Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ha-Lu Japanese - Mt Hawthorn

Ever since introducing my bf to Japanese food, and him making the realisation that its actually not that scary, he booked us into Ha-Lu (Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn), on the last table available on a Saturday night. We'd called before and the lady on the phone, who both times has been really helpful and friendly, had told us they were booked out but would call us if they had a cancellation if we wanted her to. She did call us back but it was 8:30 and we had already decided to go out somewhere else, but she was fine with it. Before we'd even gotten there, the staff had won brownie points!

We've driven past it 100 times and you'd be forgiven for not knowing it was there until you knew about it, as its kinda tucked away next to an alleyway on the right and some fairly nondescript shops on the left. Parking was easy as we were booked in for 6:00, so just parked on the road across the street (which was also free, bonus!). We arrived to find a simply furnished, small restaurant where you can see into the kitchen clearly. It wasnt noisy though, and we were seated quickly by very friendly staff, and bought a warm moist towel, which was a cool, if a bit airline-esque, touch.

 Impressive sake collection we were sat opposite from, and in the background, the kitchen.

We had our drink orders taken, and then a wiry, smiley older Japanese waiter came and explained the way the dishes should be ordered, asked if we had any questions and then left us to peruse the menu. All the staff were Japanese, and most of them spoke excellent english. The ones who didnt speak excellent english still spoke well they were just not as easy to understand due to an accent, but we didnt find it an issue at all. The whole night the staff were really friendly, always had a smile on their face and were very helpful and accomodating.

Our waiter had told us that the menu was intended to share, the dishes were small and it allowed you to sample many things. He suggested getting 2-3 dishes each, 2 or 3 from the cold/starters selection, and 2-3 from the hot section. 

We took his advice and for entree ordered the tartar style sashimi of the day (thin strips of seasoned sashimi served with wasabi mayo and tortilla chips) which was $10.50 and the wagyu beef tataki (seared local wagy beef, thinly sliced and served with seasoned root vegetables) which was $17.

The beef was really nice, it was sliced really thinly and came with a thin soy dipping sauce. It tasted so meaty and lacked the "raw" flavour that some meat can have when served so rare. We both really enjoyed it, and compared to the beef tataki we had tried at Banzi Sushi and Noodle House in Leederville, it was worth the difference in price.

Wagyu beef tataki

The sashimi we ordered was on a bit of a whim. Im not crazy about it, bf had never tried it but is funny about textures but is going through a phase of wanting to try everything! So we ordered it as I heard heard many good things about the quality of the sashimi  here. It came out looking good, the sashimi of the day was salmon, tuna and scallop and it was seasoned with sesame oil and perhaps something slightly spicy? We werent too sure, but it looked a bit like the "tartar style" was the offcuts of the more expensive dish, sashimi of the day which came with 3 slices of each. For me, it was fine, but Im not huge on sashimi anyway. Bf, as I had predicted, didnt like the texture of it at all, it was a bit too slimy for him! I was also of the opinion it could have been less slippery, however am in no real position to judge as I don't often eat it. I also forgot to take a pic of it!

For mains we ordered scallop nanban (deep fried Hokkaido scallops marinated in sweet soy vinigarette, served with crispy lotus root chips, chilli mayo and pumpkin julienne) which was $18, Nikujaga (deep fried potato dumpling with slow cooked beef and onion filling, served with a light dashi soy sauce) for $14, grilled miso patagonian toothfish (sweet white miso marinated toothfish with grilled tomato) for $17 and duck and aubergine madiera sauce (slow cooked duck breast and aubergine served with madeira tamari soy sauce and a hint of japanese mustard) for $15.

Scallops Nanban

The scallops came out looking great, with a line of ground chilli either side of the symmetrical and plump looking scallops. This was something that bf hadnt tried before either and I wasnt convinced, again that he would like the texture. But with scallops it can go either way. For both of us, they could have been cooked a few minutes more, they were really soft and for me, resembled the texture of not quite cooked egg white. Im not a big seafood eater so I can imagine that for some these were perfectly cooked, but for my tastes, I would have loved them to have more of a bite to them. Aside from the textural thing though, they were nice, the lotus chips had a nice toothy crunch to them, and the chilli mayo on top was really nice.

Nikujaga (potato dumplings with slow cooked beef and onion filling in a light soy dashi sauce)

The nikujaga (potato dumplings) came out in a bowl, with a teapot with the soy dashi sauce. The waitress placed the dumplings on the table and then poured the soy dashi sauce into the bowl and we tucked in. They werent the lightest thing on the menu, which is kinda what you expect from japanese food, however they were tasty! Bf loved them, they were like mashed potato, with a centre of slow cooked, falling apart, saucy beef, like the inside of a good pie, which had then been deep fried. I didnt get much of a chance to try the sauce, because the waitress took it before I'd even tried it! There were 3 good sized dumplings which bf could have easily polished off on his own! They were a mission to eat with chopsticks but Im pretty good with them and managed ok, bf on the other hand, got a bit stabby with them!

Duck and aubergine madiera sauce
 This was yummy duck! It was served slightly more rare than I would have liked, and without enough of the fat rendered down, or as crispy as I would have liked but it was tender and juicy! The aubergine was also really nice, it was just as I like it to be, not bitter, not slimy! The sauce was rich, with a sticky sweetness that goes so well with duck, and a sharpness that without it, the duck fat would have been too much. The mustard was also a nice touch, you certainly didnt need much of it, and you didnt get much of it either! It was sharp as well but without the sweetness of the madeira sauce, and again cut nicely through the richness of the duck. 
Miso marinated Patagonian toothfish
The last dish we had was the toothfish, which I ordered because I couldnt decide between a few other things, and it had come recommended by another blogger, Foodie Cravings. It tasted distinctively like miso, and the fish flaked away perfectly.  It was soft, juicy and full of flavour. I did find the miso slightly overpowering, and after a while it was all I could taste, but I did enjoy it.
I have a feeling alot of the seafood we ordered was actually very good, but not being a huge seafood fan, it didnt wow us. We were impressed by the wagyu beef tataki, especially as we had something else to compare it to. The potato dumpling was nice but it didnt strike me as very japanese, though it went down a treat!
The service the whole night was very good, and they were very quick to clear plates etc away, especially as you do often have 3 or 4 plates going on at one time. They have a very impressive list of sake, ginjo (aromatic style sake), as well as shochu which are distilled spirits, whose flavour reflects the ingredients used to make it, which includes sweet potato, wheat, and barley, as well as combinations.
The desserts are western style, with a white choc and berry pannacotta (we had that, it was nice but didnt blow my mind - however I was pleased to see that it appeared to have been made in house, which many restaurants tend not to do these days, buying things in instead), creme brulee, and baked cheesecake. 
I think that we would probably go back, but next time stick to the things we know we'll enjoy, rather than having a go at things that were not overly keen on but wanna try something different than chicken katsu. I do normally order things that I would not make at home, and enjoy trying new things but I think we went a bit overboard in this case! But now I can say that for me, its not really worth paying alot of money for sushi/sashimi because its a bit wasted on me!
There are definately things on the menu that I would like to try,  so I think I would go back, for sure :)
Ha-Lu on Urbanspoon


  1. I love Ha-Lu!

    Both J and I are big fans of their Tataki - we order it every time :)

  2. Yeah it was pretty special... We'd def order it again!!