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Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Spring has sprung! Well, technically spring has sprung, but somebody better get Spotty to go tell Mother Nature because it doesn't quite feel like it yet. Regardless, a friend and I thought we'd celebrate spring's arrival the best way we knew how - some good old fashioned eatin'.

Another friend recently told me about a Japanese restaurant called Ha-Lu up the northern end of Oxford St, almost where it meets Scarborough Beach Road. I can remember that there is a pet shop, an op shop, and I think also a sex shop of some sort up there, but I had no idea that a Japanese restaurant was hiding up there too amongst the dog biscuits and old copies of National Geographic. After checking out their website, and indeed confirming that was where they were located, I was very curious to check it out.

According to their website, the dining style at Ha-Lu is "izakaya style", which "encourages social interaction around the table, with the idea of a number of dishes to be ordered and shared. Most diners will order two or three dishes per person to be placed in the middle and tried by everyone at the table. Various dishes will arrive as soon as they have been prepared by the chef ensuring the highest quality of freshness and flavour".

I called to make a reservation the day before we wanted to eat there, and requested a table for 7:30. The softly spoken girl who answered the phone asked if I could instead make it 7:15, which puzzled me a little but I agreed to. As it turns out, I managed to get away from work at a reasonable time and we actually arrived at the restaurant at 7:00, which didn't cause any problems (apart from me saying we were early for our 'appointment' rather than our 'booking' or 'reservation'.... I think I've been seeing too many doctors lately!).

The decor inside is quite modern, with a few nice touches such as fabric hangings to walk through to get to the toilets. No cool Japanese touches in the toilets though I'm afraid - the toilet itself was totally analogue.

After checking out the sashimi of the day - salmon, tuna and kingfish - we spent some time going through the rest of the menu. It really is quite interesting and had a number of dishes and ingredients that I was unfamiliar with. The waitstaff were all absolutely lovely, and very happy to explain anything to you. We eventually settled on some miso soup ($2.50), sashimi of the day ($18.00), agedashi tofu ($8.50), octopus kara-age and lotus root hasami-age ($12.00), spicy ginger pork ($14.00) and Patagonian toothfish nitsuke ($18.00).

Miso soup $2.50

There's something about drinking miso out of these little wooden bowls that makes it taste better, I think. I really should buy myself one for home, as my coffee mug doesn't quite have the same effect (despite being beautifully decorated by my goddaughter's crayon expertise).

Sashimi of the day (salmon, tuna and kingfish), with tiny tiny shavings of carrot, zucchini and spring onion $18.00

The sashimi was wonderfully fresh and thickly sliced, and went down an absolute treat. The tuna was so creamy I could have eaten all three pieces but I value my friendship with my dining partner and restrained my chopsticks. The super thin curls of carrot, zucchini and spring onion were also nice and fresh.

Agedashi tofu (deep fried silken tofu served in a Tentsuyu dashi broth) $8.50

This dish was intriguing to behold, as all the little feathery pieces of thinly shaved something (I mean the tan coloured light-as-a-feather things - not sure what they are?) continued to 'flap' in the air after the dish was placed down, and looked exactly like a swarm of little moths had latched onto the tofu. Silken is the perfect word for this tofu, though you could also say 'goopy, but in a great way'. The coating around each piece was very light, but due to the silken texture of the tofu inside it was much easier to pop the whole thing in your mouth instead of trying to break it into pieces.

Octopus kara-age and lotus root hasami-age (octopus kara-age served with deep fried lotus roots with Tsukune mince fillings and a Ume plum sauce) $12.00

The ocopus pieces were well seasoned, hot and crunchy, and not at all tough (mind you, they were pretty small, so toughness wouldn't have caused too great an issue with chewing anyway). When our waiter brought this dish over he told us that the sauce was a plum sauce, but it's not sour because they put something special in it. We were intrigued, and I'm not sure why we didn't ask what this special something is. It was actually quite sweet, and paired well with the fried morsels.

