It was a Bank Holiday Monday, and we found ourselves in Covent Garden with friends at 10pm, following a sunny day strolling and pub-crawling along the Thames, needing sustenance of a restoring and sobering kind.
Covent Garden is not really the place to pitch up when you want a wallet-friendly half-decent meal. After ruling out Carluccio's, Terroirs, and the Bedford & Strand Wine Bar - not being in the mood for their butter-heavy specialities - we headed in the direction of Wahaca, but the wait for a table was 1 hour. I'd read about Hazuki in Harden's, and passed it dozens of times, so this was as good a time as any to try it out.
Just a stone's throw away from Wahaca, tucked behind Trafalgar Square, Hazuki serves simple Japanese fare. The mezzanine was full so they sat us in the darker ground floor area, where we could conveniently see what was on offer as it passed our noses on its way to the floor above. The staff were disorganized yet their greeting was warm - they even demonstrated for Jon and Lee precisely how the curved Japanese sword displayed inches behind Jon's head is used. Slash, not stab, is the principle, as far as I recall... the plates passing by, piled high with assorted tempura, were distracting me.
The soothing green tea took the edge off the sword demonstration. We started with two of squid dishes (one of liberally salted tentacles, the other grilled with soft yet pungent garlic shoots), and deep-fried oysters with teriyaki (kaki fry). All had been cooked beautifully, but the grilled aubergine with sweet miso (nasu dengaku) was the undisputed standout dish, unctuous smoky flesh liberally laced with the intense caramel sweetness of the miso. Apparently this is a dish that can often be found at an Izakaya (Japanese tapas bar). It could easily have been a main dish, however, paired with some sticky rice.
With some Yaegaki hot saki (to hell with sober intentions), and appetites as yet undiminished, the main dishes followed: the salmon teriyaki was a generous and delicately cooked fillet, and the braised thinly sliced pork belly with soy and ginger (buta shougayaki) was more than serviceable, although I had been expecting fatty pork belly pieces, not shreds of boiled yet tasty meat. With starters, mains, and drinks coming in at £20 each, it offers good value for money, too.
Hazuki does not offer high-style dining, but does deliver delicious no-fuss Japanese cuisine. I'll be returning soon to try their sushi for lunch, so watch this space...