I am tongue-tied fumbling for superlatives to describe Hachiroku, an understated restaurant one block off the New Haven Green and perhaps the most exciting kitchen to open so far this year in Connecticut.
The long shotgun of a bar-restaurant has a few tables toward the front brightly lit by a large paned window, exposed brick, a bar with stools, and tables for two against the wall. A separate dining room disappears to the right and upstairs.
Styled as a shokudo – a kind of casual mom-and-pop restaurant in Japan – everything about the place is low-key, simple. The food – small plates of raw and cooked fish, fried chicken, pickles, and potato salad — is demure.
Sashimi of scup – a relatively abundant and unappreciated fish handled masterfully by David Standridge, chef of Shipwright’s Daughter, at recent dinner in Stonington – here is by comparison rustic, somewhat roughly cut. Beautiful fish. A dab of wasabi, soy sauce.
Collar of black cod is cured with miso, grilled and accompanied by a few cut vegetables and strands of seaweed salad, a lush rendition of a Japanese classic. It is soulful cooking and perhaps my favorite bite out this year.
The bar offers a selection of sake, but at a recent lunch I had tea with toasted rice, a happy fit.
Hachiroku features the sort of technique- and ingredient-driven cooking that is easier to say than do, without overstated luxury or unwanted whizzbang (and at a fair price).
I will be back, often.
Hachiroku Shokudo & Sake Bar
261 Orange St, New Haven
Wednesday – Sunday