When it comes to sushi, Jun Yeon knows his stuff. With 20 years of experience in the art of sushi-making, Yeon was the former owner of Daan Restaurant in Dallas and has had the same sous-chef by his side for the last 10 years.
All this sushi-rolling know-how is evident when you first walk into his new Fort Worth venture, Hatsuyuki Handroll Bar, and gaze upon the daily blackboard, which features several delicacies at their simplistic best.
Hatsuyuki proves its moniker accurate, as the restaurant features a giant U-shaped bar — this is a sushi bar in the truest sense. The restaurant’s simplicity is apparent even in its interior, which is unembellished by design. The left-hand brick wall is stenciled with Hatsuyuki, and the opposite wall, painted a neutral gray, has the rest of the concept — “Handroll Bar” stenciled in black typeface. There are no paintings or art of any kind, no lucky bamboo, no pawing white ceramic cats — none of the typical Japanese restaurant kitsch.
The menu follows suit. It’s clean and simple and straight-up sushi, sashimi, namesake handrolls (which have crispy nori seaweed on the outside) and temaki. Other than that, you can sip on a bowl of (pretty ordinary) miso soup or go hungry.
There are few ingredients and no lavishly painted plates with colorful wasabi and sriracha mayonnaise designs — in fact, few plates at all, only a sheet of paper to rest your handroll between bites. And don’t expect any sprinkles, crunchy crumbs or caviar, either. The experience is not what you’ve grown to expect, but it achieves chef Yeon’s desire to pare down the flavors so diners can focus on the fresh fish.
For an appetizer, we started with tuna sashimi ($8.50). Four slices of ruby red tuna were presented in a shallow bowl resting in a scant puddle of soy sauce. Fresh, clean and served ice-cold, they had a velvety texture and were devoured in an instant.
Handrolls are the star of the show here. They are common in Japan, but less so in America. Sometimes you will find them at other restaurants, where sushi rice and fillings are served in cone-shaped nori, but the handrolls at Hatsuyuki are cylinder-shaped instead. And, they prepare them one at a time so the seaweed remains crispy.
There are four sizes of set menu handrolls to choose from. Depending on your appetite and your budget, you may choose either three, four, five or six to an order, which are priced $11, $13.50, $19 or $23 respectively.
If you want to sample the entire menu of handrolls, go for the six-roll meal. They can even slice the rolls in half to share with a friend. The sushi rice is served warm and a tinge sweet. One was served with creamy crab mix, another was filled with chopped salmon, another with tuna. These were standard and sleek. The handroll filled with yellowtail added spicy radish sprouts. The scallop handroll was lightly blanched and held together with a fish roe/mayo blend, and the daily special roll was a mix of fresh snow and blue crab meat. The six-roll meal would be a very filling feast for one person.
Check out the daily specials for something a bit more unusual and challenging. The night we visited, it was double zero-grade tuna belly ($10) for two pieces served nigiri style atop formed rice. There are no sweets or desserts on the menu, so we suggest you use the opportunity to sample something special off the blackboard. The fatty tuna belly was an indulgent end to the meal, with a soft texture and rich mouthfeel than blew us away.
Location: 907 Foch St.
Mon. – Thurs. 10 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. − 10 p.m.,
Fri. 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. − 10:30 p.m.,
Sat. noon – 10:30 p.m.,
Sun. noon – 9 p.m.
What we liked: The completely unembellished design of the menu and the space. It really puts the focus on the pristinely fresh sushi.
What we didn’t: There is nothing to satisfy your non-sushi eating friends and family, so be warned.
Recommendations: Splurge on the six-handroll meal; you can even have them sliced in half to sample all six daily varieties with a friend.