Spicy ginger pork (sautéed sliced pork belly with homemade spicy kimchi pickles and ginger soy sauce) $14.00

Although I'm not a fan of eating fat, and admit to picking out the bigger bits of it before eating my pieces of pork, I really liked this dish. The sauce surrounding the pork belly was deliciously yet lightly spiced, and I used more than my share of the cabbage to mop up the leftover dribbles. The mayonnaise remained untouched by either of us. Poor mayo.

Patagonian toothfish nitsuke (succulent and tender Patagonian toothfish simmered in a soy sauce and dashi broth) $18.00

I don't think I've had Patagonian toothfish before, and although I liked it I don't know if I'll have it again as I've just learnt that it is fished by trawling. I found it very soft and quite fishy in taste, which suits me but may not be everyone's cup of broth. The broth itself had an interesting flavour - the first adjective that comes to mind is "dirty" which clearly isn't a terribly appetising word but I'm not sure how else to describe it. It was a nice dirt, I can assure you.

I wasn't quite full after having more than my fair share of these dishes, so quickly agreed to having a look at the dessert menu when it was offered. It is a pretty limited dessert menu, and didn't take me long to choose the "chocolate berry sundae" ($9.50), which I asked to not have any cream in, although my friend made up for this by ordering the "home made cream caramel" ($7.50).

Home made cream caramel $7.50

He enjoyed the creme caramel, saying it had a nice flavour and texture. I was more concerned with the cute little dish it came in, which he posed perfectly for the photo :)

Chocolate berry sundae $8.50

And, I've saved the best photo for last! Check out this for a crazy sundae. Coco Pops? Cornflakes? It was a bit difficult to eat at first, given how full the glass is (with coco pops!), and I sadly lost a raspberry to the table. Hiding down the bottom was more icecream and berries, and thick chunks of chocolate. I wasn't feeling particularly breakfasty so I did my best to dig around the cereal but ended up eating quite a lot of it anyway and I guess it added a nice crunch.

The service was fantastic, really friendly, helpful and efficient. Overall I really enjoyed our meal here, and am looking forward to going back to try all the other dishes that caught my eye but weren't the chosen ones this time (although I'm not sure I'll be trying the "deep fried crumbed camembert cheese served with blueberry sauce"). They also have a smaller takeaway menu, and quite a few people came in during our meal to pick up takeaway bento boxes.

I would definitely recommend booking a table, as we went on a Tuesday and it was pretty packed, with some tables turning over a few times while we were there. Although, if you just rock up and have to wait for a table, at least you can amuse yourself browsing in the sex shop or reminding yourself what you look like in flares.

Shop4, 401 Oxford Street, Mt Hawthorn
Phone: 08 9444 0577
Website: halu.net.au
Email: info@halu.net.au (email responses are generally within 24 hours)
Hours: Dinner from 6pm, 7 days a week

Ha-Lu on Urbanspoon


Daniel September 15, 2009 at 1:43 PM  

The thinly shaved stuff is dried bonito (which really is a bit worrying if someone was to order the tofu because they were vegetarian!)

Conor @ HoldtheBeef September 15, 2009 at 3:14 PM  

Ah yes, good call! And I guess we can just hope that any vegetarians are as clueless as I am..

Katherine September 15, 2009 at 7:30 PM  

I've never heard of Patagonian toothfish. The food looks amazing. By the way did you receive your Cup A Cakes?

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella September 15, 2009 at 9:34 PM  

The food looks interesting-teh sliced pork belly looks a bit like bacon? I'm dying to try Patagnonian Toothfish. I saw it at a fish shop and should have ordered it then :)

Cheap Ethnic Eatz September 16, 2009 at 8:04 AM  

Everything looks delicious. But I am most puzzled by your first sentence: spring has sprung...na-ah...its fall that is arriving ;-)

Conor @ HoldtheBeef September 16, 2009 at 10:44 AM  

Katherine - I got them today, thanks so much, they're the coolest!

