The bad: I am terrible when it comes to identifying cuts of raw fish, and it was so darn busy in there we didn’t have a chance to ask what it was we were eating. So, please forgive me as I make a few blunders, especially if I am forced to say “this piece of pink fish was like, soooo good.”
The first thing to note about Sushi Hachi is it’s small and very popular, so it’s a darn good idea to make a reservation, even on a weekday. We arrived at 6pm (opening time) and were able to grab a table for an hour and fifteen minutes, after which it was claimed. The restaurant is run by a husband and wife team – she’s up front, and he’s behind the counter.
They specialize in sushi and sashimi, with just a few robata (grilled skewer) offerings, and one Japanese hot pot (oden). The woman told us the most popular order is the Chef’s selection (all their fish is brought in from Japan), so we followed her advice and went with his Chef’s selection for both sushi and sashimi, and also ordered a geoduck robata skewer, the pressed sushi, and squid guts. Yes, squid guts. That’s just the type of thing I see on a menu and think “aaaah, this will surely make for a good story!” Despite her warnings that it was “very strong, very fishy,” we went with it anyways. Always seize an opportunity to eat guts is what I’ve always (never) said.
Our platter of sashimi arrived first, and it was a sight to behold. The pottery dish itself was gorgeous, let alone the fine cuts of fish arranged amongst shaved daikon. I know we ate sockeye salmon, seared ahi tuna, sea bream, octopus, Jack mackerel and Japanese mackerel, and my guesses are that the others were Amberjack, tuna belly, and…..something else.
Unfortunately, our server was just too busy to explain it to us, but I’m hoping this is where readers will jump in and let me know what those last three were! Goodness knows I’m no sushi expert, but I definitely loved everything on the platter. My favourites were the jack mackerel and sea bream, which was topped with a small bit of green onion sauce. The pieces weren’t very large, but I appreciated this, as I’ve never been one for huge pieces of raw fish – a few bites are enough for me. By the way, that middle piece of pink fish was, like, so good.
The next dish – the pressed saba sushi – was our favourite, and half of that was based on its appearance alone.
This pressed sushi was certainly one of the more expensive items on the menu ($25, I believe), but it was worth it. This technique is called oshizushi, and involves pressing sushi rice into special block-moulds (often made of wood) with various fish and ingredients placed at the bottom. When inverted and popped out, the sushi is perfectly rectangular, with the fish on top.
The saba (Japanese mackerel) that topped this particular sushi was gorgeous, with its ribbons of pink, rose, and silvery skin showing through the top layer of pale green, translucent seaweed. The fish was lovely, but the flavour that most struck us was the rice – it was warm, well-seasoned, and wonderful – SUCH a difference from rice used for inexpensive sushi.
Our long, narrow platter of sushi included ten nigiri and a tuna + green onion roll. Each piece had a tiny bit of wasabi between the fish and rice, which again, was excellent.
I liked the scallop but didn’t love the ebi (prawn), and also enjoyed the red tuna and saba (it would appear I am a big fan of mackerel, these days). The obvious thing to say here is Holy Mackerel.
Next came our robata skewer. Interestingly, after hundreds of meals, this was the first taste of geoduck I’ve had in Richmond. It’s quite expensive and not my favourite thing, so I’ve never been keen on spending $60 for it, and was pleased I could order it in an appetizer form.
Geoduck (pronounced ‘gooey-duck’) is one of the stranger-looking seafoods you’ll find, and that’s because it looks like a phallic clam. That’s the classiest way I can say it.
They’re native to these parts, and are the largest burrowing clams in the world; demand for them in the culinary world has driven up their costs, and now they’re farmed as well as harvested wild. They’re incredibly popular in Chinese cuisine, as well as Korean and of course, Japanese, where they’re served as sashimi or grilled. If you’re eating geoduck cooked, you need to enjoy chewy textures, because it is certainly chewy, almost rubbery. I don’t love it, but it comes down to personal taste.
Which brings me to squid guts, our final frontier. They arrived appearing all modest and mild, in a small bowl. They looked like thick glass noodles swimming in pinky-grey mayo.
I found a website explaining in detail how its made: the dish is called shiokara, and basically it’s “salted squid semi-fermented in its own guts.” Well YUM-MO! It’s the digestive glands that are salted, left for a while, and forced through a sieve. This creates the pinkey-grey sauce I thought looked like mayo. Then, slices of squid are added to it, and it’s left to stew for a few days. That’s why it tastes rancid.
Needless to say, this is a very strong flavour, and not one I liked. However, just as some people adore crazily-strong washed rind cheeses (or even brus), I can see how some people must love the pungent and intense taste of shiokara. Shane was actually able to handle the guts better than me, though the aftertaste took him down eventually. Not wanting to appear like a wasteful idiot, I finished most of the bowl off by taking a shot straight down my throat and chasing it with our leftover pickled ginger.
In total with tax, our meal came to $84, so this is obviously not a place to pick up a quick takeaway meal. It is, however, a great restaurant to go for high-quality, authentic Japanese food in a small, comfortable space. I do recommend the Chef’s Selections and pressed sushi, don’t recommend the guts, and do hope one of you sushi wizards can help me identify those remaining pieces!
Cash and cards accepted
Reservations STRONGLY recommended
Not recommended for vegetarians