On a Monday afternoon I arrive on the doorstep of restaurant Hatsune in Beijing.
Cars are honking and the traffic is insane – It’s lunch time. The cab driver says he forgot to
put the meter on so I give him a hundred but realised after that that may have been too
much. Hatsune is crowded, filled with youngsters, families, couples, business men. The woman by
the door asks if I have a reservation. I tell her I’m here to meet someone and that she may already
be here since I’m late, but the woman doesn’t quite understand what I’m saying. In Beijing I found
out my Chinese was only receptible about half of the time. Sometimes people understood,
sometimes they didn’t and I just had to hope for the fifty percent chance that they did.
I give her a name and that seems to do the trick.
I meet with Kristen Lum from LumDimSum, Beijing’s leading blog about food. Kristen is an ABC living in Beijing and knows all about good food and where you can find the best restaurants in town.
We go through the menu. The menu shows a lot of diversity in dishes. There’s a selection of salads, such as the Seared Maguro Salad, a light and fresh tuna salad with a sesame & wasabi dressing. You have your sushi rolls, in a great variety by the way. Most of the rolls I’ve never heard of before, which isn’t strange. All rolls are a creation of Alan Wong, the founder of Hatsune. Alan opened the restaurant back in 2001, when the Japanese fusion concept was still nowhere to be found in Beijing. The Japanese restaurants then only served traditional Japanese cuisine. Alan decided to change the game by introducing Beijing to California style rolls and dishes.
The sushi rolls have rather unusual names, such as Holy Crab Roll, the restaurant’s soft shell crab roll, or Moto Roll, a deep fried spicy tuna roll with snow crab and avocado. Hatsune’s California-style rolls are inspired by Alan’s travels and experimentation. The rolls are colourful and beautiful to look at but even better when you sample them. They’re a burst of flavour!
There’s a selection of Dream Dishes, such as the Albacore Citrus Dream, a seared white tuna dish with orange miso sauce. Kristen recommends The Onsen (above), a chilled dish with squid, sea urchin, salmon caviar and quail egg in a broth, but warns that it is kind of slimy. The slimier the better! I say. The Onsen is a pure beauty, a piece of art really. You rarely come across such daring, bold flavours in a tiny bowl. The sliminess of the squid, the sweetness of the sea urchin. And then the quail egg and the caviar. This is a combination you don’t just come up with, but it worked and it worked wonderfully. In fact, I would go back to Beijing for this dish alone.
We move on to a lovely, juicy Teppanyaki Steak. I skip dessert (probably one of the few times I did) but we are treated to a tiny white chocolate pillowy mousse I couldn’t say no to.
Hatsune was recently awarded The Beijinger’s 2015 Reader Restaurant Award in the category Best Japanese Restaurant – I couldn’t be more happy for Alan and his team. It’s a well-deserved award. The restaurant’s menu shows a lot of creative and elegant dishes with playful tongue-in-cheek names. I thoroughly enjoyed the dishes. If I hadn’t had a lunch earlier that day, I would have loved to sample more from the menu. The Onsen was by far my favourite dish. It’s an absolutely stunning bowl, executed perfectly, one that I reckon many foodies will want to try.
Hatsune is Japanese cuisine with an edge. I feel like we’re missing out on this Japanese-fusion concept here in the Netherlands. I could only wish there was a chef here willing to take a chance on some more creative Japanese fusion dishes!
Check out the Hatsune website for information and the latest news.