Sushi Hotaru, Melbourne CBD

Before I came I planned to only have 4, maybe 5 plates, however, when I got there I ended up totally pigging out and spending nearly double what I originally intended.

Sushi Hotaru is located on level 1 in Mid-City Arcade, between Bourke and Lt Bourke Street (closer to the Lt Bourke side). Most of the seats were bar seats at the sushi train, though there were 3 tables for 4 people. The sushi train extended so it passed down one side of these tables, but for lunch today the train took a shortcut to bypass them. All food and drink items are available for order via a touchscreen in front of each seat/table, so there’s no need to fret if you don’t see your favourite dish rolling past. As well as sushi there’s side dishes, noodles and desserts. Sushi plates are $3 and sashimi $7.90. It was relatively full at 12:30pm, but again, I was eating solo so it was easy for me to slot into a space right away.

Upon selection of the sushi item on the touchscreen, there’s a short description of the ingredients, which I found very useful as I don’t like cream cheese or Japanese omelette. Many of the rolls had these inside, which is partly why I didn’t try any of them today. I ended up ordering all my sushi through the touchscreen. Some plates were prepared earlier and were sitting on the bench in covered boxes, so those arrived promptly.

This is what I ate in chronological order:

  1. Seared scallop nigiri
  2. Seared salmon nigiri
  3. Unagi hand roll
  4. Soft shell crab hand roll
  5. Top shell nigiri
  6. Scampi nigiri
  7. Seared engawa nigiri
  8. Seared scallop and salmon box sushi
  9. Unagi nigiri

…so yes…I ate a lot for lunch. Of course, I had pre-planned this visit so in anticipation, I didn’t eat much breakfast.

The scallop nigiri was amazingly fresh and juicy with a nice flavour and texture contrast from the flame. I’d heard someone say the seared scallop was nicer than the raw scallop and though I didn’t try the raw version, I feel inclined to agree.

The hand rolls were made fresh to order so the nori was crispy. I didn’t think the flavour of the eel really shone through – a normal unagi maki roll would probably have been nicer. The soft shell crab wasn’t anything special. It did taste better with the sauce (I forget what it was, but it was one of the creamy sauces commonly eaten with seafood), but wasn’t particularly meaty or flavoursome. Maybe the soft shell crab roll would be better.

Top shell is a type of sea snail (I didn’t know this until later; at the time I thought it was a type of clam). It was crunchy, with a slightly slimy/sticky texture – not bad, but not something I’d order again either.

Having only one piece on the plate, the scampi nigiri was more expensive than the others (and no meat left inside the head section), but like the scallops it was very fresh, sweet and juicy. The person next to me ordered three of these.

‘Engawa’ normally refers to the part of the flounder adjacent to the fin. There are only 4 of these sections per fish, so it’s normally more expensive. I’m not sure how they offer it for such a cheap price – maybe it was from a cheaper flatfish like plaice. Anyway, the texture of this was fine and delicate and quite enjoyable.

At this point I sat at the sushi train for about 5 minutes trying to decide if I should eat more or not. I decided on the former. The seared scallop and salmon box sushi was built quite tall so I couldn’t fit it all in my mouth in one go. I ended up eating the scallop and salmon separately. I probably should have tried eating them together to see what they tasted like.

Lastly was the unagi nigiri. I love unagi and was so glad this didn’t disappoint. On presentation, it didn’t appear as appealing as some other unagi I’ve had, maybe because the colouring wasn’t even, but all the normal fatty and tasty flavours and textures were there. The grain of the eel wasn’t as fine as some others (e.g. Itamae Sushi), but I’d still definitely order one of these again because unagi is normally more expensive at other sushi restaurants.

The order of my preferences:

  1. Seared scallop nigiri
  2. Unagi nigiri
  3. Scampi nigiri
  4. Seared scallop and salmon box sushi
  5. Seared salmon nigiri
  6. Seared engawa nigiri
  7. Unagi hand roll
  8. Top shell nigiri
  9. Soft shell crab hand roll

Though the engawa was good, salmon is my favourite fish so I’m a bit biased.

Sushi Hotaru
Shop 118 200 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC, 3000
(03) 9663 7538
Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon

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