2015 was a jam-packed year for America, a year so zany that it nearly escapes description.
In 2015, Josh Duggar, of “19 Kids and Counting” devastated his TLC-bound family by way of ironic sex scandal. A certain real-estate magnate began his presidential campaign and ascended in the polls at an arresting rate. Kanye West swore by his VMA mic drop to follow in the magnate’s footsteps come 2020. Liberated llamas ran free through an Arizona retirement community. (I invite you to check out “The Great EPIC Llama Escape/Chase of 2015” on YouTube).
But even considering all of this randomized hoopla, the most astounding thing to happen in the past year occurred right here in Middletown: the tragic disappearance of Anoho from “Restaurant Row.”
Sure, “tragedy” and “astounding” might not be the most apt descriptors of Anoho’s closing. After all, there are likely many students at Wes who either (a) have never heard of Anoho or (b) have merely not noticed Main Street’s change of scenery without external prompting. However, for an impractical glutton like me who should most definitely use her meal plan more frequently, the eatery’s absence is sad in a bearable sort of way, much like the loss of a distant celebrity or a pet that you never really learned to like.
In the wake of this loss, however, there has emerged another restaurant by way of a kind of gastronomic ecological succession. Just as the destruction of a forest lays the foundation for a new forest, the closing of one Asian fusion eatery has given rise to a new Asian fusion eatery: Hachi.
Located at 320 Main Street, Hachi was my dinner destination last Saturday night, and I admit that I found it difficult to approach the meal without biases. Though everyone is of course entitled to have a “favorite” restaurant, a distinction that is inherently based on comparison with other restaurants, I firmly believe that eateries should be judged by their individual merits as exclusively as they possibly can.
However, when you eat at a new restaurant located at a venue that previously held another widely popular restaurant of a similar cuisine, it is hard to avoid incessant comparison. This inclination is especially potent when there is nothing particularly compelling about the new restaurant. Such was the case with Hachi.
To clarify, there was nothing blatantly wrong with my dining experience at Hachi, but there was nothing blatantly remarkable either. Throughout my meal, I found myself having mixed feelings, and at times wishing for the return of Anoho with its A+ noodle dishes and interminable bubble tea selection.
The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the restaurant was that it seemed to lack distinct personality. Filled with well-cushioned black booths and wooden tables, the brightly lit space was comfortable but unremarkable. What’s more, while the awning outside advertised Hachi as an eatery with a Japanese and Thai identity, a glance at the menu revealed that there were far more Japanese items—namely sushi—than Thai.
This identity crisis notwithstanding, the meal began on a high note. While trying to decide what to order, I was served a cup of flavorful green tea, the ideal drink to warm me up after the wintry trek to Main Street. Soon after, I split an appetizer of Pork Gyoza with two friends, which was a satisfying choice. The order included six dumplings—the perfect size for a starter shared among a party of three. The dumpling shell itself was just the right amount of crispy, and the meaty interior was succulent and well seasoned.
Come the entrée, however, I found Hachi once again falling slightly out of my favor. Though not wholly unreasonable for the preparation of sushi, the time my friends and I waited for our rolls was a bit long. The inconvenience of this wait was initially eased by the kindness of the waitresses who regularly checked in to see how we were doing. By the time our food arrived, no smile could overshadow the tinge of “hanger” that overcame my friend and me, especially considering that our Salmon Avocado Roll had been replaced with a paired-down Avocado Roll, and our Eel Avocado Roll had been completely left out of the dinner equation.
Of course, this initial instance of dissatisfaction was quickly remedied by Hachi’s attentive wait staff and their all-smiles kind of demeanor. Although my friend and I, driven by a desire to eat right there and then, did not bother to correct the Avocado Roll mishap, we were quick to point out the MIA status of the Eel Avocado Roll and were then served the absent food with impressive velocity alongside sincere apologies.
Once this hurdle was surmounted, the remainder of dinner was satisfactory. In addition to the two rolls previously mentioned, I feasted on a Soft Shell Crab Roll, a chef’s special called the Out of Control Roll, and a Sweet Potato Tempura Roll. I have no complaints about these creations that wouldn’t sound uppity and pompous, so to avoid being a complete curmudgeon I will suffice my evaluation to say that each was pretty tasty on the whole. Although the servings were ultimately a tad skimpy, each individual piece of sushi was constructed nicely and held generous portions of well-cooked filling. That being said, the standouts among the consumed rolls were the once-absent Eel Avocado Roll and the Sweet Potato Tempura Roll, which at other restaurants often fall victim, respectively, to a lack of eel amidst avocado and a failure to cook the vegetable to a favorable consistency.
Though my dining experience was filled with both ups and downs, I hope and have faith that Hachi will find its footing. In the meantime, it will exist in the shadow cast by Anoho, a restaurant that, even with its faults, pleased Middletown with its reliability and its balanced fusion of Chinese and Japanese delicacies.