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January 28, 2024


The discovery of Hakubai came on recommendation from someone who is not always right. That said the menu looked far too good to pass up so I made a reservation. I was in a celebratory mood becoming a new cat mom to my munchkin, Jade, so I figured why not.

The restaurant is located on the lower level of a hotel which just completed renovations and when I came in I was lucky enough to get a seat at the counter. I had made reservations for a table but I ended up coming in early so lucky me. I found the feeling of the space to be that of low lighting with clean wooden accents. It reminded me of how I felt walking into sushi amane for the first time back when they were first opened.

To begin the dining experience, I was presented with special chopsticks that were made especially for the restaurant and they really did look quite regal. While they offered a wine pairing, I opted to enjoy by the glass starting with a stunning Bourgogne blanc.

My first amuse bouche came out rather quickly and it was the snow crab over miso dotted with little flowers. It was such a cute presentation. I found the flavors here to be a combination of savagely fresh seafood with creamy deep salty richness. I really could not decide what part of it I liked the most.

The next amuse bouche was a trio with a description that was far too much for me to remember. I remember that the first was abalone, the second had bonito which I love and the third was liver. It looked phenomenal and I appreciated with my eyes first. The abalone was firm to taste and it was basted in a somewhat sweet sauce with a very minor spice kick to finish. The second had a fermented flavor with an explosion of fluids that settled in as you ate. The bitter greens at the bottom were a nice touch and played well with the bonito flavors. I was a bit worrisome of the liver but I eat everything so, “oh well… here we go”… I thought to myself. This piece was a special one on flavor and the texture of whipped pate was to die for.

The next dish was chawanmushi with uni sauce with the uni being from California. Chawanmushi is probably my favorite Japanese dish so this was more than welcoming to me. I wish I could do justice to describe how decadent this dish was but there truly are no words. The fattiness of the sauce with the fresh uni atop and the ever dependable chawanmushi was a combination of flavors that nothing but perfection could devise. If for nothing else, I would come in here everyday for this dish alone.

The next dish was my sashimi course and it was a layering of different types of fish and seafood including tuna, shrimp, scallop and salmon and topped with Kaluga caviar. All of this was placed on a bed of daikon radish. Chef recommendation for enjoyment was to enjoy one layer at a time with the daikon radish on the side. This was sashimi fit for a queen with every layer richer than the next as the shoyu cascaded down the sides and permeated level by level so you fall deeper in love with each bite as you eat. Truly marvelous and it was as beautiful to look at as it was delicious to eat.

The next course was the steam course and it was comprised of turnip, baby turnip, kambocha squash and carrot in dashi soup. The soup had more of a texture of a light gelèe but all the flavors of umami dashi were still present. The turnip was steamed so delicately that you could cut through it with the wooden spoon provided even though I had doubts of the possibility initially. The baby turnip on the other hand could not be cut through but was still melt in your mouth tender when eaten. I truly enjoyed this one.

The next dish was the warm dish and it was a fish with egg sitting on a saffron sauce. I just made that description of the dish all too simplistic but I was so completely engrossed and drooling at the plate that I barely listened to the presentation. There was really no way to try the individual components so I went right ahead to try it all together and magical ecstasy was achieved. The lean flavors of the fish with the fattiness of the egg and bottom base saffron sauce was just a wonderful tune… almost a crescendo at the opera. Marvelous.

The grill course was a beauty to behold of A5 Wagyu on a potato purée with fresh wasabi on the side. The jus of the beef was poured atop table side. The A5 was just what you would expect with its tenderness and over abundance of marbling. There is absolutely nothing to complain about here. It is simply a sit down, take a bite and relax plate. Delightful decadence this one.

Eel in Japanese preparation is my second favorite dish to eat in Japanese cuisine and this one, my next dish, did not disappoint. The rice is a special rice that was made in Yamagata and there was quite a lovely story behind it. The sauce was mixed in table side with some pieces of eel and the remaining were placed atop the mixed in rice. There used to be this restaurant in midtown, on the east side, that I loved dearly but I think they closed. There you were presented with a whole eel that was imported and they would bring out the exact one that you were going to eat, grill it in front of you and serve fresh. This made me nostalgic for that restaurant and I really should see if they are still open. There was one other preparation of the rice but my stomach just did not have capacity past a few bites. It was really delicious though… I will tell you that.

I requested a pause before dessert and some oolong tea to hopefully create some space while I waited and took in the ambience of the room. It gives off just a calm and relaxing environment and made me so glad I came.

After a long pause, I finally felt enough space to start eating dessert. The first was a yogurt sorbet on a lemon gelee with a shaving of pure sugar made to look like ribbons. I cracked the ribbon with my spoon as instructed and it went everywhere but it was still satisfying to hammer at it. On flavors, the yogurt initially tastes like ice cream but finishes with that true to palate yogurt taste. When I added on the gelee to another scoop of yogurt, that finishing flavor was replaced by the freshness of lemon. Finally, I added in the ribbon and you had that missing sugar element that is dessert. It was not too sweet though so I was able to enjoy to my hearts desire.

The next dessert was the Japanese strawberry shortcake with the strawberries grown in New Jersey. The cake itself is the perfect level of sweetness for me but if you want a sweeter cake, there is Japanese dusted sugar on the plate that you can glide you cake in to. This is my kind of dessert.

The petit four or should I say the petit three was a waterfall of chocolate. One was a chocolate dome with Japanese whiskey inside. Another was a cookie stuffed with chocolate cream and the last was a little tart with fire gun toasting. The chocolate cream in the cookie, which was more pancake than cookie, tasted as though there was some alcohol in it. The tart had the perfectly buttery crust with lemon meringue and the cream on top was magical. The chocolate was dark but enlivening by the lined whisky flavors. For someone that does not have a sweet tooth and was full beyond words, these were magnificent and I ate them all with abandon.

Wow what a visit!



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