Lorraine - yes, it does look a little baconated, though it tasted non-bacony :D I'm torn, because I liked the toothfish, but it doesn't seem to be a sustainable fish breed :(

Cheap Ethnic Eatz - you've had your summer, it's our turn now ;)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella September 16, 2009 at 12:10 PM  

Yes I know exactly what you mean about being torn-that's what I heard about the Patagonian Toothfish. The guy that I spoke to said that it was controlled and that only 2 places were able to fish it but still, if it's endangered I feel a bit funny about ordering it *sigh*

eatlivetravelwrite September 17, 2009 at 2:55 AM  

What a feast! And Coco Pops in the dessert - how cool!!!!! And btw the deep fried Camembert would be AMAZING....

Rilsta September 17, 2009 at 11:09 AM  

I remember the first time I saw those bonito flakes and thought they were still alive! :)

The food looks good. The highlight has to be your sundae. Perhaps it should be had for breakfast with all those coco pops and cornflakes!

Conor @ HoldtheBeef September 18, 2009 at 10:08 AM  

Lorraine - yeah from what I hear the situation in Australia isn't as bad as when you buy it in other countries, so perhaps it can just be a 'special occasion' dish? *sigh* indeed..

eatlivetravelwrite - I suspect it would be amazing, so I don't want to try it and find myself craving piles of deep fried tasty cheese at odd hours :)

Rilsta - it was quite amazing! We really had to look very hard to convince ourselves it wasn't alive. And I have to admit the food blogger in me was super excited when the crazy sundae came out!

Megan D September 18, 2009 at 11:43 AM  

Perhaps "earthy" is the term you're looking for, as opposed to "dirty" ;)

Conor @ HoldtheBeef September 19, 2009 at 10:20 AM  

Ahh yes Megan, I think you may have a point there. I think I need to procure a list of foodie adjectives for when my brain isn't working terribly well.

Iron Chef Shellie September 20, 2009 at 5:46 AM  

Ha! I love that.. a pet shop, and op shop and a sex shop :P

looks delicious. I feel like miso now... you are right, it's not the same from a mug.

Conor @ HoldtheBeef September 21, 2009 at 9:16 AM  

Hi Shellie - it's the perfect combination - what more could you want? ;)

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge September 21, 2009 at 11:41 AM  

what a delicious assortment of food, a perfect way to bring in the spring-ness. not a word I know.

that dessert looks like something from the 70's! I dont know why, but for some reason I equate cocopops with the 70's.

Annette @ Wellness WA October 27, 2009 at 12:52 PM  

Halu is great! You really should try a bento box if you go there again because they are the most beautiful bento boxes I've ever seen!

It is unfortunate that the bonito flakes are on the tofu! Though I guess tofu isn't really a 'vegetarian food' in Japan, more a staple like bread or rice, so they probably don't think of it like that!

Being vegetarian my self though I will have to look out for these fishy flakes, I probably ingested some last time I went there :(

FISHIES :( haha.

When I get back from holiday I'm going to do a food review component to my website also focussing on the vegetarian and organic restaurants available to us in Perth so I'll let you know!


Conor @ HoldtheBeef October 27, 2009 at 3:23 PM  

Maria - spring-ness should totally be a word. I endorse it's use! You are so right about the 70s-ness (another excellent new word) of the dessert. It was quite charming in its own kitsch way!

Annette - Ooh yes I saw a couple of the bentos while I was there and am definitely keen to try one myself. I had a fantastic bento at EDO in Subiaco last week too, it was such good value for money, and super tasty. Watch out for the fishies!! (and yeah, sounds awesome, let me know!)

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My love of cooking is surpassed only by my love of eating, though I never quite recovered from the beef I was served at college. I'll try almost anything once, but it takes a very special piece of offal or beef to get me to try it again.

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