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Hachi ju Hachi -- Amazing Western Japanese food in Saratoga CA

SoupNoodles | Jun 4, 201708:01 PM

In 2012, another foodie posted something entitled "Hachi ji Hachi - Wow!" Had I not seen that first, I might have adopted the same title in 2017.

Walking into a clean, relaxed and comfortable Japanese restaurant on the main drag in Saratoga (14480 Big Basin Way), I expected a decent meal. Instead, I was absolutely blown away by the amazing food I ate here.

We ordered the following:

Pickled squid appetizer
Deep-fried eggplant
Stewed (I think) yellowtail
Stewed pork belly
and a creme brulee sort of thing for dessert.

Let's deal with the pickled squid appetizer first, because it's a special case. It came with a subtle warning that i would not like it, and I suppose that 99% of people would not. I did like it, though, and finished it off, which apparently is a very uncommon feat. If someone were to say "this tastes like a bait bucket that has been sitting in the sun for a week," I couldn't really object to the description too loudly, but I still enjoyed it quite a bit. Raw squid, tanginess from picking, and a strong fishy flavor very much like Chinese shrimp paste, the tiny little bucket of food was very very intense, and I enjoyed it. Our waitress said that it goes well with sake, and it did. But don't order it unless you really think you're ready for it.

The other three dishes were superficially similar -- protein with a good amount of broth, but they were high art. The eggplant was tender and full of flavor, and the broth captured an essence of eggplant like nothing I've ever experienced. It was as though the wonderful flavor qualities of caramelized skin of Japanese (or Chinese) eggplant had been perfectly captured and complemented.

The pork belly was just stunning. Again there was that perfect broth that captured the essence of the belly, but also the meat itself had been refined to just its meaty parts, sliced thin and bursting with flavor.

My wife was not fond of the yellowtail, only because it was quite chewy -- I thought it was perfect, and traded most of my pork belly in order to get the wonderfully fresh and chewy fish, and what may have been the best essence-of-the-food broth of the three.

I wound up feeling that I could dine for a month on nothing but this sort of dish, and the fact that each dish had a superficial resemblance in being set above a broth of its essence would still be completely irrelevant, because the distinctness of each essence was so different. Apparently this is a style of food from Western Japan, and it is hard to imagine it being done better.

It was simply, for me, food heaven, and when the chef brought out some deep-fried sardines stuffed with caviar, which crunched lightly in the mouth, revealing the subtle flavor of the fish, with just an accent of caviar flavor, I was over the moon.

The creme brulee, I cannot say very much about -- my wife ordered it, and was unaccountably stingy about sharing. The tiny morsel I finally cadged from her was ethereal, and not like what you are probably picturing; it was both more refined and more intense than that.

Bottom line: I was stunned by how good this food was, and I recommend this restaurant in the strongest possible terms.

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