Hatsuyuki Hand Roll Bar, 907 Foch St, FW. 12-9pm Sun, 11am-2:30pm and 5-10pm Mon-Thu, 11am-2:30pm and 5-11pm Fri, 5-11pm Sat. 817-720-5330. All major credit cards accepted.
If you’re looking for shareable sushi rolls with mayo-heavy sauces, you won’t find ’em at Hatsuyuki Hand Roll Bar, a new Japanese joint on Foch Street. There are no Dragon rolls or TCU rolls with cream cheese or mango or tempura, and the upstart restaurant offers very little cooked fish. What Hatsuyuki does best is highlight the proteins in relatively generous portions, ensconced in warm sushi rice and wrapped in unbelievably crispy nori. Saucing is kept to a bare minimum –– the better to showcase the immaculately fresh fish.
Seating is also unique: Diners have no choice other than to belly up to the bar – literally. There are no tables, just a bar with surprisingly comfortable stools on three sides. The set-up provides an almost shockingly intimate dining experience: You’re eye-to-eye with the sushi chefs, and treated to a first-hand view into the exquisite prep and technique that go into making your rolls.
The rosy, baby-pink Bluefin tuna and gloriously orange salmon sashimi ordered as an appetizer floated daintily on a thin layer of citrusy sauce. Microgreens and edible flowers added a gorgeous touch to the plate. The fish was almost too pretty to eat and so fresh and clean-smelling that I didn’t need the ginger, wasabi, or soy sauce at the table – I just wanted to enjoy the fish with the tiny accent of citrus.
The spartan menu is limited to a handful of rolls, a few sashimi appetizers, and miso soup. The list of chalkboard specials might also entice diners. The set menus (a pre-selected chef’s choice of between three and six rolls) are probably the best value if you know what you prefer. My party of three didn’t have a clue and were grateful to our affable server, Francisco, who suggested the crab (a blend of blue and snow crab, not Krab), the bay scallop, and the eel roll. A yellowtail tuna roll and salmon belly from the list of daily specials rounded out our order.
As promised, the crab roll was full of the two kinds of crab and very little else. A bit of mayo augmented the delicate crab as a binder, and the chef didn’t overly handle or mix the fish. As a result, the crab was more chunky than stringy, which was a treat.
The scallop roll came closest to appeasing those who want their sushi a little more decorated: The dainty chunks of shellfish were augmented by plump beads of orange masago, which gave the uber-sweet scallops a nice little salty crunch and pop.
The yellowtail tuna was chopped into a paste before being rolled into the sushi rice with a little scallion. Of all the rolls, the mushy texture of the tuna was the least pleasing, although the fish itself was scrupulously fresh.
A generous portion of salmon belly had been marinated in a spicy, salty sauce prior to being dished up. Right before the plate came to the bar, the chef treated it with a kitchen torch, crisping up the skin and the fatty layers of fish. It was a smoky, flavorful treat and a nice break from the rice.
At most sushi restaurants, eel seems like a condiment rather than the main feature. At Hatsuyuki, the roll is a generous portion of warm, slightly chewy eel in a flavorful sauce redolent of molasses or honey and soy. The fish was almost dessert-like and appropriately served last.
One advantage of the hand roll: Although your chef could cut it in half, the fragile nature of the nori wrapper and the loose packing do not lend themselves to slicing into eight pieces. Thus, you can hoard more of the roll, and you won’t have to share with others at your table. Server Francisco opined that four rolls a person would be adequate for lunch, and he was pretty close to being right. One of my dining companions didn’t believe him –– she said she’d likely be hungry two hours later. We didn’t find that was the case, though – the balance of protein and gloriously sticky, filling rice kept her happy and not hangry from lunchtime to dinner.
Hatsuyuki Hand Roll Bar
4-hand roll combo (yellow tail tuna, salmon,
bay scallop, and crab) $13.50
Salmon sashimi $7.50
Tuna sashimi $8.50
Bay scallop hand roll $4.50
Eel hand roll $4.75
Salmon belly $6