Nearing the end of its first year in business, Willoughby’s Hachioji, run by Taiwanese sushi master Benson Pang, is making a move upmarket. With some luck our friends and I were able to secure a booking of the entire 8-seat counter at the original $79pp rather than the more luxurious $130pp offering that has since replaced it.
Our 14-course lunch omakase started with this cod liver entree, a lightly flavoured but densely textured dish.
The four day aged salmon sashimi was served as a fat chunk and with the first appearance of Hachioji’s top-tier wasabi.
This is where the magic happens. Chef Benson Pang advised us that none of the 10 nigiri pieces were to be eaten with soy sauce.
The 4 days aged Hiramasa Kingfish with yuzu koshu was a strong piece, the slight spiciness and tartness of the yuzu koshu adding an additional dimension of flavour to the kingfish.
The John Dory with umeshu jelly was interesting , the umeshu jelly imparting a sweet but not too sweet plummy flavour which matched well with the light tasting fish. The Ora King Salmon nigiri with caviar was delightfully fatty, with just a little bit of glaze for flavour. I might have to pick up some Ora King salmon to have for myself at home.
Both the snapper with pepper and the bluefin akami were good. The akami was sweet and was free of metallic taste, and it was a pleasure to watch Chef Pang make his invisible flavour cuts.
Hachioji’s bargain basement $79pp price comes into play with the use of chu-toro, a slightly less fatty and cheaper cut than o-toro. That said, the chu-toro nigiri with citrus peel was a good as chu-toro can be, still fatty and flavoured gently with citrus peel (not otherwise specified – my internal medicine friend asked). I liked that the Blue Mackerel added a slightly stronger tasting fish to the mix of flavours.
The aburi scallop temaki was good but apart from its superior rice and seaweed the seafood itself was no better than any other scallop I’ve had. The Anago (sea eel) was a large piece, mildly glazed and oily and juicy inside.
I opted for the addition of a chu-toro, uni, ikura hand roll ($25 supplement). This was an expensive and luxurious roll, with a thick and large piece of uni, well flavoured salmon roe, and generous slabs of chu-toro. While one of the best morsels I had at Hachioji, it would be remiss of me to evaluate this without comparing it to Kuon’s very similar hand roll. While sashimi chu-toro has superior texture to the minced o-toro that Kuon uses, I think that ultimately the sheer fattiness of the o-toro in Kuon’s roll wins over the reduced fattiness of Hachioji’s. That said, both are very good, and I would recommend paying for this $25 addition to your meal.
Our sashimi and sushi courses were followed by dobin mushi, a seafood broth made of prawn, pork, chicken, and mushroom. This was a light broth with a strong umami flavour imparted to it by the addition of fragrant mushrooms and seafood, served in an individual teapot for each diner and a small cup with a tiny lemon wedge. This soup was really nice, wholesome, and warming.
I love myself a hojicha ice cream (my favourite being the one from Mapo in Newtown), though this was not as elaborate as some other desserts that are often served at omakase restaurants.
The Hachioji team comped us this delicious mango cake for our colleague’s birthday. Unfortunately the guest of honour couldn’t make it (there were quite a few last minute cancellations and swaps – it was a whole game of musical chairs trying to wrangle 8 cats for our whole-of-restaurant booking), but this meant that we got to pass the cake around and each have some. It was good – try and bring a birthday friend if you can.
Service was pleasant and friendly, and not at all invasive. Unlimited green tea was included in the price of the meal, which is refreshing after being charged $15 a person for bottomless green tea at Kuon.
2 hour street parking is available around the corner on Tullon St. For the more intrepid, there is one hour parking available on Frenchs Road, which is not enough for the meal, though our keen eyed hostess was helpful in keeping an eye out for parking inspectors.
Our experience at Hachioji went to show that you don’t have to be Japanese to provide a top-tier sushi experience. While some of the elements were reflective of our meal’s top value price, I think that Hachioji does hit the sweet spot at $79 per head. Eating at Hachioji a mere fortnight after Kuon I don’t think that while expensive omakase restaurants like Kuon may have more luxurious elements like lobster and o-toro, I’d rather have six meals at a place like Hachioji than two at Kuon.
2/56-58 Frenchs Rd, Willoughby NSW 2068
0422 421 203