Those in the Melbourne Foodie know-how would know EXACTLY what I’m referring to when I say “caterpillar prawns.”
Hako‘s famous ebi tempura (prawn tempura), arguably their signature dish.
Matt Preston once described this dish as “a pair of fat hairy caterpillars in the throes of passion; each prawn coated in a thousand golden strands of what looks like wispy kataifi pastry.” This was the dish that won me over when I had dinner at Hako a few years back and so I ordered it again the other night without missing a beat.
They were still charging $13.80 for the dish. They looked the same as they did two years ago and they certainly did taste just as good. The only difference between 2010 ebi tempura and 2008 ebi tempura was that the 2010 version was still oily, like they weren’t drained properly. In fact, the prawns were so oily that the square piece of paper was completely soaked in oil. Completely. Aside: Haha, I’ve noticed that the 2010 photo looks crappier than the 2008 photo, even though I took the 2010 photos with a much better camera. To my defence, the restaurant’s lighting has not changed (still completely dark, the only light source being a single candle on each table) and I was trying not to use the flash… I guess I still have a long way to go.
I stayed away from the sushi and sashimi dishes as I wasn’t extremely pleased with our sushi last time. I, however, could not resist ordering the ‘special’ Hiramasa kingfish carpaccio ($15.50) which happened to be the best thing I’ve ever had at Hako. Eight slices of cured kingfish + sexy ponzu, soy and sesame dressing + raw onions + tobiko, accompanied by two slices of lemon (unnecessary) = one hot momofuku. Yes, it even surpassed the legendary ebi tempura.
It goes without saying that the final dish would struggle to meet the high standards set by the carpaccio. I ordered something called a brie and mushroom croquette ($9.50) and expected, I dunno, two crunchy balls filled with goo. What I got was one single shell which enveloped crunchy crust. In it was something that tasted like that cheese mix you get when you order baked oysters at yum cha. Definitely an unusual way of presenting a ‘croquette’ but if I knew that it was going to come in a scallop shell and if I knew that it was going to taste as meh as this, I would have ordered something else.
For a meal that cost $38.80, I expected to be full but I was not. On paper, each individual dish sounded cheap but you do need to order four of them to really be full and that can add up to quite a bit. On the other hand, sharing the dishes around with a friend or two is a more cost-effective option as you’ll be paying less for trying more dishes. I’ll be back.