“I’m not making art, I’m making sushi.” – Masaharu Morimoto
Sushi Hotaru may be well hidden inside Bourke St’s Midcity Arcade – but it is far from unknown. This was actually my second voyage to Sushi Hotaru but the first time I had actually managed to get to the front of the endless line that is present all times of the day.
Sushi Hotaru’s train spans an impressive length, filled with freshly made plates for a meagre $3. Such high quality sushi and low prices were something I had imagined only existed in Japan. And as with everything quintessentially Japanese, the whole ordering process bypasses human interaction with flawless efficiency. At Sushi Hotaru you are invited to order dishes from the I-Pad in front of you, with a range of udon and hot dishes on offer, as well as sashimi, nigiri and sushi hand rolls. The ability to order fresh ginger and condiments is also a welcoming touch.
We sat adjacent to the sushi assembly cabinet, surrounded by bright, fresh slices of sashimi, crab sticks and egg rolls. Watching the staff expertly weave and slice sushi in front of you is very much part of the vibe of Sushi Hotaru.
The chicken karaage roll was a special for the day. Deliciously crispy fried chicken protruded from the rolls and it was difficult not to grab 2 or 3 more of this moreish plate.
Smoky, lightly flame-torched, salmon draped on tightly rolled roll containing cream cheese and crisp, refreshing cucumber.
The bright red tuna was supple and the salty bursts of the tiny black roe made each mouthful beautifully balanced. The rice was sticky and slightly vinegar – just as it should be.
The soft agedashi tofu gently swam in the sweet miso broth. The soft shell crab offered a crispy bite size pieces of perfectly deep fried crap. This dish was the highlight of our sushi-train commute.
The scallop nigiri was lusciously juicy and plump, with a subtle creamy taste to follow.
The only demise in our quest to devour all of the sushi was the mackerel which was on the rubbery side and compared to the previous nigiri, notably subdued in flavour. This chewy texture, however, is to be expected with mackerel and is not a reflection on Sushi Hotaru.
For dessert, I was too full but J persisted and nabbed a black sesame mousse from the belt. Creamy, light and soft, the sesame mousse rounded off the meal.
Sushi Hotaru is the best, among the few remaining, sushi trains in Melbourne’s CBD. The line is well worth braving if you’re seeking a exemplary Japanese sushi train experience and is value for money. The two of us left quite full for only $38 including drinks and a single dessert. My tip is to visit early on the weekends, around 11.30am, if you wish to skip the queue.