Chill Pill – Blend of Rums, Pineapple, Matcha, Coconut, Lime
White Turnip Kimchi
Pork Gyoza – Crunchy Rayu, Ginger Soy, Chili Oil
Beef Tataki – Ponzu Crunchy Rayu, Local Greens
Lomi Lomi – Ocean Trout, Red Onion, Cherry Tomato, Chili Ponzu
Miso Chicken Breast Skewer / Chicken Thigh Spring Onion Skewer
Beef Tongue Skewer
Veal Sweetbreads Skewer
Wagyu Beef Filet Skewer
Chicken Skin Skewer
Chicken Heart Skewer
Lamb Leg Skewer
Chicken Meatball Skewer with Soy and Egg Yolk
Bacon Wrapped Tomato Skewer
Chicken Liver Skewer
Shishito Pepper Skewer
Bacon Wrapped Asparagus Skewer
Chicken Wing Skewer
Crispy Quail – Local Greens, Pork, Miso Glaze, Cabbage
Shrimp and Bacon Okonomiyaki
Strawberry Mochi, Matcha Mochi, Black Sesame Mochi
When it was announced that Dan Krohmer would open dueling Japanese and Mexican Restaurants inside long-defunct Fergusons Motel there was certainly skepticism, but billed as an ode to Japanese omotenashi Hatsumi not only offers something unique for downtown denizens but gives locals as well as tourists another reason to visit Fremont East.
Built with Downtown Project involvement, the question of “what’s going on behind the twisted big rig?” finally answered in May, it is once past a guarded front gate that guests find themselves in the middle of Fergusons well-kept courtyard, a Coffee Shop to the rear and La Monja right with Hatsumi left inside the former motel’s lobby.
Concepted as an Izakaya specializing in Robatayaki, the smell of charcoal greeting nostrils even before opening Hatsumi’s front door, it is once inside that the space unfolds narrow and comfortable, a good deal of Alcohol lining shelves along one end while the kitchen, grill and walk-in occupy the other half.
Fulfilling its intent to look like a “1980’s hotel lobby bar,” with paintings of a furry horned creature eating Robata-style Skewers on both sides, it was after obtaining a drink at the bar that seating was offered, seven diners placed immediately adjacent the kitchen where, after an initial delay, service quickly improved with proficient pacing to follow.
Apt for comparisons to Abriya Raku in Chinatown, a longtime Vegas stalwart that remains busy to this day, it is important to first note that Hatsumi’s intention has never been “authenticity” but rather good Food and “subliminal happiness,” the latter fortified by clever Cocktails including several based on Whiskey or Sake along with inspired mixes like the Chill Pill that takes Piña Coladas in a new direction by reining-in sweetness with Matcha.
Similarly priced to Raku, and more affordable than other dtlv hotspots in terms of Food and Beverage, it was after some suggestions that omakase was then deferred to Chef de Cuisine Bobby Silva, a total of thirty items beginning with sharable sides including Potato Salad, spicy Cauliflower and Turnip Kimchi followed by round-after-round over the next two hours.
Continuing with handmade Gyoza, Pork selected over Vegetarian filling and five per order, it was after breaking the crispy lattice that Dumpling proved fat and juicy, additional sides such as marinated Cucumbers and salted Edamame simple but enjoyable while Chef Krohmer’s Gomae uses Sesame and thick Miso to compliment softened Spinach.
More complex with Beef Tataki, thinly sliced Muscle given textural complexity and a bit of spice by its toppings, those who know Dan’s work from Other Mama will not want to pass on Lomi Lomi that on this night consisted of Ocean Trout with Onions, Tomatoes and vibrant Ponzu.
Turning now to Skewers, all served in generous portions and most aggressively seasoned, it was first a duo of Chicken Thigh and Breast that tempted diners, the latter’s leanness in no way leaving Flesh dry while the Dark Meat sported charred edges and rendered Fat that played well off blackened Green Onions.
Not afraid to challenge more timid eaters with Offal, ribbons of Wagyu sandwiched between Tongue, Thymus, Skin and Heart, it was to everyone’s surprise that both Chicken bits were big hits while others received less effusive praise, though they too were cooked appropriately and in no way robbed of their natural flavors or textures.
Keeping it simple with Shrimp, a good snap yielding sweet Flesh with a hint of smoke, medium-rare Lamb arrived appropriately fatty but a bit too salty while Tsukune with dipping Sauce and briskly grilled Quail each received raves, as did the Tomatoes wrapped in Bacon.
In no way shielding diners from the minerality of Chicken Liver, this and blistered Shishitos the only items with any left at meal’s end, it was after bundles of Asparagus bound by Bacon that skewers concluded with Chicken Wings, Meat liberated by the slightest pull and providing a nice transition to Fried Quail with Bones mostly removed and ground Pork in their place.
More than a little impressed by Slaw served alongside the Bird, its bitterness refreshing the palate between bites, it was prior to three flavors of housemade Mochi that Okonomiyaki arrived, and although perhaps “cheating” somewhat by adding Bacon a dish translated “Grill As You Like” seems perfectly suited to interpretation that in this case sees it light, virtually oilless and chock-a-block full of umami.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS: Still finding its audience, though fairly busy by 7:30pm on a weekday, it looks as though the Chef that made Other Mama a hit-hidden-in-a-strip-mall has once again showed an impressive ability to turn something traditional into an inauthentically delicious destination.
RECOMMENDED: Chill Pill, Pork Gyoza, Gomae, Lomi Lomi, Beef Tataki, Veal Sweetbreads Skewer, Wagyu Beef Filet Skewer, Chicken Skin Skewer, Chicken Heart Skewer, Chicken Meatball Skewer, Crispy Quail, Shrimp and Bacon Okonomiyaki.
AVOID: Mocchi is fairly basic and $3 a piece seems pricey, otherwise only the over-salted Lamb was a miss save for personal preferences.
TIP: Located at 1028 Fremont St Suite #100. Open 5:00pm to 10:00pm daily with free street parking nearby.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN: 5 World Class, 4 Excellent, 3 Good, 2 Fair, 1 Poor.