I was finally able to try a sushi train the other week, after debating over which one to try. The mixed reviews for Sushi Hotaru made me a bit reluctant but many people I know gave me firsthand accounts of liking it, so it felt like worth trying.
It’s a place you have to know about to find, as it’s up a few levels in Mid City Arcade on Bourke St, between Swanston and Russell St. Just go up the escalators and you’ll eventually see it (and perhaps a line in front of it)!
It doesn’t take bookings and I’d read that it would be quite a wait if you get there after 6pm. We managed to get there a bit after 5.30pm, thus we were given a number and we were only subject to a fifteen minute wait until our number was called.After we were called in we were promptly seated at two stools. You don’t really know where to put your jacket so I saw a lot of people just sitting on theirs’.
The novelty of the experience is the iPad touchscreens for where you are sitting. You’ll find most dishes on the train become repetitive but this is why you should take advantage of the iPad.
The system is quite easy to use, with the menu divided into comprehensive sections such as hand rolls and nigiri (where the meat/fish is on top of the rice). You also use it to order drinks or call the staff – when we ordered water it came in a mere few seconds.
Furthermore when you order from the iPad, the staff in the centre of the room are continuously making fresh sushi to put on the train and also the ones that have been ordered. In a few minutes, they will hand it directly to you and the iPad will show a symbol to indicate it has been delivered. Technology!
Each dish is $3 unless you see a sign indicating they are a special gold plate – they cost about $7.90, but I didn’t have any. You’ll get typical sushi such as salmon and crab drifting past you, but they look a bit plain compared to the gems you could order on the iPad.
It’s hard to remember what everything was, but I think the above was a spicy seared salmon nigiri, whilst the below seemed to be the salmon and onion nigiri. I love Japanese seared food so they were really enjoyable with their subtle, smoky flavours.
The hand rolls were also good value for the same price, the one we chose below was the obvious choice to us – soft shell crab! I enjoyed that this came out freshly made and quite hot, preferable to the sushi that has been on the train for a few rounds.
The same goes for this crunchy crumbed prawn – it came out nice and warm, so that the crispy exterior was really prominent.
It’s hard to remember what every dish was – this below dish kept coming across on the train and we finally decided to try it. I think it was just teriyaki chicken with a lotus chip on top, thus not very exciting.
I didn’t take pictures of everything but another favourite was one of the scallop sushi whilst dishes such as the eel cream cheese (bottom right) were interesting, but not necessarily winning creations.
I enjoy this concept and wouldn’t mind trying another train such as Sakura Kaiten Sushi or the new one at the Emporium. What’s good about this one is the cheap prices compared to these other options and despite negative reviews, service was swift for me.
The moment we clicked the call for our waitress on the iPad, she was over and ready to count our dishes for our bill. The experience was very efficient. The dishes weren’t amazing, but it’s hard for a $3 sushi plate to cause that many sensations.
I would definitely recommend ordering a lot, rather than waiting for it to come around. Then you’ll even get the benefit of a hot dish being passed over to you.
The beginning is the only slightly confusing part, as there’s no sign indicating how the queue works. The door to the restaurant had a green “Push to open” button and makes it look a bit intimidating to walk in and ask. We did eventually go in and we were given a number. But if you never walked in, you would be standing outside in line without a number and a bit lost, so just make sure you are definitely in the queue!
Have you tried the other sushi trains? Comment below about your experience!
Sushi Hotaru is located on the first floor of Mid City Arcade, Shop 118 200 Bourke St Melbourne CBD. They are open Mon-Sun 11am-10pm.