Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Thought I was eating Duck Sashimi at Ha-Lu, Mt Hawthorn

It felt just like a duck sashimi in my wildest (yet slightly gross) foodie dreams...

Ha-Lu on Urbanspoon

Spring Flower are the words behind Ha-Lu, a restaurant that blooms humbly and enlivens the darker, quieter and generally less loved end of Oxford Street. 
Although humble, Ha-Lu does not go unnoticed. The numerous awards decking the entrance are head turners, making Ha-Lu a longstanding favourite Japanese restaurant of many who flock to this Spring Flower that blossoms all year round.
For me, the place is really brought alive by the warm smiles of the staff, and unsurprisingly, the delicious food that wants you to go back time and time again for. I still fantasise of the entree that used to be on their menu - a creamy, melt in the mouth baked soft shell crab dish that got me hooked more than any addictive substance possibly could.
Asahi Beer - $8.50
Ha-Lu has an Izakaya style of dining, which involves the sharing of a several number of smaller sized dishes. This has got to be my favourite way of eating, as you really have a well-rounded experience of everything the restaurant has to offer.

Soon after we are seated, Andy couldn't resist an icy cold Asahi to satisfy his manliness.
Tartare style Sashimi of the Day: Thin strips of seasoned sashimi served with wasabi mayonnaise and tortilla crisps
Salmon sashimi, although I'm tempted to deem it my favourite thing in the world, can admittedly be quite uncreative in terms of serving methods. Ha-Lu offers a tartare style sashimi, a small cupcake-sized compound of fresh salmon in a tasty marinade.
I need a cake-sized serving of this, now.
Considering how much the ingredients reminded me of nachos, I loaded the tortilla crisps with salmon and smothered it with the guacamole-looking wasabi mayo, but with a very subtle wasabi flavour. Each mouthful is a marriage of textures, simultaneously crispy, soft and creamy.

Your fingers will have a sheer gleam from holding the sheets of tortilla crisps as they are quite oily, but the small lotus root discs in the mayonnaise feel healthy to eat :)
Duck, Aubergine, Madeira sauce and Whole grain mustard - $24
Besides love, there is a lot of other things you notice about this dish at first sight.
All the components, of which appear to be many, are all very sparsely presented but works best when eaten together. What's captivating is the presentation, with each component meticulously layered, shaped and piped.
Chilled and char-grilled slow cooked duck breast with aubergine and madeira-tamari sauce with a hint of Japanese mustard
I've never ever eaten duck cooked anything else other than well done, and would probably find myself sending it back if it was served anything less. But I was at Ha-Lu, so braved myself to a new experience whereas I probably would have chickened out elsewhere. Ignorance is my best and worst trait!

The slow cooked duck looked like beef cooked medium rare, and had that similar chew. This, along with the delightfully soft eggplant are drizzled with Madeira sauce, which is a rich, peppery, salty yet slightly sweet sauce made out of wine. With the addition of wasabi and mustard, this felt just like a duck sashimi in my wildest (yet slightly gross) foodie dreams.
Kingfish and Salmon Belly Nitsuke - $18
I was (and forever am) meant to steer far away from anything labelled "deep fried" on any menu, but insisted on the kingfish and salmon nitsuke, whose very description begins with a tempting "deep fried kingfish...". This was one of my favourites of the night. There was certainly no dryness as a result of being deep-fried, especially when salmon belly is loaded with fat, oilier in texture and tastes utterly amazing as a result.

Nitsuke is a cooking technique in Japanese cuisine that involves simmering a small amount of liquid until it yields a sauce that is absolutely saturated with flavour. I'd love to pay my attention to the small pool of soy-dashi broth and white radish, but its hard to not drool over the star of the show ;)
Foil-baked Salmon and Scallops - $18
It's not a surprise that 3 out of 4 dishes we ordered have salmon as the main component, but it was a big surprise that this baked salmon and scallop dish was my most anticipated yet most disappointing of the night. The expectations of the sashimi-grade salmon having a moist, juicy, melt-in-my-mouth softness was shattered when it felt dry and slightly overdone despite being immersed in ponzu, a tangy, citrus-based soy sauce.

Likewise, what could have been plump buttery scallops turned out rather bland and rubbery. The dish saver for me was definitely the sauce-soaked enoki mushrooms. Overall the whole dish was a let down, but surely this is probably just a one off thing!
White Chocolate, Roast Tea and Berry Pannacotta & Ume Plum Gelee - $9.50
Pannacotta is one of those hard to get right desserts, but one of those hard to not like desserts when done right. Although a white chocolate pannacotta sounds mind-numbingly sweet, the silky soft dessert was a great balance between tart and sweet. And smoother than a baby's bottom might I add!
Love sweet endings.
Restaurant seating
Ha-Lu is definitely worth a visit but I'd suggest that you bring a few (as many as possible) to really maximise your experience and try a full range of dishes from their menu. Although a Japanese restaurant, Ha-Lu offers something different to teriyaki chickens and donburis, providing a more modern and contemporary take on Japanese cuisine.

I think it is this, along with an ever changing menu, is what keeps people coming back.
And for me personally, I love the fact that the waitresses don't speak perfectly audible English :)
Ha-Lu, Mt Hawthorn
Wednesday - Sunday: Dinner from 6pm
Closed Monday & Tuesdays

Shop 4/401 Oxford St, Mt Hawthorn WA 6016
(08) 9444 0577


  1. Ha-Lu, 1 word, WOW.

    My first Japanese izakaya in Perth. Will be going to Shiro Izakaya tomorrow. Its pretty exp so I hope it delivers!! I know Ha Lu does, that is why I love this place all the time;)!

    PS: the duck's presentation is top notch. Same goes to the photo ;)!

  2. One word, YES! :) And thank you Weny!
    Looking forward to reading your Shiro meal, I can't afford to dine there myself so I must make do with drooling over your delicious photos :)


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