Hachiban Izakaya, more than just a typical Japanese pub
Located at Jalan Kelawai, Hachiban Izakaya serves more that just sake and pub grub. "Hachiban" means "No. 8" and "Izakaya" stands for a casual venue to chill out after work for drinking; similar to that of an Irish pub or a Spanish tapas bar.
The beautiful deco was well lit with a huge illustration of a red, giant octopus enjoying a bowl of ramen. Unlike Hokusai's tentacle erotica, this centrepiece unfolds a playful drama. It was the perfect backdrop to celebrate my friend Ms Dorothy Wang's birthday.
Surprisingly, there was everything on the menu – sashimi (some were air-flown from Japan), sushi, yakimono (grilled/pan-fried dishes), kushiyaki (poultry and non-poultry items, skewered and grilled), tempura, ramen, soba, desserts and sake – all that you would ever want in a typical Japanese restaurant. Many value-for-money set lunches were also available.
We started our meal with slices of lightly seared scallops, topped generously with a truffle dressing. The decadent dressing drew out the sweetness of the scallops and I enjoyed the entrée immensely.
Next, a petit serving of the seasoned jellyfish and baby octopus arrived. They were both topped with toasted sesame seeds.
To further enhance the Japanese dining experience, we drank the national beverage of Japan – sake. Sake is a refined beverage with a rich history and we enjoyed every sip with pure indulgence. Most premium sake is delicate, fragrant and elegant. It is best to avoid heating such sake as it would destroy the flavours and fragrances the brewer worked hard to achieve!
We also ordered the alligator roll with salmon and cucumber topped with slices of avocado and garlic chips. This immediately reminded me of the dragon roll I had at Miraku (at G Hotel) with deep-fried jumbo prawns. I much prefer the latter as the texture and flavour of the prawns added more depth to the roll, contrasting it well against the creamy, smooth avocado.
The deep-fried, breaded oysters were divine. They were crunchy on the outside as well as smooth and velvety on the inside. I highly recommend this dish.
For those hesitant about what to order for the grilled, skewed items, the kushiyaki omakase has been suggested as it consist of a variety of items. I personally feel that browsing the menu itself would provide possible alternatives. Except that the sauce was a tad to sweet for my palate, the grilled whole squid was tender and delicious.
The bean sprouts stir-fried with smoked duck and eggs had a smoky aroma which I am fond of. Chinese cooking would call this "wok hei" or the "breath of the wok". The sizzling stir-fried Spanish Iberico pork slices with Yakiniku sauce (Japanese barbecue sauce) was served on a hot plate. Again the sauce was a tad too sweet.
The final dish we had was the hot plate of grilled short neck clams with assorted mushrooms in a clear butter soup, served in a foil-shaped bowl. The foil took a long time to heat up to cook the raw mushrooms in the dish. I am against aluminium foil cooking and would encourage the chef to use a clay or earthen pot instead.
Many thanks Dato' Kenny Ooi and Ms Cindy Lee for the wonderful Japanese treat. We had such a scrumptious spread and we hope all of Dorothy's birthday wishes will come true.
Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah
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13 July 2020
Address: Level 1, 32, Jalan Kelawei, 10250, George Town, Penang.
T: +6016 617 8228
Opens daily: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm, 6 pm –10:30 pm on every Monday to Thursday; 11:30 am – 10:30 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.