into our hand rolls at the same time and a simultaneous mmmmm could be heard almost immediately. The batter was tender and delicate, and the perfect ratio to the crab meat ensured that that batter did not overpower the crab itself. The mayo provided a subtle spicy kick that complimented the slightly salty flavour and fried texture of the crab. What made this dish even more perfect was the generous serving of crab. A must-order dish.
Jellyfish and vermicelli noodles.
I’ve had jellyfish before but only just realised what it was since mum had always said it was a type of seaweed. The soft crunchy texture and the slight spicy flavour of the jelly fish blended through with the thin vermicelli noodles worked very well in sushi form.
Wagyu beef tataki.
Going by the tastiness that oozes out of the above photos, a description is probably not necessary. But I’m gonna do it anyway. The texture of the beef was extremely soft and tender. While I probably would have preferred a sweet sauce, the toppings that replace the sweet sauce still worked well in Sushi Hotaru’s version. The red and spring onions provided a sharp kick that brought out the natural sweet flavours from the beef.
Agedashi tofu, with soft shell crab.
More soft shell crab = win! The agedashi tofu was soft on the inside and soggy-crisp on the outside. Despite being good tofu, the soft shell crab ended up stealing the show.
Sweet chilli chicken.
All sweet and no spice. The addition of mayo further added to the strong sweet presence in this dish.
Served freshly cooked and piping hot, the crumbed texture on the prawn was by far the most crunchiest I have encountered yet.
Green tea ice cream.
Our efforts. I thought we’d end up eating more given how hungry the three of us had felt…
A stark contrast to the earlier crowds, it was odd to see the corridor so empty at the conclusion of the meal.
It could have been due to our ridiculously high level of hunger, although not likely given the raving reviews, but the food was amongst the best I have encountered in any sushi train restaurant and Japanese restaurant to date. And dare I say it, the soft shell crab alone may have even made the entire four hour wait worth it. Not that I would want to wait four hours again but I will definitely be returning to Sushi Hotaru for that crab and more!
Midcity Arcade, Shop 118
200 Bourke St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9663 7538