Hachi Hachi: Fancy a sushi burger?
Tuna helps me work out where a Japanese restaurant fits in the scheme of things. In other words, does it have it? Not the cooked canned stuff. I'm thinking of a platter of fresh glistening sashimi, which is logistically so hard to achieve.
Hachi Hachi doesn't have raw tuna on the menu but it does have a tuna onion mayo mix in one of its rolls.
So by this reckoning, it lies in the middle ground. It's a good few notches above the basic food-court model, and in the evening it fits the role of a cheap, quick meal before going on to other things.
The first outlet opened in the revamped Bush Inn mall. and the one in Victoria St next door to Saggio di Vino is the second. I've popped in for two lunches and an evening meal and it has been busy every time. It has obviously struck the right note with its location, pricing and food line-up.
But I also like the atmosphere. The open space, clean lines, minimalist black and red decor and white wood contrast, plus a mix of seating options, gives it a particularly buzzy feel. It is bright and uplifting, which gives the food a big head start.
Hachi Hachi's sushi offers the expected - salmon and teriyaki chicken but you get a few more adventurous choices such as tempura soft-shelled crab and prawn cocktail-filled inari.
The sushi burger is a gimmick with its two flat cylinders of rice instead of bread buns. It is exciting to try once. Mine was the shogun - a coarsely chopped beef pattie, lettuce, onion and sweet teriyaki sauce. It all felt too texturally similar and in the end I missed the bread.
A starter plate of Japanese deep-fried chicken was slightly overdone, mostly crunch, and a Teppan beef ribeye don was understated with its thick slices of steak in teriyaki sauce with salad on rice, drizzled with mayonnaise. But Hachi Hachi has a good technique with steak; in all dishes we tried it was tender and flavoursome .
Japanese restaurants can offer bold ordering moments - I still shudder over slimy fermented soy beans - and while there is nothing that challenging at Hachi Hachi, the steak and cheese curry was intriguing.
Japanese curries are curry powder- based and Hachi Hachi's version is quite brown and spicy. Sitting with it in on the rice were steak pieces, some carrots and pools of an unknown melted cheese. It looked like a steak and cheese pie filling on rice, which may have been the fusion tweak being aimed at.
It was hugely filling. Which is not a bad sign. Order if you are very hungry.
The minimalist feel extends to the drinks list. A few wines and beers and a couple of sakes give a few options, but in all seriousness people won't be there for a long evening's dining. You order and pay up at the counter at the beginning. There are no desserts. For the evening meal, we were in and out in an hour.
But then again our entire meal plus beer and sake only cost about the same as two entrees in an expensive restaurant.
Hachi Hachi is filling a niche and doing it well.
Where: 177 Victoria St
When: 11am-9.30pm Sun-Wed, 11am-10pm Thur-Sat
Cost: Nothing over $15
Upside: Great buzz, good value
Downside: Melted cheese
Go again: Yes, for a treat lunch