And so to the first Japanese dining experience on our journey: Hanami (which we are told means "The only Japanese restaurant on Beaufort St") is set back a way from the road and could be easily missed by the undiscerning eye. It is also not huge, as evidenced by the Sponge managing to ram Stinky’s pram into no fewer than 6 tables on the way to our seats (although this could also be testament to the Sponge’s amateur pram-handling status, or the fact that Stinky’s pram is the size and cost of a small car). However, what Hanami lacks in stature, it comfortably makes up for in service and food.
The advance party of the Brains, BOOTO, the Sponge and Stinky arrived first and established camp. As usual, the Deliberator was fannying about somewhere and arrived later on his own. Being an Asian restaurant, and despite her protestations that she wasn’t too well versed in Japanese cuisine, the Brains was in charge of ordering a plethora of dishes to share.
Starters comprised nicely cooked chicken yakitori skewers, a fried white-baity type concoction, tempura squid and octopus balls (taken from a uniquely well-endowed octopus – boom boom). All very nicely presented on little wooden bowls and served very promptly and with a smile.
Mains were beef tepinyaki, assorted sashimi (served on a Mt Fuji-esque mound of grated carrot), chicken teriyaki and mixed tempura. Other than the tempura (which was overbattered and a bit disappointing) all very impressive.
Service was very prompt and attentive, and a uniformed Japanese waitress seemed to be on standby at our shoulder at all times. (These same waitresses were offering exhibitions of paper-napkin crane making at the front counter – the fastest we counted in about 2.7 seconds.) Hanami is licensed too, at not too bad a mark-up.
As we said, Hanami is not huge and, despite being nicely decorated, has something of the feel of a lunch bar rather than a full blown restaurant (offset to some degree though by raised platform-like tables at the front into which tiny people can wedge themselves for the authentic dining experience. Needless to say, this option was denied the Sponge and the Deliberator.) The ambience seems to be slightly at odds with the food and service (and the price - $50 a head with a couple of beers and a bottle of wine), which are akin to a more upmarket venue, however not enough to detract from the experience.
Stinky had a particularly good time, and celebrated his first Japanese dining experience (and his second ever restaurant) by emitting periodic trouser-bombs and generally sleeping through the entire thing.
Service: Very attentive and polite.
Food: With some (minor and rare) exceptions, top quality.
Ambience: More attune to CBD lunch-bar than fine dining, but tastefully done.
Highlight: Once excavated from the carrot, the sashimi.
Lowlight: Over-battered tempura.
Rating: 3.8 octopus gonads out of 5.
Will we be back? Yes, and not just because it has cornered the Beaufort St Japanese market.
Details: Located at 685c Beaufort St, their number is 9371 9855. Dinner was $50 a head, including 4 beers and a bottle of wine (no dessert).
Coming up: Heading back to mop up Inglewood Pizza and Ankara kebabs. Walcott St looms…