Page through the menu at the newly opened Hatsumi by chef Dan Krohmer and one of the first things that strikes you is the seemingly sparse food list comprising a single page, followed by several pages of beer, wine and spirits (a page and a half devoted to sake alone!). With a long bar that invites late-night imbibing after a show at the nearby Bunkhouse or perhaps as a stop on a Downtown bar crawl, one could assume that Hatsumi is primarily a watering hole.
But flip through the front of the menu again and its economy belies its complexity, offering a focused selection of izakaya fare. The left side features shareable plates, while the right lists skewer selections made on the robata grill located next to the bar. Krohmer, whose Other Mama in Spring Valley has become a beloved culinary institution in the four short years since its inception, found inspiration for Hatsumi’s menu during his travels in Japan, bringing to Las Vegas that country’s abiding culinary philosophy, the idea of doing one thing and doing it well.
Start with the familiar gyoza ($10), a staple appetizer in Japanese restaurants, available in pork and vegetable versions, the latter stuffed well with shallots, carrots, celery and garlic, topped with crunchy rayu and served with ginger soy. Fans of Other Mama’s raw bar offerings will be happy to discover the Ocean Trout Lomi Lomi ($15), prepared with red onion, a chili ponzu sauce and cherry tomatoes. Its vinegary bite is tempered with a hint of sweetness and showcases the trout’s flavor and texture. (If you’ve never had ocean trout before, it resembles salmon in its crimson color, but has a milder taste.)
For meat-forward options, the beef tataki ($15), dressed in ponzu and served with greens, is a hearty dish that pairs well with sake or a cocktail. The crispy quail ($13), stuffed with pork and greens and served with cabbage and a miso dressing, is not to be missed. Perfectly crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside with a flavor profile that’s more gamey than chicken, you’ll be nibbling every piece to the bone.
One of Hatsumi’s signature dishes, the okonomiyaki, is less well-known stateside than other Japanese dishes. Essentially a savory pancake made with a base of dough and shredded cabbage, it’s fried and topped with Japanese mayo, a miso glaze, bonito flakes, green onions and pickled ginger, and can be made with various proteins or kept vegetarian. The amount of condiments on top can seem overwhelming, and the unfamiliar texture takes getting used to, but several bites in, the flavors meld together beautifully.
You can spend a whole evening sampling the skewers at Hatsumi, which range in price from $2 to $6. Standout choices include the chicken meatball, shishito peppers and American kobe, but it’s the bacon-wrapped tomato that shines most. The tomato’s juiciness is enveloped in the bacon’s saltiness, creating a one-bite wonder you’ll want several of. The skewers are made on the robata grill, which emits radiant heat that leaves proteins and vegetables crunchy and charred on the outside and juicy on the inside. Watch the sticks pile up on your plate as the night progresses and you make your way through the sake menu, purported to be the largest Downtown.
The murals on the walls of Hatsumi, created by Ryan Brunty of Depressed Monsters, features a familiar sight for Downtown denizens—furry yeti Yerman. The rectangular dining room and bar seats about 50, and it has already taken on the ambiance of a neighborhood pub. With other establishments opening soon in Fergusons, including Krohmer’s Mexican concept, La Monja, right across the courtyard, this Fremont East nook just might become your new favorite hangout.
HATSUMI 1028 Fremont St. #100, 702-268-8939. Thursday-Monday, 5-10 p.m.