Friday, January 19, 2007

January 17, 2007: Hako

On Wednesday night we had tickets to the Melbourne Theatre Company's latest rendition of Don's Party lined up. Faced with the task of getting a reasonably quick and early dinner, Michael took our typical approach of refering to Cheap Eats. Out of the CBD section came Hako, a tiny Japanese restaurant that scored the full three stars and a veggie-friendly V.

We met Mike out the front and our reservation for three probably took up 20% of the seating! The list of specials was written on butchers' paper and taped to the wall, offering roughly as many dishes again as the main menu. Only a small proportion was actually vegetarian but these options looked appetising enough. Our Asahi beers arrived within minutes of our order, and we easily passed the time before the first meal arrived nutting out how the angle of the earth's rotation affects the seasons and day lengths across different latitudes, with the aid of a pen and a beer. (The topics occupying Mike's mind at any time are varied and unpredictable!)

The first picture above is of Michael's agadashi tofu entree ($9.80), deep fried bean curd with light soy. He happily gobbled it down before our other food arrived, the next dish being his choice from the specials board: bok choy and oyster mushrooms cooked with Dashi sauce ($10). Although he liked this too, Michael would have preferred to find a few more mushrooms involved.

Predictably, I ordered the vegetable tempura ($12.50). Arriving on a plate that dwarfed both my veges and our little table, I didn't expect to be filled by this serving. However it turned out to be just the right size; the batter was crisp and hot, the veges fresh and tender. It would have been a winner all round, if my rice had turned up.

Hako fit the bill for our pre-theatre dinner, but it didn't quite live up to the expectations that that big red Cheap Eats V built up. While the lunch-time bento boxes might be a hit with omnivorous Japanese food fans, the options for a vegetarian novice such as me are pleasant but not worth crossing town for.

By contrast, Don's Party fulfilled and exceeded my expectations! The ensemble cast of eleven were sharp and funny without exception: David Williamson's tale of electoral, social and sexual politics still resonates on two out of three levels and is an interesting snapshot of another era on the third. And the 1969 set design was a delight!

Address: Shop 7, 250 Flinders St (enter from Degraves St), Melbourne CBD
Edit 08/11/07: new address 310 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD
Ph: 9650 0207
Edit 08/11/07: new phone 9620 1881
Price: veg entrees and mains $3.50-13.50


  1. Great reviews. Love the site. Well done!

    A quick note on dashi. That lovely flavour usually comes from dried fish flakes. Something I had the pleasure of learning (too late!) in Tokyo recently.

  2. D'oh! Thanks for letting us know about that. The waitress knew that two of us were vegetarian, so there's a small chance that it was adjusted for us. (Wishful thinking really, a lot of people assume we eat seafood.) Now we'll know what to ask about next time we're eating Japanese!

  3. Hi Cindy

    Did a double check on that dashi on a lovely return visit to Hako last night. Definitely vego. Enjoy!

  4. Simon, thanks very much for sharing your bit of research. :-)

  5. Hi Cindy

    A quick heads up ... Hako has moved to a much larger location just down the road (on Flinders Lane, just over Elizabeth). Fantastic as usual, excellent fit out, lot less hassle with elbows on tight tables!

  6. Thank you Rachel! Sounds like the new setting is at least as good as the old one. I will edit the details above.