This started with a conversation a few weeks ago. I told Hotasuki that I had a craving for sushi and she immediately proposed trying a sushi restaurant at Mandarin Gallery. She said that the restaurant served omakase sushi and was recommended by her colleague. I had a fun omakase experience recently and found it fun as you never know what you are going to get. So we arranged a day to meet for lunch.
Upon entering the restaurant, I realized that the dining experience at Hashida Sushi was a whole package which started when I took the first step into the restaurant’s premises. A smiling waitress greeted us at the door and led us down a short stone path into the inner dining chambers. Another waitress greeted us at the entrance of the dining area. She noticed that Hotasuki was carrying big bags of shopping so she offered to keep them until our meal was over.
The dining area was rather small, with a capacity of 30 people. Taking up a large part of the room was a sushi counter with seats along its edge. There were no other tables that I could see. The sushi chef was already standing behind the counter. We were shown to our seats and a waitress passed us the menu. There were three omakase sets listed, ranging from $80 to $250. Hotasuki said she was going for the most expensive set which caught me off-guard because I wasn’t prepared to pay so much for lunch. But after thinking about it for a minute, I decided to take the most expensive Hiiragi set ($250) too. Although I was free to order the cheaper sets, I knew that I would feel really sad if I saw Hotasuki had some really nice dishes which the cheaper sets did not include. Plus, I would be always eyeing her food and thinking that it looked better. So to lessen the torture, I took the same set as Hotasuki.
Since I was already spending so much, I might as well go all the way and had a totally luxurious experience. So I ordered sake a well. It is said that alcohol numbs pain. A soft-spoken waitress came and patiently ran through the sake list. I’m not familiar with any of the sake brands so the waitress tried to help by asking what type of sake I liked; hot or cold, dry or sweet. I ordered 180 ml ($70) which was the smallest amount available. It turned out to be quite a substantial amount and I took more than an hour to finish drinking the bottle. And throughout the meal, I never once had to lift the bottle to pour sake into my cup; the attentive waitress took care of it.
Our chef was a friendly guy who took care of just the two of us. When other customers came in during our meal, they were attended to by other chefs. It was like having our own personal chef as he only served the two of us. While our chef was chatty, we did not feel that we were forced to converse when we did not feel like talking. It was a comfortable atmosphere.
Our chef said that he was formerly from the Tokyo outlet and had to learn English before he came to Singapore. He still has a distinctive accent and sometimes it took him a while to find the right words, especially when telling us the name of fishes in English. But in general, we did not have a lot of difficulty understanding him. Each time he served us a dish, he would give a short introduction of the ingredients, which I appreciated. I like listening to trivia about the food I am eating.
The first dish was the appetizer. It was tofu skin with soup stock jello, salmon roe and wasabi. The wasabi throughout the meal was freshly grated by the chef. It was light and refreshing. The savory jello added some flavor to the tofu skin.
Next was mackerel sashimi and cooked abalone. Even though the abalone was cooked, I was still impressed that abalone was part of the meal. But I would be interested to try a raw abalone some day.
The next dish was also sashimi. This time there was octopus, snapper, clam and firefly squid. The sashimi was fresh and tasty. I was most surprised by the octopus and clam. The octopus was moist and crunchy, not dry and tough like all the other times I ate it. The clam was crunchy and super sweet; I didn’t know clams tasted like this. Hotasuki liked the firefly squids which looked so cool and small.
The chawanmushi had green beans and bamboo shoots. It was also topped with an unusual ingredient: a salted sakura flower. Our chef told us that it could be eaten. The salted sakura was interesting; it was salty with floral overtones. Our chef then told us that during the sakura blossoming season, Japanese like to picnic underneath the sakura trees.
We had grilled clams next. They were grilled with no other seasoning so we could taste the original flavors. Lovely!
Now was the start of the sushi portion. The chef made the sushi one by one and placed it gently on a spotless black lacquer tray. The chef had already added wasabi to the sushi and brushed on soy sauce, so all we needed to do was to move it to our mouths. We were told that we could use our hands to eat the sushi and a waitress provided a piece of wet tissue in a small saucer for each of us. So we used our hands, which was a fun way to eat.
The first fish was a light fish. I forgot what was the name of the fish, probably a kind of flatfish.
Next was flounder which was wrapped in seaweed. Even though the seaweed was removed before the chef sliced the fish, we could still taste a subtle seaweed flavor.
The jack mackerel sushi was nice.
Next was a shellfish sushi which was sweet and crunchy. I didn’t catch the name of the shellfish though.
We had snapper sushi next. The snapper slice was nice and thick.
The chutoro sushi looked lovely and I was really happy that we were given a big slice of it.
My favorite was the ootoro sushi which was a lovely marbled slice of tuna. It was a fatty piece of meat which still tasted light and left no oily residue in the mouth.
After the ootoro sushi, our chef also gave us some ootoro maki which was more fish than rice. I noticed that the maki were not all at the same height so our chef needed to put some effort into improving his maki-cutting skills.
Then we had a small bowl of sea urchin and salmon roe with a bowl of clam miso soup. It was nice that the restaurant gave us almost as much sea urchin and roe as the rice.
We finished the meal with some really sweet fruits which we were told came from Japan.
Hotasuki was super stuffed after the meal. She enjoyed the meal so much that she was eager to go back again few months later. I, on the other, consoled myself that it was almost payday. Unlike Hotasuki, I felt alright; not hungry but not stuffed either. I guess it meant that I have a bigger appetite than normal people?